Due to popular demand, the NAIIC report

I’ve not had a chance to read any of it yet, but just to collect things in a separate thread, here is the home page:


I gather that Kan doesn’t quite get nominated for sainthood within the pages. I never got the love for him either – regardless of whether or not people think he took charge, his other actions, such as taking almost two months to visit the disaster areas and not getting anything moving bar setting up a million and one committees, were enough to convince me of his uselessness.

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  1. I’ve read the evacuees survey, and it’s pretty horrendous that a significant number have had to move six or more times!

    The employees report, however, shows that TEPCO’s management of not just the subcontractors but also a significant percentage of their main employees, is suspect to say the least. :mad: I hope KEPCO’s management is better, or at least that we don’t get an emergency situation at Oi. Quite honestly, after reading the survey I think that no more reactors should be switched on until the new Nuclear Safety Agency is up and running.

  2. Here’s a UK Guardian commentary (by a London-based Japanese academic) claiming that the ‘made in Japan’ statement was indeed only in the English version. Confused? I am now.


    There is an argument looming, unrelated to technology, about whether this self-criticism is proof of healthy critique, or another way of perpetuating culturally essentialist ideas of Japanese society.

  3. Andrew In Ezo

    The “Made in Japan” statement of course was made only in the English version. It’s self-evident and unnecessary in the Japanese. Perhaps the translator’s intention was beating the Western media to the punch, as they would doubtless have spun it that way.

  4. Andrew In Ezo

    A good post on the “made in Japan” comment, and a translation of the related original Japanese section , which should have been done anyway:

  5. Ampontan, shisaku and that Guardian article writer all need to get a bloody grip. Rather than look at the substance of the report, they’re wetting their knickers over a single sentence which, as far as I can see, quite clearly does NOT mean “shit happened because Japanese people are crap.”

    It’s supremely obvious that it refers to a particular set of institutional circumstances which happen to be characteristic of certain sectors of Japanese society at a certain point in history – not that these are fundamentally definitive of “Japan”, ffs.

    These commentators are so geared to take offence, that they can’t be bothered to engage their brains and look at the substance of the charges. By the by, it’s a strength of this site and it’s predecessor that such knee-jerk reactions were checked by other contributors – and acknowledged in a collegiate atmosphere.

  6. Oh, and c’mon Andy!

  7. Exactly right, VK.

    It’s kind of hilarious (read: sad) that a throwaway statement in the f’ing foreword is distracting people so much that they can’t even spend the time to read even the summary of the crisis.

    The real question here should be whether this report will have any impact on domestic policy, or if the mistakes made here will be pinned solely on Tepco and the previous administration to be forgotten in a couple of years.

    Also, if the nuclear industry is to move forward, there are a lot of lessons to be learned here in terms of improving safety standards, communication with the public, and crisis management.

  8. @VK:

    Uh, did you actually read the ampontan article?

  9. Also, put this under future article ideas, but the foreign registration system changes from today.


  10. @George: I was thinking this wouldn’t happen until next week. Looks like a trip to Shinagwa is in my future (for better or worse.)

  11. @Level3:

    Yep. Er…Did you? :wink:

    He says this:

    Its insertion into the English version implies that none of this could occur or has occurred anywhere else, and that regulatory capture or potential nuclear unsafety are uniquely Japanese and due to the inadequacies of the people on the archipelago.

    No, it only implies that if you’re paranoid and given to logical error. “Regulatory capture” is only part of the problem identified, and how it arises can be different in different countries. Ampontan is trying to argue that because each of the elements of the problem can be found elsewhere, that the combination of elements can therefore not be peculiar to Japan over the past few decades. That’s not logic.

    The more I think about it, “Made in Japan” is a good phrase for the problems the foreword suggests: many of the same processes that created the “Made in Japan” national brand, and that were the driving force behind Japan’seconomic miracle, contributed to systemic problems in Japanese governance (over confidence in the “Made in Japan” brand being one of them), and ultimately, to the mess that was the regulation of the nuclear industry in general and TEPCO in particular.

    Ampontan actually accepts the prognosis. He even says

    anyone in Japan(my italics) who pays attention has known about the general phenomenon for decades, and knows that it applies to more than just nuclear power regulation

    He’s just too distracted by the chance to dance the “how dare someone say that about Japan” jig to try to see what “Made in Japan” quite clearly means. He’s outraged by Kurokawa talking to the FCCJ! Talking to them means pandering to them! (Perhaps Kurokawa…er…likes the English version and felt that…er…English speaking journalists might be interested in that.)

