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2014年9月14日 (日)

原発事故調書 危機管理強化へ重い教訓だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yoshida file contains harsh lesson about improving crisis management
原発事故調書 危機管理強化へ重い教訓だ

The so-called Yoshida file illustrates how badly the government handled crisis management at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and how serious the situation was.

The government released the file, which is a record of interviews with Masao Yoshida, the late former manager of the power plant, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and 17 others. A government panel investigating the nuclear crisis compiled the file.

Eleven of the interviewees are Diet members from the then Democratic Party of Japan-led administration. Although their interviews do not contain any new facts left out of the panel’s report on the crisis, what they said is important in verifying how the administration dealt with the situation.

A case in point is Kan’s inspection tour of the plant the day after the crisis began. There were various opinions regarding the trip, which involved the nation’s top leader leaving the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I decided I’d better have face-to-face talks with the person in charge, as our communications were being bungled [with the plant and others],” Kan said in justification of his inspection tour.

Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano supported the visit. “I thought things would go smoothly if Mr. Kan went to the site and I oversaw the entire situation,” he told the panel.

However, people at the plant responded to Kan’s visit differently, as the situation did not give them a moment to spare. “I don’t think I was able to explain fully. The atmosphere was such that I never felt free to speak,” Yoshida told the panel.

Leader’s visit no help

Motohisa Ikeda, a former senior vice minister at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry who was at the plant dealing with the crisis, did not support Kan’s inspection. “It would have been easier for us to deal with the crisis if [the prime minister] had remained in Tokyo,” Ikeda said.
These remarks underscore a wide gap in the perception of the visit between people at the site and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The panel’s 2012 report on the crisis pointed out that “it is the prime minister’s role to make final judgments, while he leaves the tasks of gathering information and coming up with measures to deal with the situation to the relevant organs and sections.” It went on to conclude, “The prime minister’s intervention could cause confusion at a site and lead to misjudgments. It could do more harm than good.”

Considering what Yoshida said, it is a matter of course for the report to level sharp criticism against Kan.

The Yoshida file also revealed the state of affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office, which failed to gather vital information. When there was a hydrogen explosion at the plant’s No. 1 reactor, the only material the office had was news footage of the explosion.

“There was no information available at the office even just before press conferences held by the chief cabinet secretary,” Tetsuro Fukuyama, deputy chief cabinet secretary when the crisis began, told the panel. “I thought, ‘What on earth is this?’”

Diet members who dealt with the crisis had little knowledge of nuclear power plants. “It was the first time I had heard the word,” said then Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda regarding “venting,” an operation to lower the pressure inside a reactor.

The DPJ administration failed to fully utilize bureaucrats with expertise, rendering itself dysfunctional. It is a weighty lesson to be learned.

Regrettably, interviews with relevant TEPCO officials have not been disclosed. To better clarify what happened in the crisis, the utility company should cooperate in making them public as much as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2014)Speech


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