Scientific Journal ‘Nature’ Voices Concerns over Fukushima Disaster; What Must We Do?


It may be hard to believe that the situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant is getting any better. This is a fact that is  clear to anyone.

The briefings on the situation by TEPCO are undecipherable (they are completely lacking any effort of being understood by the Japanese public as well as the international community, making statements that suggest that they think it is someone else’s problem) . And so too the information from the central government, as well as plans for the response to the crisis. With an overwhelming lack of transparency, there is no explanation as to the reasons behind the plan of action, leading to a loss of trust from the whole world as well as here at home.

Curiously, the Japanese media has also lost its courage, with less and less critical coverage, leaving the people of the nation without a voice. Even if one has information of critical importance, it is rarely divulged for fear of endangering one’s job or position. All this deception is counter-productive, and will only lead to a loss of faith from the international community.

The respected scientific journal ‘Nature’ has also lost patience with the situation, and has put forth a strong stance (Japanese version). The internet is buzzing with opinions being passed back and forth. Twitter too, has many examples of such activity.

A disaster on such a scale with dire implications on an international level as the one at Fukushima disaster would do well to pay heed to the lessons learnt through the British government’s response (1) to the outbreak of BSE.

Costly mistakes were made in the early stages, from the discovery of the first cases and the initial response, resulting in the disease spreading to humans. This was followed by  countermeasures based on the recommendations of the EU’s Scientific Steering Committee, and the struggle to regain consumer confidence in the scientific advances of the age. In the end it took more than two decades before British beef could be exported after the discovery of BSE ( it is interesting to note that here too, the Japanese government made a mess of the situation).

What we need is an independent international committee, committed to scientific principles and transparency to come up with solutions to the problem and make proposals to the government, which in turn will make decisions and execute these solutions. We need a plan of action that deals with the mid and long-term plans of the Fukushima Disaster, and we need it to be shared with the world.

Independence, transparency, public disclosure, adherence to scientific principles and an international approach are a must as a first step towards recovery of trust in this globalized day and age. It is because of these factors that the NAIIC was so highly rated and respected, earning the trust of the global community, and there is an urgent need for the public to understand this.

Visitors to my blog here, what do you think? The State Government that loses the trust of the nation will a long take time to regain it.

It’s already two-and-a-half years since the Fukushima nuclear accident.

My Support for the “Audacious Young Lady” and the Publication of The Vulnerable Evacuees



It has been thirty months since the Fukushima nuclear accident, and fourteen months have passed since the NAIIC’s report was submitted to the Diet.

How will Japan and the world go change in the future?

It has been decided that the 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo. This is good news.

There are people who have gone through a dramatic change in their careers after participating in work at the NAIIC. One of them is Mr. Tsuyoshi Shiina, who became a Diet member and another is Mr. Satoshi Ishibashi, who launched a project called “The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission in Plain Language” to name a few.

Ms. Yurina Aikawa is one of them. One day she contacted us to join the work of the NAIIC. She had been working at one of the major newspapers for two years during which she participated in research on the Fukushima nuclear accident. This past August 30th, her book was published. The book is named Hinanjakusha [The Vulnerable Evacuees: What Occurred at the Elderly Care Facilities near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on that Day], which was written based on the research conducted by herself.

I paid tribute to her book by offering some words at the end of the book. Her compelling document simply moved me. I’d like to share excerpts of my comments with you.

First of all, the excerpt shown on the outer flap is as follows:

“A variety of cases emerged through her scrupulous interviews which connect readers directly to the scenes. The interviews illustrated the anguishes and hard decisions of many people by shedding light on the vulnerable people whose fates are out of their control. The people who support the vulnerable have experienced unfathomable distress. Her interview gave insight into each individual’s way of life on the ground. She reported the sufferings, heartfelt stories, and numerous tragedies.

What can we learn from Ms. Aikawa’s reports? Her reports are based on the interviews, which she conducted continuously on the ground. How should we deal with such a reality? This is a question that this book asks every one of us.”

About Ms. Aikawa:

After the Commission dissolved, I talked to Ms. Aikawa, who had resigned her job at a newspaper in order to join the work at the NAIIC, saying, “Thank you for all your work here. What are you going to do from now on?” Then she answered,

“I’m going to continue this research on my own because I must find more about those people and document them.” However reckless she might appear, there exist some young people who are audacious enough to make such bold decisions. We were surprised by her decision to join the NAIIC, but I was even more astonished with this decision. Then I felt a deep feeling coming over me.

Her lone battle began. However, people started to offer cooperation and support for her project. This is the book in which this audacious young lady’s research was documented … I’m delighted and deeply acknowledge all the credit the author deserves. I want to congratulate her with my personal support for this book.”

If you find her book in a bookstore, please take a look. And if you like it, please buy it. Of course, the book is also available at Amazon.

