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Fukushima Nuclear Disaster 'Clearly Man-Made', says Parliamentary Panel

TEPCO, government faulted for betraying public; report cites self-interested decisions before and after disaster

Common Dreams staff

A parliamentary panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year have placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of plant owner TEPCO and government regulators by saying the crisis was "clearly man-made." Though the plant was crippled by an enormous tsunami generated by a powerful earthquake, the panel concluded that key warnings were ignored and preparations that could have been implemented were disregarded out of self-interest.

"They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents," the panel's report said. "Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly 'man-made'."

The panel, called the Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, rejected claims by the plant's owner that the earthquake and tsunami 'could not have been foreseen' by saying: "Despite having a number of opportunities to take measures, regulatory agencies and TEPCO management deliberately postponed decisions, did not take action or took decisions that were convenient for themselves."

The report did not target individuals for blame, but rather the institutions that govern nuclear safety as a whole. "We believe that the root causes were the organisational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual," said the report.

"They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents."

"Governments, regulatory authorities and Tokyo Electric Power [TEPCO] lacked a sense of responsibility to protect people's lives and society," it said.

In one damning section reviewed by Al-Jazeera, the report highlights that if TEPCO had their way, its staff would have been evacuated from the crippled plant and the catastrophe could have spiraled even further out of control.

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the report makes seven proposals for improvement: "Have the Diet monitor regulatory authorities; review the government’s crisis management system; enhance government measures for residents who suffered damages from the disasters; improve monitoring of electric power companies; detail the requirements of the new nuclear regulatory organization; review laws that regulate nuclear power; and make use of independent investigation committees."

The report was submitted to the heads of both chambers of the Diet on July 5. It can be read in Japanese on the NAIIC’s website (https://www.naiic.jp/).

“We plan to make an English version of the final report to show it to the world,” said head of the commission, Kiyoshi Kurokawa.

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