    I’m not saying the report has it right, but perhaps we should not waste too much time getting so giddy over one single sentence that is clearly entirely in keeping with the Japanese version. The Japanese version talks about 日本人の「思いこみ (マインドセット)」, for pity’s sake. The difference is of interest to translators, not to those who want to know the substance.

  12. NHK has a couple of nice-looking summary articles, on who/what gets blamed and seven recommendations made.

    And looking at the NHK summary of recommendations, I think through it I found something rather interesting – although it could just be my rubbish Japanese. In the English summary, recommendation 2 part 3 reads like this:

    3. The operator must assume responsibility for on-site accident response, including the halting of operations, and reactor cooling and containment.

    But in Japanese it reads like this:

    3)事故時における発電所内(オンサイト)での対応(止める、冷やす、閉じ込める)については第一義的に 事業者の責任とし、政治家による場当たり的な指示・介入を防ぐ仕組みとする

    My emphasis added. I could be wrong, and it could be some of my dictionaries playing a joke on me, but doesn’t that highlighted part read something like “fundamentally the responsibility of the operator, such as to prevent irresponsible? ad hoc? grandstanding? orders and interventions from politicians”.

    If so, that’s an interesting thing to leave out of the English version.

  13. @VK:

    Google translate suggests “haphazard,” which kind of makes sense.

    So yes, they seem to have missed the specifics about keeping politicians’ meddling fingers out of it from the English translation…

  14. @iago:

    場当たり的な (ばあたりてきな) in my various dictionaries is:

    * haphazard, impromptu, irresponsible (iEijiro for iPhone)
    * playing to the gallery, grandstanding, claptrap, gag, ad hoc, haphazard, dress rehearsal (perapera on Firefox)
    * ad hoc, on the spur of the moment, patchwork (Kenkyusha new college 5th edn)

    I’ve never met this word before, so I’m not sure what the nuance is at all.

    In general the report appears to alienate everybody: TEPCO was crap, Kan’s team were crap, Kan’s opponents in the bureaucracy and LDP were increasingly crap for decades before this happened. It will also annoy anti-nuclear people by emphasising needless human error over any inherent dangers of the technology, too, although that may be an artefact of the committee’s remit.

    If Noda can get through the next election, he might be able to do something with this. It sets up strong business interests (they need electricity) against the elements in government and bureaucracy blocking the necessary regulatory reforms; business usually wins. In addition, Noda’s not Kan, he’s not Ozawa (he’s anti-Ozawa) or LDP-linked, he’s not political aristocracy. He might be able to garner support from younger Diet members wanting a break with the past (as younger people usually do).

    Of course, that may just be wishful thinking.

  15. @VK:

    I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of sarcasm in many layers there, it’s hard for me to see which side he is falling on here. You may or may not(?) agree but I don’t see what is so offensive that he needs to “get a bloody grip”.

    Anyway, I’m coming at this remembering the Challenger disaster report and the twisted (non)safety culture at NASA. I have a feeling that there may be some similarities here.

    Though there’s almost zero Japanese connection – which kind of makes it relevant to the is/isn’t the whole FukushimaTEPCO corruption/stupidity mess the fault of Japanese-ness, and how can we say so or not without seeming racist, or people reading our thoughts the wrong way, or just switching to insults?

    Big organizations where nobody takes ultimate responsibility, potential problems do not get handled or even examined, whistleblowers are ignored or punished for rocking the boat, corners get cut for convenience or profit?

    Not exactly new…is it more common in Japan? Maybe in some companies. I dunno. All the English language reporting says so… :roll:

    But this bullshit is everywhere..i.e. any government agency in the world, it’s just they don’t happen to be in charge of nuclear reactors so it gets less news coverage.
    They just fuck up millions of peoples’ lives in a less dramatic way. Be it moving a visa processing center to an inconvenient place 30 minutes further away from everyone who needs to go there, or causing epidemic obesity and diabetes resulting in millions of early deaths by telling 2 generations of schoolkids to eat 5 servings of bread, rice or pasta each day. No protest marches demanding heads for that… though maybe it’s because those affected can’t march very far. :wink:

  16. @Level3:

    It’s important to distinguish between outcomes and causes. Regulatory capture is an outcome. And it’s not simply an outcome, it’s a common goal of any regulated private industry anywhere in the world. That’s them winning the game. So all regulatory systems have a tendency towards regulatory capture. However, at the risk of stretching the analogy, there are many ways and strategies of winning most games, regardless of there being one definition of winning. So yes, I think it’s crucially important not to see the outcome as defining the process. It’s a bit like seeing a 2-0 scoreline and presuming both goals were headed because that was how the last 2-0 game was that you saw. And you’re also presuming people played the same game to the same rules, which is not what is happening here.

