Government report blames Fukushima disaster on culture

A report of the 2011 nuclear accident at TEPCO's Fukushima nuclear power plant reported by the parliamentary panel Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, is distributed to the press at a press conference in Tokyo on July 5, 2012.

Jeff Horwich: A Japanese government report on the Fukushima nuclear crisis puts the blame squarely on culture -- namely, a cozy relationship between politicians, regulators and the nuclear power industry. It goes so far as to suggest the accident might have occurred even without an earthquake and tsunami.

The BBC's Correspondent in Tokyo is Mariko Oi. Good to talk with you.

Mariko Oi: You too.

Horwich: So, what do investigators mean when they call this a “man-made crisis?”

Oi: Well, the report says that the way that the then prime minister Naoto Kan and his government handled the crisis wasn’t really appropriate. But also, it flagged up some other issues including the company Tepco -- that’s the operator of the Fukushima power plant -- the report said that it was very bureaucratic and slow to react to the disaster as well.

Horwich: The report refers to collusion, is the word -- in translation at least -- that’s being used between the regulator, the company and the government both before the accident and after the accident. Knowing what you know about Japan, how do you interpret what was going on there?

Oi: Well, it was quite interesting because a few weeks ago I was filing a report about former Tepco executives scoring some cushy jobs at related companies and the public was rather outraged. The system is called a "descent from heaven" in Japanese. I guess that kind of system allowed bureaucrats to be slightly less hesitant when those private companies were doing something wrong.

And an expert that I spoke with said that when a whistleblower says that there’s some issue with the nuclear power plant of Tepco, their first call is to the Tokyo electric power company and saying that “hey, you’ve got a whistle blower” instead of “hey, sort out this issue.” So, it was quite interesting to see how harsh the report was. It said: “the disaster was made in Japan;” that some fundamental causes can be found in Japanese culture including people’s, I guess, reluctance to question authority.

Horwich: The BBC’s Mariko Oi in Tokyo, thank you very much.

Oi: Thank you.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.


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