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article imageOp-Ed: IAEA: Japan's wrong assumptions and complacency caused disaster

By Karen Graham     Jun 13, 2015 in Environment
Tokyo - In a 240-page report released on June 11, and downplayed by world media, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded Japan lacked sufficient safeguards to prevent the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
Preparation of the scathing report involved 180 scientists from over 40 countries around the world. In analysing the cause and effects of the nuclear disaster at TEPCO's nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, the report concluded that safeguards in place were insufficient due to a "widespread belief in Japan that nuclear plants were safe."
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, wrote in the foreword of the collaborative report that was two years in the making: “The report considers human, organizational and technical factors and aims to provide an understanding of what happened, and why, so that the necessary lessons learned can be acted upon by governments, regulators and nuclear power plant operators throughout the world."
Mr. Harrison, my immediate supervisor at a job I held many years ago said something that has always stuck with me. He said, "Never assume anything because if you break down the word, you will discover it makes an ass of u and me." I am now aware that assumptions can lead to deadly consequences, as happened in Japan in 2011.
Mr. Amano points out in the report the assumption that nuclear power was safe fostered an aura of complacency. “This assumption was accepted by nuclear plant operators and was not challenged by regulators or by the government,” he said. “As a result, Japan was not sufficiently prepared for a severe nuclear accident in March 2011.”
Laying part of the blame on one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing, Mr. Amano also said, “Responsibilities were divided among a number of bodies and it was not always clear where authority lay." And we are still seeing that same lack of responsibility today in all the mistakes, failure to be transparent and lack of authority in the whole Fukushima cleanup program.
The report mentioned measures were not in place to prevent the flooding of emergency diesel generators, and were below the safety standards required by the IAEA. Worker training was also touched on, with the report saying there was no training of workers for emergencies.
More worrisome was the finding that the nuclear accident was not addressed promptly, and this was blamed on unclear assignments for those who should have been in positions of authority. “There were also certain weaknesses in plant design, in emergency preparedness and response arrangements and in planning for the management of a severe accident," Mr. Amano added.
With the release of this report, it is troubling to think that the complacency and assumption of safety shown by the present Japanese government is still going on. It is also worrisome to see the prime minister pushing for more start-ups of nuclear power plants despite the anti-nuclear climate in Japan. While some people may consider my view as being "alarmist," it is alarming to realize radiation-contaminated water is still pouring into the ocean, and there may be no way to stop it from happening.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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