A prestigious Fukushima accident panel has summarily blasted Naoto Kan’s actions during the first days of the crisis. The Independent Investigation Commission of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF) has issued its report on the Fukushima Accident and held a Press conference on Monday. Each Press source focuses on different, and in some cases over-lapping aspects of what the 400-page report contains. Here are a few…

  1. Panel head Koichi Kitazawa told reporters at the Japan National Press Club on Tuesday that Kan interfered excessively in workers’ efforts to bring the plant under control. For example, his insistence on stopping RPV cooling with seawater fearing it could cause recriticality. Kitazawa added that Kan failed to disclose information aptly, leading to widespread public mistrust of the government. (NHK World)
  2. The report accuses the PM’s office of “grandstanding” and causing “useless confusion.” The Prime Minister’s Office’s first response to the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant “increased the risk of worsening the situation through stress and useless confusion.” In addition, “grandstanding led to badly muddled crisis management measures” which did little or nothing to prevent a worsening of the crisis. The report also admonished the highest levels of government for meddling in emergency response measures. The report further stated that “Orders by the Prime Minister’s Office and industry ministry that gas building up in the reactor vessels be vented right away (to reduce pressure) were not at all helpful.” The report also takes Kan to task over the injection of sea water into the No. 1 reactor, stating that he confused the situation and risked making it far worse. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  3. The government’s response, on the whole, was “off-the-cuff and too late.” The late response was due to the government’s failure to anticipate a nuclear accident triggered by an earthquake and tsunami that occurred simultaneously, which rendered its crisis management manual useless. (NHK World)
  4. Panel head Kitazawa said the overall handling of the emergency by then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration was ”a failure.” There were ”excessive interventions” by the prime minister’s office in efforts to contain the crisis and the panel ”cannot praise” most of them. (Kyodo News)
  5. Kitazawa told the Press conference, “There were cases of excessive meddling (by the government) toward people working at the site,” and such actions did more harm than good. Kitazawa painted a picture of distrust and doubt due to the limited exchange of information among the government, TEPCO, bureaucrats and other parties. Overall, they had also fallen into a systematic inattentiveness” toward making the crippled nuclear plant secure. The report-itself noted how Kan may have aggravated the crisis by inappropriate micromanagement of the situation. “Vertical sectionalism” within the government also exacerbated the crisis, the report said, citing the confusion over whether the science ministry, the NSC or the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency should initiate the public release of data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), which caused a delay in getting the word out. Industry Minister Banri Kaieda disclosed, “I didn’t know that (SPEEDI) even existed.” Kitazawa concluded with, “It was extreme luck that Japan managed to avoid experiencing the most disastrous day.” (Japan Times)
  6. The report additionally takes central and local emergency agencies to task due to many hospitalized people dying because they were evacuated in haphazard fashion. It underscores how unprepared Japanese industry officials and regulators were for a major nuclear disaster. Panel chair Kitazawa summarized, “Ensuring the safety of the people is the government’s foremost responsibility. We can’t say the government fulfilled its role of providing a system to ensure people’s safety.” (Wall Street Journal/Asia)
  7. The report further reveals Cabinet officials advised P.M. Naoto Kan to not fly to Fukushima the morning of March 12. When Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told Kan that such a move would be political madness, Kan responded, “Which is more important, facing political criticism or being able to put a reactor under control?” Edano reluctantly conceded to the Prime Minister. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told the panel, “It was not easy for me to stop him from going.” (JAIF) [Please note that Kan’s visit to Fukushima Daiichi changed nothing with respect to emergency actions and plant-control efforts. He was clearly panicking and believed that as Prime Minister, he was omniscient and omnipotent. He did little more than amplify the existing panic and frustration already burdening plant personnel. His abject ignorance of nuclear plants, emergency monitoring equipment, and Japanese emergency law has been well-documented.]
  8. The report says TEPCO executives involved in immediate efforts to defuse the crisis refused to be interviewed for the report for reasons that were not specified. It adds that most TEPCO workers would testify only when assured of their anonymity because TEPCO has forbidden their speaking under penalty of losing their jobs. (Japan Times)

Now, for other updates…

  • The amount of Cesium released from Fukushima may have been previously under-estimated. Instead of ~10% of the Chernobyl Cesium release, it is now believed to be between 20 and 30% of Chernobyl. The study was compiled by a team of researchers from the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry. (Kyodo News)
  • The new investigative robot, Quince 2, has been inspecting reactor building #2. It has reached the top floor refueling deck, which shows a 220 millisievert/hr. exposure rate. The robot’s camera shows puddles of water on the floor outside the Spent Fuel Pool, but all are believed to be the result of condensation and not from the accident itself. This is the first set of robot-generated data and images from the refueling deck of the undamaged building. Quince 1 only made it to the third floor of the building before becoming hopelessly tangled in its power cord. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Eight prefectures and cities are uniting their efforts to dispose of tsunami debris. The eight governments include Akita Prefecture and Kawasaki City. They plan to meet early in March to organize the joint project. Other local governments are reluctant to accept the rubble mainly due to concerns that it may contain radioactive substances from the Fukushima nuclear accident. (NHK World)
  • Additional Fukushima accident compensation pay-out amounts have been announced. All Fukushima residents will receive about $1,000 USD “due to their radiation fears”. Pregnant women who decided to remain in the prefecture will get ~$5,000. Pregnant women who evacuated the prefecture will get ~$2,500 to help with relocation costs. (Japan Times)