Panel at Tokyo University with Charles Casto


On October 9th, I was invited to speak on a panel entitled “Nuclear Energy; Post-3.11” at the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo. The panel was moderated by Prof. Osamu Sakura of the University of Tokyo, with panelists, Kyle Cleveland of Temple University, Mr. Charles Casto, who is a long-time veteran in the field of nuclear power plant operation and regulation in the US, Mr. Tetsuro Fukuyama, who was the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary at the time of the accident, Mr. Tatsujiro Suzuki, who represented Chair of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission during 3.11, and Mr. Yoichi Funabashi, the former editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun and director of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Private Independent Investigation Commission and myself.

The panelists had many opinions and we had a very engaging discussion. We had a large audience, including with NHK, National Broadcasting Station. When it came to the question and answer session, as it is often the case, many people gave their own views rather than asking questions. I had talked to the moderator, Prof. Sakura beforehand but perhaps this is the style of panel discussions in Japan.

Towards the end, we were joined by Mr. Hosono, who was a special advisor at the time of the accident (later Minister) and was the liaison between the US and Japanese governments and TEPCO.

I brought to the attention of the audience, the excellent 300 page report, “Crisis Management: A Qualitative Study of Extreme Event Leadership” by Mr. Casto, who wrote the report based on his experience during the Fukushima accident and now holds a PhD.

The panel discussion covered many topics but one of the major points was that “Japan was not in line with IAEA guidelines regarding the “defense in depth” standards for the evacuation of residents.” This is widely known by experts in Japan and around the world and it was pointed out that the necessary measures have yet to be put in place in many nuclear power plants in Japan.

What should be the next step? There is a tendency for many people to get bogged down by the details but I have focused on the fundamental issue. The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) not only covered the technical details of the accident but also the societal and structural issues in Japan, which served as the background to the Fukushima nuclear accident. Thus, I repeatedly explained that the accident was just the tip of the iceberg and that the fundamental problem lay in the governance structures in Japan, seen in the issues of regulatory capture and the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

The following day, I was delighted to receive an email from the simultaneous interpreter at the conference:

“Dear Mr. Kurokawa, thank you for the symposium yesterday. I am XX and did the interpreting at the symposium. What you said left a very strong impression on me as I was listening from my booth and it made me feel that there are many things we citizens must do as well. I would like to follow your work and look into these topics myself. I wish you all the best and would like to thank you again for yesterday.”

After I responded immediately, the interpreter wrote back:

“Thank you for your response. Since the symposium, I have been reading and listening to your work and I look forward hearing more from you in the future.”

It is wonderful that such exchanges can take place so easily via the internet.

Mr. Casto and I were on the same page about many things and the day before leaving Japan, he paid me a visit and we discussed many matters over a nice dinner together with some of my friends.

To London -1


Last December, the UK government set up the ‘G8 Dementia Summit.’ Considering the increasing ageing population in many countries, dementia is a world wide problem. Many people must have experienced this personally through their families. Japan is one of the most ‘advanced’ countries in the world regarding this issue.

I suddenly received a message from the British Embassy regarding the Dementia Summit. It was a request that I serve as a Council member on the Global Action Against Dementia, an organization independent from the UK government and central in leading the Dementia Summit on behalf of UK Government. They stated that they could not yet make public the identities of the other members but the first conference would be held on April 30th in London.

I had just returned from a trip to Abu Dhabi and the Kansai region of Japan but as it was possible to book a flight with Virgin Atlantic and a hotel via the Japanese Embassy in London, I departed Narita Airport on April 29th.

I arrived at the hotel around 5 P.M. When I went to check in, I was told, “your reservation was made for next week.” There must have been some mistake. After an hour, I was able to get a hold of someone at the Japanese Embassy and reach a solution. I would be able to stay at this hotel for one night and at a different hotel for the remaining two nights. What an ordeal. It had been a chaotic time at the Embassy due to Prime Minister Abe’s visit to London.