    What’s different between Japan and the US? Here are a few things I can see that are relevant:
    * A single party in power for over 50 years preventing effective opposition review of governance.
    * A legacy of highly successful state-directed economic policy (that encouraged technocratic bureaucratic hubris).
    * Because of these first two, much weaker political control over the bureaucracy.
    * Peak university institutions where social contacts are positively encouraged as a means of forming future networks (No university in the US has the OB influence of Todai. Analogies exist in the UK (Oxbridge) and France (ecoles normale and superieur)). Relationships are more personalised and less formalised than in the US. Contacts matter in America, but they’re not viewed as central to the functioning of the system. (Again, Made in Japan is not such a silly statement).
    * An until recently positively encouraged amakudari system to improve interactions between state institutions and large private sector organisations, but which also discouraged critical, independent and objective assessment of either organisation or ministry. America may have people moving between politics and business, but it’s never been seen as an integral part of the system.
    * A weak legislature unable to provide decent oversight, regardless of whether the members are subject to pork-barrel politics (the pork barrel being one node of the iron triangle in the US case)
    * A much weaker, less independent legal system to provide for civil oversight of either private sector or state institutions.
    * Rapid economic development resulting in a more ingrained habit of ad hoc solutions and regulations.

    And I haven’t even mentioned the fuzzier cultural ideas such as reluctance to challenge superiors – for which I need time to look at the report closely. I have a worrying feeling the Japanese version has more meaty detail. (Hell, it’s good reading practice.)

    Quite a few of these factors that can contribute to regulatory capture can viewed as having had a positive role to play in Japanese post-war society. That’s going to make tackling them difficult.

    All this means that the tasks facing reformers and the tools at their disposal are going to be somewhat different. Lessons can be learnt from different countries (and the management of nuclear power stations in particular, as the technology determines half the game), but the report seems in part to be an attempt to raise the alarm about wider issues of governance.

    In the face of all this, a reaction which says “yes, yes, we know and it’s just the same the world over” is not good enough. It doesn’t offer any solutions, or any framework of analysis.

    Well, the only viewpoint that could say “it’s the same the world over” and mean it in detail and offer a solution thereby is a Marxist one. And I’m pretty sure neither you nor Ampontan are Marxists. :wink:

  17. This is a very good comment, VK.

    One small nitpick: You mention Amakudari and how this is not essential to the US system, but lobbying is essentially our version of this scourge. And one could very easily argue that lobbyists have become one of the most powerful groups of individuals in the country. They are not always politicians, but it’s fairly common.

  18. @George:

    Please nitpick away – my original background is political science, but I never formally studied Japan. My annoyance with some of these commentators is I’m educated enough to know when they’re not trying, but not (I hope) enough to do their job for them.

    I didn’t mention lobbying because I was talking about Japanese peculiarities. America has its own, of which intensive, financially powerful lobbying is one. I don’t think it’s comparable to amakudari, except that it’s sometimes viewed in a peachy light.

    American politicians, being in a weak party system, are much more independent of each other, which sounds great except it also makes them more prone to outside financial interests – the lobbyists you mention.

  19. @VK:

    I think we agree on almost all of this.

    I sum it up this way. Corporations do bad things. Governments do bad things. But the really serious fuckups need companies and governments working together. :wink:

    The amakudari, social pressure to not rock the boat or embarrass colleagues by pointing out errors, and no independent oversight of the nuke industry are how the puzzle becomes semi-uniquely Japanese. At least the degree to which these things occur as opposed to other cultures. I don’t know from experience, but is the tradition of “playing the devil’s advocate” common in Japanese corporations?

    Hopefully reforms will come from this. Is anyone going to take responsibility? If nobody does, then there’s little to deter the next batch of execs and regulators.

    Golden parachutes for TEPCO execs and regulators and other forms “resignation” and then taking a job that is not technically amakudari, but sure smells like it. Those do not count as taking responsibility. :wink: The protestors sure have it right when they demand the TEPCO execs live in temporary housing in Tohoku (until the last resident has a permanent home).

