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News Link • Japan - Earthquake Tsunami Radiation

Nuclear "Regulatory Capture" -- A Global Pattern

• Grossman

The conclusion of a report of a Japanese parliamentary panel issued last week that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster was rooted in government-industry "collusion" and thus was "man-made" is mirrored throughout the world. The "regulatory capture" cited by the panel is the pattern among nuclear agencies right up to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the six Fukushima plants] and the lack of governance by said parties," said the 641-page report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission released on July 5. "They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly 'man-made,'" said the report of the panel established by the National Diet or parliament of Japan.

"We believe the root causes were the organizational and regulatory system that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions," it went on. "Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power." It said nuclear regulators in Japan and Tepco "all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements."

The chairman of the 10-member panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor, declared in the report's introduction: "It was a profoundly man-made disaster -- that could and should have been foreseen and prevented."

He also placed blame on cultural traits in Japan. "What must be admitted -- very painfully," wrote Dr. Kurokawa, "is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture; our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the programme'; our groupism; and our insularity."

In fact, the nuclear regulatory situation in Japan is the rule globally.

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, never denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear power plant anywhere, anytime. The NRC has been busy in recent times not only giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power plant construction in the U.S. but extending the operating licenses of most of the 104 existing plants from 40 to 60 years -- although they were only designed to run for 40 years. That's because radioactivity embrittles their metal components and degrades other parts after 40 years, potentially making the plants unsafe to operate. And the NRC is now considering extending their licenses for 80 years.


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