–The Asahi Shimbun, May 24
EDITORIAL: Independent panel needed to investigate Fukushima nuclear crisis

Few days pass without news that makes us wonder if the government is telling the truth about the disastrous nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

On May 23, the Lower House special committee on reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami asked about the government’s suspected involvement in the decision to temporarily suspend the injection of seawater into a crippled reactor the day after the accident broke out at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The government said it was a voluntary decision by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). But the answers from government officials to the questions failed to dispel suspicions that the prime minister’s office influenced the company’s decision.

It is easy to imagine the utter confusion within the government and TEPCO at that time.

Efforts to uncover what actually happened should be made carefully.

That is all the more reason why it is essential to get an independent entity to look into the nuclear crisis in an inquiry clearly separated from policy debate on recovery and rebuilding in the devastated areas.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has pledged to set up a committee of experts for an investigation into the accident. He should announce the specifics of the envisioned fact-finding committee as soon as possible.

There are two important factors in appointing the committee.

One is to secure its independence and neutrality.

To be able to carry out careful examinations and fair assessments, the investigation panel should be clearly independent of the people and organizations involved in dealing with the accident, including TEPCO, Kan, the other Cabinet members concerned, the Nuclear Safety Commission and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In selecting the committee members, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the core members will not include anyone who is affiliated with the “nuclear power village,” the close-knit community of politicians, industry executives, scientists and other people with vested interests in promoting nuclear energy.

To earn international confidence in the panel, it is also important to seek some forms of cooperation from relevant international organizations and foreign experts.

From the viewpoint of the principle of separation of powers, which requires the legislature to check the government, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party’s idea to set up an investigation committee within the Diet is worth serious consideration.

There is, however, concern that the panel could degenerate into an arena for partisan warfare under the divided Diet with the opposition in control of the Upper House.

Following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, U.S. President Jimmy Carter created a special committee that included experts in areas other than nuclear energy and local community representatives.

As he recognized the importance of allowing outsiders to take part in the probe into the accident, Carter decided not to leave the task solely to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Japan should learn from his bold action.

Secondly, the panel should be given strong investigative powers to accomplish its mission, which should be clearly defined as preventing another nuclear disaster.

Depending on the results of the investigation, some of the people responsible for dealing with the crisis may have to be held strictly accountable.

What is more important than putting the blame on someone, however, is to learn valuable lessons from the Fukushima disaster that will help efforts to minimize the damage through the best possible responses should a similar situation arise somewhere in the world.

There are also tasks that need to be done before the start of the planned investigation committee.

All the necessary materials and records concerning the entire chain of events should be safely kept, while all key people involved should be interviewed for testimonies while their memories are still fresh.

As a country that has experienced one of the worst nuclear accidents in human history, Japan should make an exhaustive investigation into what happened and fully disclose the findings.

That’s the only way for the nation to regain the trust of people both at home and abroad.


srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: Uncategorized パーマリンク



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