    Sigh, nuclear power would be the safest, cleanest form of energy – if it weren’t for the fucking people. There just seems to be either a Homer Simpson or a Monty Burns that causes these accidents and disasters.

  20. @VK:

    Perhaps when they wrote 場当たり的 in the above passage, they meant “…to prevent orders and intervention from politicians making politically-based judgments” (i.e., only because they want to present the appearance of taking action, or otherwise “being on top of the situation”, to their constituents). That’s what I got out of that.

  21. @Level3:

    The word “unique” is Ampontan’s own contribution, and I think it’s exceedingly unhelpful. If we could replace “JAPAN” with “here” and forget all our projected hang-ups, we’d focus more clearly on the specificities, rather than fret over “uniqueness”.

    I don’t know about playing “Devil’s advocate” in Japanese companies (although the implicit adversarial approach to progress is certainly a Western liberal ideal). Because in the typical functional Japanese organisation ideas are frequently negotiated before rather than after they are formally proposed, the public arena is a less well developed source of ideas.

    The bigger issue appears to be the mechanisms by which problems are (a) spotted, (b) recognised and (c) dealt with.

    For (a) we have excessive trust in the competence of individuals and weak oversight; for (b) we have excessive deference to superiors, lack of legal protection and institutional and social support for whistle-blowers, and for (c) we have a lack of effective accountability, oversight and human health priority. What’s interesting is how we solve all of this.

    Sigh, nuclear power would be the safest, cleanest form of energy – if it weren’t for the fucking people. There just seems to be either a Homer Simpson or a Monty Burns that causes these accidents and disasters.

    Even with these shysters, nuclear power is comparatively safe. Shysters run other energy sources too (even green ones). Some anti-nukes have – tactically unwisely – invested in a story of insane incompetence at TEPCO as evidence for nuclear power’s unfeasability, neglecting to see that the answer then is “reform the management” rather than abandon the technology.

    I sum it up this way. Corporations do bad things. Governments do bad things. But the really serious fuckups need companies and governments working together.

    Repeat after me, “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”. :wink:

  22. @The 2-Belo:

    Mrs VK reads “場当たり的な” as “silly”, meaning ill-thought out, uninformed.

    Apparently, the Kan-Fukushima phone calls were all recorded and reviewed by the committee, and they make for interesting listening. Kan was apparently giving orders that made little practical sense.

  23. Wow, read the English summary today. TEPCO is even worse than I thought.

    Assuming the report is the most accurate version of events to date, some myths seem to be busted:

    The “Kan stopped TEPCO from completely evacuating and is therefore a hero” story that he himself promoted (and his gaijin fans who almost inexplicably feel a need to defend this old, rich, drunken, lying representative of everything they claim to hate – well, I have one explanation, the defense is just a reflex – because the name of his party coincides with the one they like back home..tangent ends) WAS bullshit, and the initial version of the story, that he did interfere in the emergency, was true. Though it is understandable because he possibly believed TEPCO management were not taking proper action, and they weer clearly being evasive with information.

    The SPEEDI results weren’t available as early (and thus “withheld” or “ignored”) as everyone thought, since they depended on the local monitoring station network for input, and most of it wasn’t working. (Though this part of the report was kind of unclear to me, guess I’ll start wading through the Japanese version)

    The backup generators were not located “underground”, they were just not high enough for a tsunami.. though not even half the height of what struck on 3/11 it seems. Does not absolve TEPCO of blame.

    TEPCO’s claims that this was all tsunami damage (and pretty much all of their other claims) are likely wrong or based on bullshit, or taking advantage of the fact that much of the key evidence is in the reactor buildings and cannot be reached in the foreseeable future. The earthquake itself probably caused some coolant leaks that would have been a major, but not catastrophic, incident. Though given the terrible state of accident training and emergency equipment (emergency and piping diagram manuals were missing pages), maybe it still would have become a catastrophe of a lesser scale.

    TEPCO and NISA negligence is unbelievable, they are not fit to work in a junkyard, let alone manage one.

    After reading this I’m now on the fence. Japan should not have nuclear power, at least not under the style of “regulation” that happened until now. There has to be clear evidence of complete reform of the system. (Which should include some of those who were willfully negligent in their management duties being issued prison uniforms.)

    For now, though, we need to use some plants. If the Oi plant had not been restarted, Kansai would have already hit maybe 95% of capacity once or twice last week (don’t quote me on that), and we aren’t even out of rainy season yet.

