April 28, 2011

Safety is the victim in Japan's insular nuclear industry

The NY Times reports on Japan's nuclear industry and how the industry, politicians, government regulators and academics are tied together in a "culture of complicity" that  "made the plant especially vulnerable to the natural disaster that struck the country on March 11."

TOKYO — Given the fierce insularity of Japan's nuclear industry, it was perhaps fitting that an outsider exposed the most serious safety cover-up in the history of Japanese nuclear power. It took place at Fukushima Daiichi, the plant that Japan has been struggling to get under control since last month's earthquake and tsunami. 

In 2000, Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese-American nuclear inspector who had done work for General Electric at Daiichi, told Japan's main nuclear regulator about a cracked steam dryer that he believed was being concealed. If exposed, the revelations could have forced the operator, Tokyo Electric Power, to do what utilities least want to: undertake costly repairs.
What happened next was an example, critics have since said, of the collusive ties that bind the nation's nuclear power companies, regulators and politicians.
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