Made in Japan: Fukushima Disaster

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time world's most dangerous room fukushima copy I finally got a chance to read TIME‘s excellent status report on the catastrophic nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.

The piece, “The World’s Most Dangerous Room” was authored by Hannah Beech with photos by Dominic Nahr. Best line in the piece references a statement in the 2012 Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission report (pdf):

What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’  Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture:  our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity. . .The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mind-set that supported it can be found across Japan.

Japan does have innovators, independent-minded and brilliant women and men — animated by merit more than inertia and blind obedience — who deserve their time at the helm.  However, it’s also a society constantly struggling with a dark nationalism and conservatism as well, a toxic pandora’s box when mixed with too much group think.

The Nuclear Accident Commission was composed of leading Japanese industrial and scientific practitioners so the honesty of the statement above is truly striking.

Hopefully Japan’s political, economic, and socio-cultural leadership will think about this statement because at the core, it is fundamentally the reason why Japan is still feared in Asia and not trusted to be responsible with power.

“. . .our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority.”  Those words certainly give pause and are worthy reminders in this country of the importance of constantly testing and questioning our own leadership.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

7 comments on “Made in Japan: Fukushima Disaster

  1. pergole says:

    if not completely compromised, by the cultural reasons cited by the commission.

    Reply

  2. Roger Smith says:

    I wouldn:’t be so complacent. The reactor design was Made in America, and the corporate and government coziness are hardly unique to Japan. Unlike Japan, the US kept Fukushima Dai-ichi style reactors running and continues to stockpile fuel in vulnerable spent fuel pools.

    This article didn’t seem to find anything noteworthy in Japan’s response to the disasters (contrast that with say, Katrina) or that we have anything to learn from them. Perhaps commentators will one day write about that and ascribe it to America’s unique but dysfunctional political culture.

    Reply

  3. Caroline says:

    At the core, pardon the pun, was a failure of corporate governance, from the c-suite to the control room. Any system for governance was weakened, if not completely compromised, by the cultural reasons cited by the commission.

    Reply

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