3:11 –The What[...]The triple catastrophe is often referred to as “soteigai” (unimaginable) but we now know was not the case. The Diet committee that investigated the accident pointed out last year that the disaster was structural, man-made, brought about by the failings of the power company and of the national government. Even before Fukushima, the nuclear industry was known for data falsification and fabrication, the duping of safety inspectors, the belittling of risk and the failure to report criticality incidents and emergency shut-downs. Directly and indirectly, politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, lawyers, media groups, academics also collaborated, constituting in sum the so-called “nuclear village.” “Japan’s nuclear industry became, as one critic put it, “a black hole of criminal malfeasance, incompetence, and corruption”
3:11 – The WhyFor over half a century (beginning just 10 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki), Japan’s leaders pursued the goal of a nuclear future, what in recent years they described as “genshiryoku rikkoku” (building a nuclear power state). Persuaded by Eisenhower’s talk of “atoms for peace,” they believed that nuclear weapons and nuclear energy could be completely separate and they believed that nuclear energy could be safe in Japan despite the archipelago being poised on clashing terrestrial plates – accustomed to earthquakes (20 percent of the world’s total), volcanoes, typhoons and tidal waves (tsunami), and criss-crossed by the fault lines of various subterranean fissures. They believed in the chimera of eternal, almost limitless energy. Their hubris was sublime.
3:11 – The Aftermath
Although the government did allocate Y19trillion (ca $200 billion) for reconstruction, much of that was misappropriated – some actually to subsidize more nuclear research, and some (Y2.3 bn) to fund countermeasures for the country’s whaling ships to deploy against the Sea Shepherd in the southern ocean. Victims are now launching action for compensation in the courts against government and Tepco.
(b) Civil Society
Faced with the March 11 catastrophe, many people concluded that Japan’s energy and nuclear power policies had to be fundamentally changed. What ensued in 2011-12 was the greatest political mobilization by its citizenry seen in Japan in at least 50 years, but today, the superficial impression that mobilization seems to have slightly lost momentum. (I hope I am wrong and that others will correct me.)
(c) Japan and the World
The challenge Japan faces is to scrap a core national policy of the past half century and to make the shift from nuclear promotion to a renewable energy system beyond carbon and uranium. If Japan were to go that way, the world would very likely follow. But it is a revolutionary agenda, and can only be possible under the pressure of a mobilized and determined national citizenry that wrests control over the levers of state power from the irresponsible bureaucratic and political forces that have driven it over the past 50 years. Much depends on the outcome.