Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki published an insightful piece on the Fukushima disaster and the lessons learned from it in the CTBTO Spectrum. Some of his key points were:
- The failure of the facility to handle the station blackout that resulted from the tsunami could have been prevented — the necessary information was available to the regulators and the operators as far back as 2006.
- Regulators and operators both had not thought through the issues associated with responding to severe accidents. For example, the off-site emergency response center lost functionality because of power loss, and later had to be evacuated due to the radioactivity plume.
- Emergency management communications were bad. Just bad. Part of this was due to the tsunami damage, but a big part was that no one ever imagined an accident this severe, and hence were completely unprepared.
- The Japanese system suffered from “regulatory capture” — an outcome of a too-cozy relationship between the industry and its regulatory oversight bodies, in which regulatory oversight gets softened and softened, until it ultimately has no effective role.
Despite these challenges, he ends on a positive note that this disaster can be overcome and the Fukushima Prefecture can become a global symbol of recovery, not crisis. He also notes the importance of closer collaborations between engineers/scientists and others, especially social scientists, for improving the nuclear safety culture. This parallels our own emphasis of the same for the nuclear security culture.