Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In March Last Year, NISA Officials Had Withdrawn from #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Before TEPCO Did

Sankei Shinbun never liked Naoto Kan. For that matter, none of the Japanese mainstream media outlets liked him. While he was in charge of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident as the prime minister of Japan, they were highly critical of his handling of the accident. That seems to have stopped after Noda was elected as the party leader and prime minister; they hardly snickered at Noda's declaration of "cold shutdown state".

Sankei still goes after him with this article on April 24, 2012, albeit obliquely. The article is about the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency which is supposed to be abolished and replaced by the new agency under the Ministry of the Environment (Goshi Hosono's influence-peddling outfit), and what a disgrace it was that the agency regulating the nuclear industry had failed so miserably in the first days of the accident.

In the 2-part article titled "Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency withdrew from the plant on its own, 3 days after the disaster struck", Sankei reports (part):


The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has the code of conduct that everyone should adhere to. The first is "Strong sense of duty: carry out tasks with the safety of the citizens first; act aggressively to secure safety in an emergency". The other three are: "Scientific and rational decision-making", "Transparency in carrying out tasks", "Neutrality and fairness". However, these noble ideals codified when the agency was created 11 years ago hadn't become part of the agency.


March 12, 2011, when Reactor 1 had a hydrogen explosion. The atmosphere was unusually tense at the Prime Minister's Official Residence where the nuclear disaster response headquarters was set up. The ministers and bureaucrats were scurrying to piece together the fragmented information. But there was one person missing from the scene.


Nobuaki Terasawa (age 59), Director General of the NISA was missing. He was the head of the organization that regulates the nuclear industry, and he was also the head of the secretariat of the nuclear disaster response headquarters. He had left the Prime Minister's Official Residence at 7PM on the previous day on March 11, 2011, after the first meeting of the nuclear disaster response headquarters, and had returned to the NISA.


"Because I am not the technical person [don't have a technical degree], I decided it was better to have someone there who understood [the nuclear technology] better, rather than me staying there." Terasaka tried to explain in the February 15 hearing of the investigation committee of the Fukushima accident set up by the Diet. Professor Shuya Nomura (age 50) of Chuo University Law School was left speechless. "So the head of the regulating agency was someone who didn't know much about nuclear technology."


After he returned to the NISA, Terasawa called the PM's Official Residence "a few times" (according to Terasawa). He was supposed to be the right-hand man for the prime minister as the head of the regulating agency and be in charge of responding to the accident. It didn't work that way at all.


It was not Terasawa alone who "fled in the face of the enemy". The Nuclear Safety Inspector and other NISA officials who worked at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant did the same. At the time of the accident, there were 8 NISA officials including Nuclear Safety Inspector. In normal times, they would make a tour of inspection on the plant. In an emergency, they were to inspect the scene of the accident and provide information to the NISA.


As the situation deteriorated after Reactor 3 had a hydrogen explosion and the vent couldn't be carried out at Reactor 2 to release the radioactive steam from inside the reactor, they withdrew from the plant on their own decision by 5PM on March 14, 2011, 3 days after the start of the accident. So the national government lost the channel through which to obtain information at the scene of the accident, and now had to rely on TEPCO for information.


Around the same time the Nuclear Safety Inspectors and others left the plant, TEPCO was said to be asking the government for "complete withdrawal" from the plant. Then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan (age 65) made his way to the TEPCO headquarters in the early morning of March 15, and refused TEPCO's said request to withdraw. But at that time, the government side had already withdrawn from the scene of the accident.

I have no problem with having the NISA's head without a technical or science degree. What you would need in the situation like this is not the technical or scientific knowledge but common sense, leadership, good grasp of overall picture, and will and authority to commandeer people who do know technical details. Instead, he simply went home because he didn't have a technical degree.

With that kind of director general, it's not surprising at all that the NISA people at the plant withdrew on their own. I wonder if Kan had known about it when he went to TEPCO. Probably not. The NISA head would probably not have told the prime minister, because he probably didn't know about it himself.


Anonymous said...

Withdrawing or not, the NISA inspectors were not very useful anyway : "In fact, no evidence that the Nuclear Safety Inspectors gave direction or advice to the NPS ERC was found at all. There was no such circumstance under which the presence of
the Nuclear Safety Inspectors in the Seismic Isolation Building contributed to any accident
response." http://icanps.go.jp/eng/120224Honbun04Eng.pdf page 132

Richard said...

This Terasawa dog, I'm sure he is still receiving a handsome pay packet, for his pathetic role at NISA. While many people have had their lively hood ripped from them.

Terasawa should be in jail as should Kan and the tepco management. Spineless, lying dogs the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the code of conduct is the only thing that matters in big orgs like this. Contracts are usually meaningless b/c they control laws, money & lawyers so at the end of the day the only thing U R responsible to is the code of conduct. So, this may seem like a joke to the outsider, it is actually the only thing of import.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@anon at 6:26PM, actually, the above Sankei article goes on to relate how an official at NISA feels as he recites the code of conduct. "I am so ashamed" he says.

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