« 東北の水産業 大胆な改革で沿岸漁業再生を | トップページ | love beat »

2011年5月28日 (土)



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26, 2011
EDITORIAL: Neutral, powerful panels needed to investigate Fukushima accident

A prominent expert in the study of failures has been tapped to probe a colossal crisis management failure.

The government chose Yotaro Hatamura, a University of Tokyo professor emeritus of engineering, to head a committee that will soon be appointed to investigate into the disastrous accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The study of failures advocated by Hatamura is aimed at preventing major accidents by disclosing all the facts about small system failures, whatever they may be.

This time, Hatamura's mission is to inquire into a huge accident after the fact.

Still, scrutinizing the Fukushima disaster from Hatamura's viewpoint can contribute greatly to efforts to prevent similar crises at nuclear power plants around the world.

What is crucial for getting to the bottom of the accident is to make sure that all relevant facts are revealed.

The success of the investigation hinges on whether the people involved will tell the truth while offering information that could threaten their positions or interests.

The way the investigation panel works, as described by the government, raises concerns about this point.

There is no existent law that directly requires people involved to respond to the panel's requests for interviews or the submission of materials.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has said government employees who refuse to cooperate with the panel can be disciplined punishment under the law governing their profession. But that is not enough.

This issue is particularly important for the investigation because the panel will have to deal with the so-called "nuclear power village," a community of people with vested interests in promoting nuclear energy bound closely together by mutual dependence.

The President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, the investigation panel set up by U.S. President Jimmy Carter after the 1979 accident at the nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, tried to examine the disaster from a position independent of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But the panel was apparently dependent on the country's nuclear power community for necessary data.

The Japan Transport Safety Board, which conducts investigations into airplane and train accidents, has strong investigative powers under the law enacted to establish the entity.

New legislation should be enacted to give sufficient power and independence to the panel tasked with inquiring into the devastating accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station.

The panel's members should include competent and influential people recruited from outside the nuclear power village.

It would be a good idea to seek opinions from overseas experts and get critics of nuclear power generation involved in the probe.

Such outsiders would help pressure people in the village to cooperate with the efforts to uncover the truth.

The separate committee in charge of examining the management and financial health of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., should also be given strong powers.

This committee's mission is to ferret out waste in the utility's management as well as its disposable assets in order to secure as much money as possible for compensation for damages caused by the accident. The panel will face many big obstacles to accomplish its goals.

Companies have a general tendency to conceal or try to avoid revealing information unfavorable to them.

In addition, electric power companies farm out a wide range of tasks and operations to other firms.

To get the whole picture of an electric utility's operation, it is necessary to require its many layers of subcontractors to disclose relevant information.

The work to assess Tepco's ability to pay compensation requires a group of experienced lawyers and accountants skilled in negotiating with businesses.

The government is facing two important challenges concerning the Fukushima disaster: learning necessary lessons from what happened to prevent future nuclear disasters and ensuring swift and fair compensation for the damage caused by the accident.

The success of efforts to tackle these two challenges depends on whether a neutral and powerful panel will be created for each.


« 東北の水産業 大胆な改革で沿岸漁業再生を | トップページ | love beat »





« 東北の水産業 大胆な改革で沿岸漁業再生を | トップページ | love beat »