Report: Fukushima Disaster Was A Man-Made Crisis

A panel of experts says the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan was a "man-made" crisis which could have been prevented. The panel said Thursday that "collusion" between the government, industry regulators and the plant operator turned the aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami into one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis was a man-made catastrophe that could have been prevented. That's the conclusion of an investigative commission set up by Japan's parliament and released today. The disaster spread radioactive material over a wide area. It also forced thousands of Japanese from their homes and led Japan to shut down almost all of its nuclear reactors.

The new report harshly criticizes Japanese government officials, the country's nuclear safety agency, and TEPCO, the owner of the Fukushima plant. The commission even blames Japanese culture for allowing the negligence that it said caused the Fukushima-Daiichi meltdowns.

Lucy Craft reports from Tokyo.

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LUCY CRAFT, BYLINE: As cameras clicked away, the latest chapter of the Fukushima accident unfolded. A parliamentary investigative committee comprised of 10 outside experts, led by scientist Kiyoshi Kurokawa, presented more than 600 pages of findings. As he handed over results of the investigation, commission chairman Kurokawa urged the Japanese parliament to upgrade its supervision of the nuclear power industry.

This was only one of several investigations aimed at revealing what was behind the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Other panels have found fault with both the governments handling of the incident and management at the utility. But this latest report was unusually blunt about what went wrong.

DR. KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: (Foreign language spoken)

CRAFT: While the utility's own investigation blamed the rare tsunami for triggering the disaster, the Kurokawa report said there was evidence the earthquake had started the chain of events; a conclusion that cast a shadow over the government's plan to restart many of the reactors in this earthquake prone country.

Considering the many opportunities available to prevent this accident, the panel said, Fukushima was no natural disaster but clearly a man-made one. The report said generations of regulators and utility managers knew that Fukushima was vulnerable to major earthquakes and tsunamis, but neglected to install safeguards.

The panel blamed Japan's culture of reflexive obedience and reluctance to question authority. It called regulators beholden to the powerful utility companies, citing a total breakdown of government supervision over the nuclear power industry.

The Japanese government's own report on the disaster is scheduled for release later this summer.

For NPR News, this is Lucy Craft in Tokyo.

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