The Year 2012 Starts With a New Big Challenge


A Happy New Year.

During the past month, i.e. since December 6th of last year, I have not written any new columns nor did send any messages via twitter.

The reason is, as you may already know, that I was suddenly appointed to chair the “Committee to investigate the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants”.  The relevant laws for creating a committee that is independent from the government and the parliament passed the Diet, as is described in media by words such as “organized by the Diet, totally independent”, or “the very first in the 60 some years’ history of our constitutional government”.  On December 8th, the nine committee members and I received the official notice of appointment at the Parliament from the Presidents of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.

If you search my name on the “news” sites in the web, you will find various reports (Ref.1) (both links are in Japanese) on this  issue.

What a big unexpected challenge I was appointed to!  I used to be one of the members of the “nongovernment Fukushima nuclear plant accident investigating committee”(in Japanese) chaired by Dr. Koichi Kitazawa (in Japanese), former Director of JST, but I resigned from this position for this new responsibility.

I will gradually explain to you, from time to time, the various challenges this committee face, but I think the most important and great challenge is how we – the nine members and I – share the mission of this committee and perform our investigations and analysis.  Every member is extremely busy with their own work, and on top of that, we have to recruit all of the administrative staffs and create rules on how to conduct this investigation as a whole.  So, I had to withhold from making any comments in public until the basic rules were defined within our own committee.  I hope you will understand the situation I had been in.

The “gravity of ‘the very first in the history of Japan’s constitutional government’” is not just about the historical impact to the system of our democracy, but it also refers to the countless difficult issues derived from the fact that this sort of investigation has “never taken place before”.  Therefore, I must say, the operation of this committee is by itself a huge challenge to all of us.

After the official launching of our committee, we traveled right away on December 18th (Sunday) to the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident (covering ourselves with heavy protective equipments…), Okuma town located near the nuclear power plant which now looked like a deserted ghost town, and places where decontamination was in progress. On the next day, the 19 th (Monday), we visited the temporary housings of the evacuees and another decontamination site.  (Ref.1) (both links are in Japanese)

The year of 2011 ended with an unexpected big surprise for me, and now the new year of 2012 started.