    If there is real reform and creation of an independent regulatory agency, then I think nuclear can and should continue. It is still safer than fossil fuels when you do a risk analysis.
    An attitude of mistrust from the public will be healthy for the new regulators, but must factor in relative risks. There needs to be a lot of education about risk, because the mythical “zero risk” standard that the tinfoil hat community seeks is impossible and they don’t even follow it in their daily lives. Unfortunately, these are the very people who will speak loudest at public meetings.

    As an aside, I now worry that the nuclear industry will see a “brain drain”. Are there going to be many Japanese engineering grads choosing to enter this most-likely “zombie” industry? 10 to 20 years from now, who will be supervising plant decommissioning? Accountants and untrained subcontractors? :cry:

  24. @Level3:

    After reading this I’m now on the fence. Japan should not have nuclear power, at least not under the style of “regulation” that happened until now. There has to be clear evidence of complete reform of the system.

    We need to be finer-grained than this. I know you’re half joking when you quote PJ O’Rourke in place of a serious thinker, but when I tried to detail elements of difference between Japan and the US, part of the reason was to show how the problem is site-specific and non-reducible to broad-brush statements about “government” and “private sector”.

    In the immediate future, we need at least some of the plants up and running, in order to deal with the cost of imported fuel and the demand from an economy that is flirting with growth. A major criterion should be how modern the plant is, simply because more modern plants are more immune to incompetent management.

    In the medium term, we need people who are capable of independent assessment, with regular audits and results in the public domain. However, this in itself doesn’t fully overcome the problem of the deep informal relationships in government which, although powerful, are in themselves ungovernable – especially in a state less dominated by legalistic attitudes to interactions. This is why I would like to see the report’s recommendation of laws being updated in line with international advice being leveraged to into permanent foreign participation in safety monitoring – say a mix of French, Americans and others, with Japanese doing the same in those countries.

    Long term we need to see muscular parliamentary reform, so that oversight of government bureaucracies has some power.This is a general issue; it involves so many variables that I wouldn’t want to rely on it.

    The constant breaking of weather records will, hopefully (although grimly), make people start to look at CO2 output and realise we can’t get away with promising ourselves to be better the day after tomorrow. We need nuclear just as we need renewables.

    It is still safer than fossil fuels when you do a risk analysis.

    Do you know the really scary calculation that I wish someone with authority would do? How often we could have a Fukushima or a Chernobyl and still nuclear would be safer than fossil fuels. I’ve tried doing the numbers and it starts looking silly. Like once a year for both would be still be fine.

    That’s not a defence of nuclear – that’s an attack on fossil fuels.

  25. Joking and “serious thinking” are not mutually exclusive activities.
    (As long as “serious” means “deep/earnest” rather than “stoic/humorless”)
    On the contrary, it takes brains to come up with a good joke.

    I think Senator Al Franken might agree. As well as all those winners of the Jeopardy celebrity tournaments who just happen to be comedians. :wink:

    I find that the activists who feel themselves “serious thinkers” but have no sense of humor; (and whose attempts at such are usually lazy, crude “jokes” that rely on insult, stereotypes, heavy use of the word “fuck”, and plain old bullshit) are the ones whose thinking processes are shallow.

    Though watching them make jokes that are very not-P.C. and then squirm when called on it? Now that’s comedy!

    Not that I’m thinking of anyone in particular… it works with all types.

    Anyway, as for nuclear, a big worry is the NISA. Perhaps TEPCO was a uniquely sick corporate culture, but as the regulators are also sick, what does that mean for KEPCO and the others? We just have to hope they’ve been less dodgy all along? At least they’re motivated to finally bring safety up to international standards. But it’ll take time, one thing we DON’T want is a rush job on safety improvements. So we get these reasonable estimates of new safety systems being installed by 2015 and such.

    I feel pretty angry with the nuke industry for stacking the deck in these meetings. Stupid! But I can kind of sympathize. They are competing with (effectively) professional protesters, and where does one come up with a well-informed counter to that? A “professional counter-protester”?

    Well, academia might work. But it’s final exam season, they’re busy. And giving a presentation to a bunch of people who have already made up (and then closed) their minds is a waste of time. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to bother going to one of these meetings, let alone spend a day knocking out some PowerPoint slides only to know I’ll be called a “nuclear shill” anyway.

    But then maybe that’s letting the terrorists win?


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