A Financial Times opinion blog (7/10/11) demonstrates yet another appeal to nuclear rumor in deference to the facts. The blogger, Gerald Curtis, writes his opinion on the recent Fukushima accident report by the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee (NAIIC) convened by the Japanese Diet. One surprising conclusion drawn by the NAIIC was calling Fukushima an accident “made in Japan”, openly accusing Japanese culture as central to having made the crisis possible. Financial Times rejects this out-of-hand. Curtis calls this “the ultimate cop-out” and adds “culture does not explain Fukushima”. He later makes the following confused assertion, “If obedience to authority is such an ingrained trait in Japan, how then is it possible for a group of Japanese to write a report that not only questions but lambasts authority, anything but an example of reflexive obedience?” To the contrary, Japanese culture does in-fact clarify why the F. Daiichi accident was possible in the first place. Prior to Fukushima, there was a national conceit whereby the Japanese saw themselves as the technological center of the world. They also prided themselves in making astute financial decisions. These two cultural paradigms combined to set the stage for the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. They believed that because they believed their nuclear technology was the best in the world, the rare-but-not-impossible accident initiator was too unlikely to be considered. Thus there was no reason to spend the money to upgrade their protection against a complete blackout. Had they merely upgraded akin to what America did after 9/11 by making emergency electrical systems flood-proof, there would have been no “Fukushima disaster”. The possibility of a nuclear accident in Japan existed entirely because of culturally-ingrained overconfidence. To say otherwise is misleading.
But, the blog does not stop there. Curtis openly supports the claim of former PM Naoto Kan that he literally saved Japan from an even worse calamity by ordering Tepco to not abandon the facility, “Had Mr Kan not stormed into Tepco headquarters and tried to exercise some authority over the company’s executives, the situation might have been far worse.” Financial Times takes a position that is predicated on assumption and rumor coming from one source – Naoto Kan and his staff during the crisis (aka, Kentei). The Kentei are the only people in Japan who say Kan did the right thing. The NAIIC, Tepco, and even Kan’s own hand-picked investigative committee’s report published in December, 2011, say Kan should never have meddled in the accident mitigation effort. In fact, his interference made matters worse than they might have been!
Next, Curtis goes out on a limb by blaming Tepco for Kan’s problematic interference, “If Tepco had had a more competent president, its communications with the prime minister’s office would have been better.” What? Blaming the Tepco president when he actually had nothing to do with information flow? Blaming the Tepco president because communication’s networks between Tohoku and Tokyo were blacked-out along with the entire electrical infrastructure? The only people who knew what was really going on during the crucial first five days at Fukushima were the people at the stricken power complex. Very little accurate information was trickling through the communications morass, and most of it through a daisy-chain of people who all added their own spin to the story. In fact, it was the Kentei that made communications worse by demanding information from Tepco that they did not, nor could not possibly have had before the communications grid was re-energized on March 17. Blaming the Tepco president for a situation beyond his control is ridiculous, if not ethically corrupt.
Finally, Curtis makes a final misleading claim dependent on a most naïve analogous stretch, “What jumps out from this report are the parallels between the manmade causes of and responses to Fukushima and the ‘culture’ that led to the financial meltdown in the US after the Lehman Brothers collapse…” Pure speculative rhetoric, at best! A clear , albeit entirely assumptive attempt to say that this sort of thing happens routinely, everywhere in the world. This isn’t adding apples and oranges…it’s adding apples to onions!
Let’s face it…who knows the Japanese better than the Japanese themselves? They have extended a profound “mea culpa” to the world, and should be respected for their candid appraisal. Curtis clearly has no respect for this nationally-humbling disclosure. Curtis only demonstrates an agenda-driven mindset that prioritizes the continuation of fiction as fact.