1 March 2012

Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response

Yoichi Funabashi

Yoichi Funabashi is chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation and a distinguished guest professor at Keio University. Funabashi is a former editor-in-chief of the Asahi...


Kay Kitazawa

Kitazawa is staff director of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation's Independent Investigation Commission on the...

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The emerging crisis at the plant was complex, and, to make matters worse, it was exacerbated by communication gaps between the government and the nuclear industry. An independent investigation panel, established by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, reviewed how the government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), and other relevant actors responded. In this article, the panel’s program director writes about their findings and how these players were thoroughly unprepared on almost every level for the cascading nuclear disaster. This lack of preparation was caused, in part, by a public myth of “absolute safety” that nuclear power proponents had nurtured over decades and was aggravated by dysfunction within and between government agencies and Tepco, particularly in regard to political leadership and crisis management. The investigation also found that the tsunami that began the nuclear disaster could and should have been anticipated and that ambiguity about the roles of public and private institutions in such a crisis was a factor in the poor response at Fukushima.