The Japanese Diet’s Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee (NAIIC) has issued its executive summary of their Fukushima report. The more than 640-page report was givento the Diet on Thursday, but only the executive summary has been released to the public. The full report is “coming soon”. The following is a summation and critique of the Executive Summary, sprinkled with a few Japanese news media article citations.
NAIIC has summarily concluded the accident was “man-made” due to pre-quake/tsunami negligence on the part of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). The reports says, “The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and (plant operator) TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘man-made.’ We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.” The accident itself was caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which leads the report to say, “Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster.” The report added that regulators should “go through an essential transformation process” to ensure nuclear safety in Japan, and further stated, “Japan’s regulators need to shed the insular attitude of ignoring international safety standards and transform themselves into a globally trusted entity.”
Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the report comes from its chairman. “What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan,’ ” says an accompanying statement by the panel chairman, Kiyoshi Kurokawa.”Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.” Thus, it is not only Tepco and the government that should be blamed for the accident, but also the very culture of Japan itself.
NAIIC took the prime minister and his staff (Kentei) to task because they “did not function correctly” and for poor communications between them and Tepco. NAIIC concluded there is no evidence to support then-PM Kan’s continual assertion that Tepco planned a full abandonment of Fukushima Daiichi beginning March 15, 2011. Kan told NHK World he clearly remembers Tepco planning the pull-out and he believes a public disclosure of internal Tepco documents (such as video-conferencing) will prove him correct. TheNAIIC report also says the Prime Minister’s office interfered with emergency work at the plant, causing a breakdown in the chain of command in the first critical hours of the crisis, “The prime minister’s office was supposed to contact the plant operator through an on-the-spot taskforce. [The Kentei] issued direct instructions to TEPCO head office and the accident site, confusing the command line.” The report also says that from the first hours of the crisis, no-one was sure who was giving the orders. After Kan’s unprecedented visit to the F. Daiichi early on March 12, Tepco was reluctant to make decisions unless they were approved by the Kentai, which greatly slowed the progression of work at the accident site and may have contributed to the severity of the crisis.
While this blog agrees completely with the above, there are three key areas of the report that should be questioned. First, the NAIIC report states there was a compromise of the unit #2 containment at 6am on March 15. The report blames the massive increase in radiological releases on that date due to unit #2. The NAIIC refuses to believe Tepco who has said repeatedly since March, 2011, that there was no explosion inside unit #2 containment, and that the reported “impulsive sound” was a seismic echo reverberating through the undamaged structure from the concurrent explosion of the unit #4 refueling deck. NAIIC also failed to consider the video evidence of the interior of the Primary Containment Tepco has presented to the Press, which shows no indication whatsoever of structural compromise. Further, NAIIC fails to recognize that the massive recorded radiological release on March 15 probably came from a combination of the unit #4 detonation and residual releases from the decimated units #1. Also, they fail to consider that a wind shift on March 15 sent the releases inland for the first time, and directly past the airborne monitoring devices at the power complex perimeter. The four previous days, the winds blew out to sea and Tepco had no airborne monitors on the sea-side of the facility to record the massive releases that surely came from unit #1 on March 12 and unit #3 on March 14. This portion of the report is clearly flawed and needs substantial revision.
Second, the NAIIC refuses to believe the earthquake of March 11, 2011, caused no safety compromises at F. Daiichi. They say that they have evidence of a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA) for unit #1 on March 11 caused by the quake-alone before the Tsunami hit. This writer has pored over all available information relative to the several investigative reports released to date. This is the first time a claim of a LOCA has been mentioned, and the lack of evidence in the NAIIC report to support it makes the claim questionable, at best. Regardless, NAIIC chooses to reopen the door on earthquake damage speculation. Japan Today says, “The findings published on Thursday call for further investigation into the impact of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake—as opposed to the towering tsunami—on the reactors at Fukushima.” We hope such an investigation takes place as soon as possible to remove this issue from the realm of possibility. It does no more than needlessly prolong anxiety and doubt. A Mainichi Shimbun article shows our position is reflected in a statement by Takashi Sowada, director of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, “From an engineering point of view, the report’s judgment is insufficient. If pipes were even only slightly damaged, allowing coolant water to leak, the temperatures and pressure inside the reactor containment vessel would be abnormally high. However, the measurement data released by TEPCO does not indicate anything like this between the time the quake occurred and the tsunami arrived.”
Finally, NAIIC says that the use of SPEEDI (a meteorological projection system) to determine the scope and direction of the weather would not have helped with mandated evacuations. The report says meteorological predictions are subject to inaccuracy and insufficient to base public protective actions. This is at the very least naïve, but may well be a politically-motivated assertion designed to protect Tokyo officials. Hindsight evidence shows that the SPEEDI projections were remarkably accurate and should have been used to keep evacuee exposures as low as reasonably achievable. The main reason SPEEDI wasn’t used was because no-one in the Kentei had any experience with it! The previous year’s training on SPEEDI for PM Kan and his staff was cancelled. Why the training was canceled is not presently known, but if it had taken place then maybe…just maybe…SPEEDI would have been used and evacuee exposures lessened.
With the exception of the three objections stated above, this writer concludes this report to be far superior to PM Kan’s investigative committee’s submittal last summer, addresses many accident-related issues not mentioned in prior Tepco reports, and avoids most (but not all) of the doubt-generating speculations made by other allegedly independent reports.
Here’s the link to the NAIIC executive summary…