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Japan’s erroneus safety myth must not be reborn

Prospects for ending the crisis at the disaster site or laying the foundation for post-disaster rebuilding are nowhere in sight. We should not allow the propensity of nuclear insiders to rely on wishful thinking to come back to life. 

‘Wishful thinking’ of nuclear insiders must not be allowed to be reborn Asahi Shimbun By TOSHIHIDE UEDA/ Senior Staff Writer “……A joint survey conducted recently by The Asahi Shimbun Co. and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. showed that 69 percent of Fukushima Prefecture residents believed that little or no foundation has been laid for post-disaster rebuilding. That finding is not surprising at all.

Just as disaster areas remain in such a plight, a subcommittee of the industry ministry began meeting on Jan. 30 to discuss what energy sources should be used, and to what extent, to cover Japan’s electricity demand in the years to come.

“I believe Japan’s (nuclear) safety regulation system has become a global standard,” the minutes of the proceedings quote one former industry ministry official as saying during a subcommittee meeting. “I just hope the public will fully understand that safety standards that are at the world’s top level are now in place.”

Those remarks stupefied me.

In Japan, emergency evacuation plans have yet to be covered by the government’s safety screenings, and anti-terrorist measures are also slow in being worked out. And Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

Even if we had standards of the “world’s top level,” would that be enough? Well, the public remains unconvinced.

‘LAUGHABLE’ GOAL

The remarks probably only represented “wishful thinking” of the speaker, who hopes things will be like what he said.

It is the wishful thinking of stakeholders that is talked about in Japan’s nuclear policy–I have had that impression more than a few times during the many years I have covered the nuclear issue.

Such a reliance on wishful thinking has reigned over Japan’s nuclear power community since its cradle days.

Physicist Eizo Tajima (1913-1998), who was involved his entire life in Japan’s nuclear power development, wrote an autobiography, “Aru Genshi Butsurigakusha no Shogai” (Life of a nuclear physicist), published by Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha.

Tajima engaged in research for developing atomic bombs at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, today’s Riken research institute, during World War II. He served on the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, as one of the inaugural commissioners of the now-defunct Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, and in other posts in postwar years.

While serving on the JAEC, Tajima proposed adding a safety expert to the lineup of its permanent commissioners. When his proposal was rejected, he resigned as commissioner to protest the government’s attitude………

FORGOTTEN WARNING

The government warned itself against a reliance on wishful thinking at least once in the past, when it issued the 2000 White Paper on Nuclear Safety.

The making of that year’s white paper followed the 1999 criticality accident at JCO Co.’s Tokai works in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, during which three workers of the nuclear fuel processing company were exposed to large radiation doses, with two of them dying. The reliance of nuclear power community insiders on a “safety myth,” which assumed nuclear power was absolutely safe, came under heavy criticism.

“Why was an erroneous ‘safety myth’ formed?” the white paper asked, and cited “excessive confidence in track records,” “loss of memory of past accidents,” “wishes for absolute safety” and other reasons as potential factors.

But that warning was left to fade into oblivion……. Prospects for ending the crisis at the disaster site or laying the foundation for post-disaster rebuilding are nowhere in sight. We should not allow the propensity of nuclear insiders to rely on wishful thinking to come back to life. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/column/AJ201503240005

March 27, 2015 - Posted by | general

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