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Fukushima disaster ‘avoidable’ - official report confirms

Human error and wilful negligence caused last year’s disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan according to an official report released last week.

The official report - The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission - by a Japanese parliamentary panel said the disaster “could and should have been prevented” and that it cannot be considered a “natural disaster”.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent 14m high tsunami on 11 March 2011 flooded the Fukushima nuclear power station in north eastern Japan, triggering a meltdown and the evacuation of 150,000 people.

“Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11,” said the report’s chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa.

The report blamed plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), regulator Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa) and government nuclear power body Meti, for failing to prepare the plant for such a disaster.

This led to a failure to undertake vital plant upgrades that could have protected it from earthquake damage and a failure to draw up
detailed evacuation plans.

A lack of scrutiny of the regulators and operators led to commission chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa branding the disaster as “made in Japan” referring to a national reluctance to question authority and to display “reflexive obedience”.

The report said Tepco was “too quick to cite the tsunami as the cause of the accident and deny that the earthquake caused any damage”.

The investigation revealed the earthquake damaged Unit 1 reactor.

It concluded Tepco’s decision to blame the tsunami alone was an “attempt to avoid responsibility” as the risk of earthquake damage was considered to be foreseen while the 14m tsunami was not.

Past ICE president Mark Whitby and staunch new nuclear critic said the report contradicts the UK’s chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman’s report into the disaster.

“Weightman was quick to dismiss [the Fukushima disaster] as a natural disaster,” added Whitby. “But that is not the case…there was human error and complacency.”

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