The wonderful video which brought the NAIIC report to life was created by young people on their own initiative as I have introduced it at the last column (1).

With young people who have such independent spirit and mind, doesn’t it make you sense a bit of hope for our future?

A Surprise from the New York Times


In recent days, the situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has been extremely unstable. It has become widely known all over the world. In this day and age, it is not possible to keep things hidden.

The current situation at Fukushima has been reported in overseas media as a major scandal. The New York Times is no exception. On September 4th, it was front page news on the late edition (PDF), and they quoted me in the article (it can also be read in electronic version). This New York Times article was partly reported in the Japanese media.

But what surprised me was that my words were chosen to be the “Quotation of the Day” More than just pleased, I was surprised. It shows how much of an impact it has.

The following is the chosen quote:

“Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it. This is all just one big shell game aimed at pushing off the problem until the future.”

The interview was conducted by Martin Fackler, the Tokyo Bureau Chief for the New York Times. He has also published a book titled, “Credibility Lost: The Crisis in Japanese Newspaper Journalism after Fukushima”(Futaba Shinsho, in Japanese), which critiques The Japanese news coverage after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.

The world is watching. The Fukushima accident occurred in a country that is one of the few major economies in the world, and has been evaluated highly in the areas of science and technology, engineering and manufacturing. Although the earthquake and tsunami set off the accident, it was still unexpected and shocking. What is more, it has been two and a half years since the accident but neither TEPCO nor the Japanese government has established any mid- or long-term plans.

It is vital that we gather wisdom and intellect from the world and prioritize transparency. It is very worrying and it is imperative that something must be done.

NAIIC National Diet Hearing: A New Step Forward?


The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) is the first independent investigation commission appointed by the National Diet in the history of Japan’s constitutional government. It had a mandate for six months, during which we faced an uphill battle.

Now, following our first recommendation, a special committee has been established by the Lower House, and the NAIIC Commission members were called to the committee hearing on April 8 from 9:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. Of the ten Commissioners, nine attended, with the exception of Mr. Oshima.

In late September 2011, six months after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the Diet passed the Act Regarding Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, and on December 8, nine months after the accident, the Diet officially announced the appointment of the ten of us as Commissioners (in Japanese).

On July 5, 2012, the Commission submitted the final report to the Diet. Nine months have passed since then and we have finally been called to a hearing.

In this day and age, the hearing session can be viewed online (in Japanese). The transcript is also available (in Japanese).

The first time for anything takes a while to get going. The NAIIC Commission members worked incredibly hard and made tremendous efforts. It was the first time for me to work on such a project and was quite exhausting.

How will this hearing be evaluated by the public? How will this develop in the future?

Two additional press coverages appeared.


From Abu Dhabi – 2


On the second day of the trip to Abu Dhabi, we visited the Department of Economic Development. We were received by Chairman Alsowaidi, who warmly welcomed the cooperation of business, government and academia. In particular, he was glad about my coincidental encounter with the Sakura Club at the Al Ain campus of United Arab Emirates University on the previous day. This meeting was possible thanks to the initiative taken by the Research Center for the Advanced Science and Technology of University of Tokyo, and the discussion proceeded to the topic of cooperation in research and development. Such meetings are fundamentally important for relations between countries.

The Abu Dhabi side gave a presentation called “Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.” For the Japanese side, Professor Kudo of Showa Medical University (gastroenterological) gave a presentation showing a video of theremoval of a polyp from a large intestine using an endoscope. There were also presentations by various companies and an introduction of the Research Center for the Advanced Science and Technology of University of Tokyo.

I had another appointment and had to excuse myself for an hour, but our visit was reported in the local newspaper. I am sorry to say that I found the article had mentioned my title incorrectly.

As you may know, nuclear power plants are currently being constructed in Abu Dhabi and there are efforts to deepen relations with Japan and to learn from the recent accident.

Our meeting ended smoothly and we headed towards our next stop, Zayed University. This also has an astounding campus as well as state of the art facilities. Here too, there is a Japanese “fan club” sort of organization.

In the evening, out of the courtesy of Ambassador Kamo, I had dinner at the Ambassador’s official residence, the last time I was there was three years ago.

The next day was the final day of our trip. I met with the Dr. Laursen, the President of Khalifa University, where I am a member of the board. Afterwards, I joined everyone for a relaxed lunch and we started preparing for our return trip. In the evening, I was interviewed by a journalist who is working in Abu Dhabi under a two year contract. This interview piece is also available.

She graduated from Harvard College and invited me to a Harvard dinner gathering at the Park Hyatt Hotel. It is quite a pleasant hotel. There are many people here on business. Afterwards, I checked out of my hotel at 11 p.m. and headed toward the airport.

I will now travel to Los Angeles via London, a trip of twenty four hours in total.