The following day, I had a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is the largest governmental building in British Government and is called the FCO (in Japanese). Upon my entering the building, I almost ran into the person exiting. Looking up, we recognized each other. It was Sir David King. What a coincidence! I had just received an invitation for dinner a few week ago to see David King during his visit to the UK Embassy in Tokyo on May 8th but unfortunately had to decline due to my schedule. He is currently the ‘Special Envoy for Climate Change’ of the UK Government. I was genuinely surprised that such coincidences really occur.

The conference lasted around five hours. I had looked over many documents before coming to the meeting and it seemed that the main topic of discussion were the goals for 2025 and what we want to achieve this year. This should be posted on their website shortly.

Afterwards, I went to a meeting, was shown around in the Parliament, Big Ben, and then had a meeting with the Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt for around half an hour.

The inside of the building exuded a sense of the long tradition of the British parliamentary system. Some elements of the structure reminded me of the Japanese Diet but it the made me feel the heavy weight of British history.

After returning to the hotel, I met with Dr. Sahara, who previously worked at the Health and Global Policy Institute. We walked around nearby Queensway and stopped by a pub and restaurant, where I listened to him talk about his current studies at a fine arts school in London (it is a four year program) and enjoyed the sunny afternoon in London.

It was a very fulfilling day.

Twenty Years Since the Rwandan Genocide


The other day, I was invited to the Embassy of Rwanda by Ambassador Charles Murigande.

We talked for an hour at the Embassy in Fukasawa Setagaya, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

I have not been to Rwanda yet but have some links ( 1 , 2 ) to Rwanda.

When I mentioned Romain Murenzi, the Executive Director of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), whom I have met with on a number of occasions, it turned out that he and the Ambassador are longtime friends, even having attended the same school and sitting next to each other in class. They have both served as governmental ministers and are also scientists.

The tragedy of the Rwandan Genocide started in April twenty years ago. Today, Rwanda has overcome this sadness and has transformed into a new country that looks remarkably different from its past.

The Ambassador had some documents with him and told me he had attended the GRIPS Commencement ceremony last September and that he had been very moved by my speech.

It was a meeting in which I felt that we had many common friends and stories to share.

Steps Towards Safer Nuclear Energy: The U.S.A GAO Report and the NAIIC Report


In any democratic setup, the separation of the three powers of the Government, administration, legislature and judiciary is a core necessity, with independent organisations  acting as watchdogs necessary for the proper functioning according to democratic principles.

The United States of America has the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to fulfill this role. Functioning under the legislative banch, ie, the Congress, it used to be called the General Accounting Office (the Japanese equivalent being the Board of Audit of Japan) till 2004, after which it changed to the present name.

This organization has recently published a report titled ”Nuclear Safety: Countries’ Regulatory Bodies Have Made Changes in Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Accident”, in which the NAIIC Report has been mentioned 6 or 7 times.

I am happy to have been part of the Commission, the first of its kind in constitutionally governed Japan, that has set a precedent for the further reforms that are urgently needed in the structure of governance in Japan. The NAIIC report has exposed the fragilities inherent in the present structure in a clinical and precise manner that can be likened to a medical check-up using a whole body CT scan, with us pointing out the problems that need to be remedied to the patient, in this case, the Japanese government.

A controversial point I made in the report was shown through my pinpointing Japanese ‘culture’ and ‘mindset’ as important causes of the accident, something for which I was heavily criticized by some media. However, the IAEA and the GAO have both acknowledged this proposition, judging from the fact that the IAEA is hosting a ‘Workshop on Global Safety Culture – National Factors Relevant to Safety Culture’, the 8th-11th of April. The first of its kind to approach Nuclear Safety from this standpoint, it is a encouraging response to the lessons learnt from Fukushima.

Interestingly, I have not been sent a notification nor an invitation by both the Japanese government and the IAEA. It is through an overseas colleague of mine that I heard about this workshop.

I had a similar experience in 2012. I leave you think about why, and to reach your own conclusions.

Seminar by Laurie Garrett


Dr. Laurie Garrett is an incredible individual who is currently a Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. We had the opportunity of having her come to GRIPS during her one week stay in Japan. She has an amazing career, starting out as a researcher in biology and going on to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

She expresses and writes on Global Health that are based on her work in the field, and I first started to work with her after her 2007 Foreign Affairs paper. As you can see in the photograph in this blog post, she highly respects Nelson Mandela, who passed away recently, and she even has a life size replica of Nelson Mandela in her room.

