The Situation at Fukushima, An article in the Washington Post


It is already two and half years since the accident at Fukushima, yet there is virtually no one who would consider that the situation has been suitably has been stabilized. The media reports one problem after the other: contamination of groundwater, leakage of radioactive water, the problems posed by rainfall. Indeed, this is a critical issue not only for the Japanese but also for the world.

The biggest question right now on everybody’s mind is whether the Japanese government has made an accurate appraisal of the ability of TEPCO in allowing to deal with a disaster of this magnitude. The government too, is resorting to its usual way of dealing with such problems: setting up a committee, in this case, the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning. It remains to be seen how open to debate, how transparent and how international this committee will become.

Although TEPCO invited an international advisory committee that in itself is not enough. Transparency in areas such as how serious TEPCO is about dealing with the situation, and what measures it plans to take, and what it is learning are needed in order to lend credence to the whole process. Yet even here, there are many problems. One of these reports came from Lady Barbara Judge, vice-chair of TEPCO Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and it was carried on the 16th page of the October 22nd Nikkei newspaper morning edition.

We are not the only ones worried about the situation. That the Washington Post carried an article about Fukushima Daiichi on its first three pages on the 21st of October, and the New York Times on the 4th of September, speak volumes about the critical stance of foreign media. To appear as the top article in the printed version is quite impactful and the illustration in On-line version of Washington Post is well done.

By the way, I would like to introduce Junichi Kobayashi (blog, twitter @idonochawan), who translates one foreign media article into Japanese everyday. Predictably, most of the articles these days have to do with Fukushima Daiichi, but it is a good source of information if one wants to get a sense of how the world is currently viewing Japan.

I am thankful for his efforts, for it requires a great deal of effort to accomplish what he is doing.

The “Audacious Young Lady” continues her work, and my opinions


There are people who have chosen very diverse careers after working at the National Diet of Japan Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). The three people whom I introduced in my column, Mr. Shiina, Mr. Ishibashi and Ms. Aikawa, the “audacious young lady,” are examples of this.

Ms. Aikawa’s book, Hinanjakusha [The Vulnerable Evacuees] has been read widely, and recently there has been an online article of her interview (in Japanese). It makes me happy that her message is being spread. Young people will take action. It is quite impressive.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan’s magazine, The Number 1 Shimbun ran an article by me following up on NAIIC after it was disbanded, also featuring Ms. Aikawa, Mr. Shiina and Mr. Ishibashi.

NAIIC is the first independent investigation commission in Japanese constitutional history. As it is the first, many politicians, bureaucrats, media, academics and the people of Japan do not understand what NAIIC stands for. The response in Japan has been much weaker than abroad (1, 2).

It takes time for democratic systems to fully function.

I am very concerned about the situation at Fukushima Daiichi. We must not forget that there are many people around the world who are truly worried and concerned about Japan.

To Guam University


I visited Guam from October 13th for four days and three nights. I was invited by Dr. Robert Underwood, the President of Guam University, whom I met at the Pacific Science Association two years ago and have kept in touch with since. The main industry of this area is tourism and the largest number of tourists are from Japan.

Professor Ko Nakajima of emergency medicine at Tokai University and Mr. Ichida of Birdlife International came along for the program to conservation program of the Guam rail (in Japanese) (1). The color of the beak is different from that of the Okinawa rail, but they are very close.

The next day was the Presidential Lecture series where academic and administrative staff as well as students participated and gathered in the lecture hall. There were many engaging questions and we had a fun time. The board and senior members of the university, including Dr. Kurashina, an emeritus professor of the University of California Berkley had a dinner and Governor of Guam Mr Calvo joined with us.

The next day, I had a seminar with the students, which many academics also joined, and we all enjoyed the discussion. Afterwards, I met with Guam council members and was able to hear their opinions.

There is a connection with Okinawa, so I talked about the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology OIST.

The next day, although there was a typhoon headed towards Japan, my flight in the morning departed as scheduled and I was surprised when I saw the water rising in northern Chiba before landing in Narita.

The typhoon swept through a while before but it was clear that there was significant damage.

