Foreign Policy Blogs

Japan to reflect on nuclear safety

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he will launch an independent panel to investigate the causes of the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

According to Kyodo News, Kan said “the myth of the safety of nuclear energy” was prevalent among government and utility officials and that Japan needs to “humbly reflect” on such wrong perceptions.

“By sharing the lessons from the accident with the international community through the International Atomic Energy Agency and other channels, we will take the lead in contributing to safety improvements of nuclear plants around the world,” Kan told a plenary session of the House of Representatives.

I find Kan’s quote on “the myth of the safety of nuclear energy” interesting. While there’s always a chance for accidents with nuclear energy, it can be used relatively safely. However, Japan didn’t adhere to international standards in assessing risk when building its power plants (more on that below). I wonder what source of energy Japan will turn to if it chooses to scale back on nuclear energy. As I mentioned before, Japan is highly dependent on foreign countries for energy (which is why I find the amounts of energy the Japanese waste in their daily lives ironic). Nuclear energy was key to Japan’s energy independence. Kan may be able to play to public opinion in saying Japan has to “humbly reflect” on nuclear safety, but the only option to make up for the energy shortfall would be to import more oil from the Middle East, which isn’t problematic as long as there is no instability in the region.

I am also looking forward to the results of the investigation, which is to be launched in mid-May. I am interested to see if the government lays any blame on the amakudari (retired bureaucrats who take post-retirement jobs in their former fields in the private sector) who allowed the conflicts of interest that led to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency approving the construction of nuclear power plants on known fault lines, or allowed Tokyo Electric Power Co. to willfully ignore scientific research on long-term geological processes. Given the pervasiveness of amakudari, it is only a matter of time before another disaster like the one at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant happens again.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

Visit him online at
E-mail him: [email protected]