She kindly agreed to be a jury member to select the winner of Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize in 2008 (and in 2013) when I was the Chairman. I was grateful to have her on the committee as her opinions are based on observations from the field and deep judgment.

This made me remember something that happened when I was at the Davos World Economic Forum. When I introduced Ms. Sadako Ogata to her, she started to shed tears. I asked what happened and she replied that she respects Dr Ogata so much that she could not help but be moved to tears.

Around fifty people were at her seminar at GRIPS and it was very well received. Afterwards, many people sent emails to me expressing their thanks.

The seminar was based on the her recent article “Biology’s Brave New World: The Promise and Perils of the Synbio Revolution”.

There are also the following her interviews/articles on the Council on Foreign Relations

1) Staying Safe in a Biology Revolution

2) Making the New Revolutions in Biology Safe

3) H5N1; A Case Study for Dual-Use Search

It is difficult to predict where biotech will go from here. However, what can be said is that ICT, nano, bio will keep moving forward and that humankind will move towards Singularity1).

One wonders what kind of world we will be in the future.

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.

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.

Visualizing Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Report (NAIIC)


Thirty months or two and a half years have already passed since the Fukushima nuclear accident. How have TEPCO and the Japanese government been dealing with the aftermath of the accident? The international community which has watched them with serious concerns may have been stunned with their substandard information disclosure and communication skills. The overseas media has covered this issue with as much interest and concern as the conflict in Syria.

It has already been fourteen months since the NAIIC submitted its report to Diet as the first independent investigation commission in the constitutional history of Japan.

Raising awareness about the report to the national public and making it easy to understand was not a task assigned to the Commission. However, I’m pleased to announce that there are young people who have taken up the job.

The first project that I’d like to introduce to you is called “The Simplest Explanation of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Report”.

The website has recently added a series of videos that illustrates the Report visually.

The series is made up of the following videos.

1. What is the NAIIC?

2. Was the nuclear accident preventable?

3. What happened inside the nuclear plant?

4. What should have been done after the accident?

5. Could the damage be contained?

6. What are the issues with nuclear energy?

Each video gives you a clear explanation on the subject in just two to three minutes.

The series is an excellent piece of work with striking illustrations of the Commission’s report just within sixteen minutes in total.

“Bula” from Fiji


After participated Manaba, I departed Haneda Airport on July 6th for Nadi in Fiji, via Hong Kong, and then to the capital city of Suva.

I attended the Inter-Congress (1) of the Pacific Science Association.

Everywhere you go, you first say “Bula,” the greeting for hello.

This association was established in 1920 and I have been quite involved in its work since 2003. On this website, I have written about the activities in Okinawa, Tahiti (1, 2, 3) (including the hidden story of Yoshida Shoin), and in Kuala Lumpur after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.

This time the congress was held at the University of the South Pacific and there were many students who were active as volunteers and it was a vibrant environment. I met with some Japanese professors who are members of the faculty here as well.

The next day, President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau gave a powerful speech at the opening ceremony. At the opening  ceremony, myself, Professor Nordin Hasan, Director of Asia Pacific Regional Office of ICSU gave the keynote speeches. Ambassador Eichi Oshima also attended the ceremony.

We were interviewed by television reporters and were on the evening news. The next day, it was widely reported in the newspapers as well.

Over the next two days, there were many activities organized around the sessions. I spent three hours sightseeing, had dinner with USP Vice-Chancellor and President Chandra, and was invited by Ambassador Oshima to lunch, where I spoke with members of the Embassy and Japanese people who work in Fiji. I also met with female UNDP officials who are working in Pakistan, Sudan and Fiji.

The official residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji was acquired twenty years ago, is in a prime location in Suva, the capital city of Fiji, and has an incredible view.

Fiji was a British colony in the past and recently has been developing relations with India, China and South Korea. There are many Chinese fishing vessels that have come to do tuna hunting. Although the work of Japan is well known, there seems to be few Japanese people here.

This is also one of the challenges facing the Ambassador.