Schedule – October 2013

Innovative City Forum
Date: October 16(Wed)-18(Fri), 2013
Venue: Academyhills, 49th floor of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower
How to Prticipate


U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group:
Shared Strategic Priorities in the Aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
Presentation and Public Seminar in Osaka – Simultaneous Interpretation Provided

Date & Time: October 1, 2013(Tue) 1:30-3:30pm
Venue: Osaka University, Nakanoshima Center (4-3-53 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka-city)
Admission Free; Please RSVP at <>
with the following by September 25:
(1) Name, (2) Affiliation and (3) Contact Information.
For full details of the seminar 

To Various Places


After attending the Mansfield Foundation’s U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group convention, I flew to Okinawa to attend the meeting of the board of governors at the OIST.

It was to be a three days two nights meeting (the 2nd , 3rd and 4th of October), but because I was feeling not well, I returned to Tokyo on the second day and participated through video-conference on the 4th. Although there is still a lot left to be done, I feel that it is wonderful that we have accomplished so much in so little time. I feel that this tenth anniversary will mark some big changes as well.

The next day, the 5th, I participated in the  Japanese Society of Nephrology’s ‘Panel Discussion For Gender Equality’ (link in Japanese), after which I headed to Kyoto for the STS forum (5th to 8th October). This event too was celebrating its tenth year in existence. With more than a thousand participants and with Prime Minister Abe giving the opening speech, the forum was off to a great start.  I was on the panel for ‘Education and ICT (Information and Communication Technology)’. I met with many friends and colleagues at the forum, and I also had the good fortune of meeting people from the Qatar Foundation who were attending for the first time. We had the opportunity to have a conversation and I also managed to provide them with the names of some researchers who would be able to cooperate with them.

On the 8th, after returning from Kyoto, I had a dinner with an executive of a foreign capital enterprise, and on the 9th and the 10th, I was invited to the 35th anniversary celebrations of Oriental Giken, where I lectured and shared the stage with Ken Kornberg, the architect who designed OIST. Ken is the son of Arthur Kornberg, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Roger, one of his brothers is a Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry. Another brother Thomas is an outstanding scientist in the field of molecular biology.

The next day, I went to a discussion with the Liberal Democratic Party about the form that a new Nuclear Regulatory Commission would take. After this meeting, I headed to a workshop organized by IOCA, a group that I met at the summer course on Global Health organized by HGPI. This workshop was getting some good reviews from among various organizations, so I wanted to take a look.

At night, I was invited to the Swiss Embassy, where I met with Honorable Doris Leuthard, one of leading Swiss politicians who is the Minister of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications portfolio, and I talked about nuclear energy.

Again, I was busy as always, but if I am asked what I have accomplished, or what I have contributed, I would be forced to pause and think.

The Mansfield Foundation’s U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group


I participated in the Mansfield Foundation’s U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group convention in Osaka.

This group recently published a report detailing the strategic priorities regarding nuclear power in Japan and the U.S, and these conventions were part of their campaign. Although similar events were held in Fukuoka and Tokyo, I was only able to participate in the Osaka Convention.

The recommendations refer to the increased cooperative relations that are expected in the coming years, and most of them are very reasonable. One of the members of the committee, Charles Ferguson, was the chairperson during my NAIIC Capitol Hill Briefing that was organized by the Japan-U.S Council last October. He played no small part in ensuring that my briefing got the attention that it deserved by highlighting its importance.

At the Osaka convention, the panelist discussion was followed up by comments made by me and Professor Shunya Hoshino of Osaka University.

Because each of the panelists was well-versed in nuclear energy, the talk did not go into technical details, but rather focused on the larger issues, such as the significance of the NAIIC, the dangers of groupthink, as well as other problems that arose specifically because the accident occurred in Japan.

One such Japan-specific problem was the composition of the audience. Barring the two female simultaneous interpreters, there were only three or four women in the audience of more than two hundred. Talk about strange. I believe that this can occur only in Japan.

Among the four panelists, there was one woman, Sharon Squassoni(Director and Senior Fellow, Proliferation Prevention Program, CSIS).

After the convention ended, the members of the working group headed to Fukushima, while I headed to Kansai Airport, from where I would be flying to Okinawa in order to attend the meeting of the board of governors at the OIST.