HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: I'm Hiro Miyazaki, director of Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and also professor of anthropology here at Cornell University. As we continue to mourn the loss of President Elizabeth Garrett, today's event reminds me of her spirited encouragement for me and the Einaudi Center to tackle global sustainability issues. As we all know, she was an inspiring leader and a champion of international studies. I still take to heart her goal in her inauguration speech for us to continue to be radical and progressive.
Today, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. Nearly 19,000 people died or are still missing, and over 200,000 were displaced. But as many of you know, the disaster is far from over. The troubled reactors are still not completely under control, and Japan is still struggling with a multitude of crises either emanating from or amplified by this event.
Early in the development of nuclear power, advocates predicted that the electricity produced would be too cheap to meter. One thing that the Fukushima disaster has told us is that nuclear energy is anything but cheap, especially if something goes wrong. The cost of the multiple meltdowns at Fukushima is not yet known. In fact, it is only beginning to be articulated in lawsuits and other efforts to measure the precise damage and the cost of the disaster.
In a calculation recently made by Kenichi Oshima, professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan University and the author of the award winning book, The Cost of Nuclear Energy, the amount of compensation paid by TEPCO, the operator of the power plant, is likely to surpass 6 trillion yen, or $53 billion. But that comes nowhere near the true cost of the disaster. The damage includes not just the destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods, but also long term health effects, which may take decades to understand, and intangibles like the loss of homeland and of every day normalcy.
Today, many of Japan's nuclear power plants remain shut. Just two days ago, the Otsu district court in Shiga prefecture near Kyoto delivered an unprecedented decision requiring Kansai electric power company to stop the operation of reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant that was just restarted earlier this year. But despite all this, despite all the expense and uncertainty, the government of Japan still sees nuclear power as an important part of the country's energy future.
Clearly, energy policy isn't just a question of financial cost and risk. It is also linked to a whole range of other policy issues, from national security to trade. China's rise and North Korea's continuing nuclear threat has rekindled discussion about Japan's ostensibly secret desire to possess nuclear weapons. Concerns about national defense are linked, often implicitly, but sometimes explicitly, to the need to restart many nuclear reactors.
Japanese companies are also actively competing with China, France, and Russia in the global market for nuclear energy. These companies have strongly supported the government's arguments for restarting Japan's own reactors. So what lessons can we learn from Japan's struggle to come to terms with the future of nuclear energy? I would argue that many are specific to Japan, having to do with the way the nuclear industry has been regulated, the way the so-called nuclear village, a tight knit group of industry professionals, academic experts, and regulators has operated.
The way power companies have been financed. The way courts have worked vis-a-vis business and political interests. And the way citizen's activism has been organized. Maybe that is the most important lesson, not just from what happened at Fukushima five years ago but also at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. That is, that we need to understand these disasters in their specific historical, social, technical, political, and organizational contexts.
We can thank the three distinguished scholars assembled here today for their groundbreaking work in exploring, exposing, and explaining these specifics. For it is only through deep knowledge of the particulars that we can begin to tackle the complex general question of whether nuclear energy has a future in the world, or whether the world can imagine a future with nuclear energy. It is my pleasure to introduce Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who will launch this roundtable discussion with a brief keynote address.
A physician by training, professor Kurokawa chaired the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission from December 2011 to July 2012. He's currently adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan and professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Tokyo. He previously was professor of medicine at UCLA and the University of Tokyo. He also served as the dean of the school of medicine at Tokai University.
From 2003 to 2006, he served as president of the Science Council of Japan. Professor Kurokawa has received numerous awards and honors, including the Order of the Rising Sun, the gold and silver star from the Japanese government in 2011, and the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also named one of the 100 top global thinkers by the Foreign Policy Magazine in 2011. Please join me in welcoming Professor Kurokawa.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: This shows a website, naiic.net, so you can see that anytime. This is-- OK, just listen.
- The nuclear accident in Fukushima shocked the world. How could this have happened in a country so famous for its advanced technology? The circumstances of this disaster must be thoroughly investigated, and the lessons learned passed down to future generations.
But that's no easy task. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, and the Japanese government have carried out their own investigations. But both were directly involved in the accident, TEPCO as the plant operator and the government as the responder, so their objectivity and independence have to be questioned.
That is why the Japanese Parliament, which represents the people, decided to establish an independent commission to investigate the accident. While this is a standard procedure in most other countries, it is the first independent commission ever to be created in the history of Japan. The 10 commissioners and their staff were independent from the government and from TEPCO. Each of them had different opinions about nuclear power.
The commission was called the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, or NAIIC. It was given greater legal powers than any other entity investigating the accident. Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa defined three principles for the investigation, one, to adopt the people's point of view, two, to share the findings with all other countries, and three, to submit recommendations for the future. After conducting more than 900 hours of hearings, 1,167 interviews, and 2,000 requests for documents to TEPCO, regulators, and relevant parties, the NAIIC produced a 592 page report. This video explains the essence of that report.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: Thank you. This is an introduction of our reports, the first time in the Constitutional Democratic of Japan and commissioned by the parliament. And I think we are just given this mandate, which effectively by law in the end of September of that year and started in December 8 of the same year. So that is our story.
This series is a six-part series of every video clip is about three minutes. And this was created by student volunteers after we just submitted this thing. And they read through it, and just studied the extra and created this animation. And this was originally in Japanese, but I think they develop also an English version.
But as you're making this animation into this Japanese character, Chinese character, is too much for the work. So that they just put on this label on the [INAUDIBLE], but [INAUDIBLE] English. All right, so I'd like to review with you the lesson of the Fukushima nuclear accident and that me and this-- I'm really grateful to Dr. Miyazaki-san and others to invite me for this occasion and share this lesson with you.
Now, many severe sort of black swan events tended to happen over the last decade or so. And that started in the 21st century. 9/11, you remember 9/11, what happened in the first year of this century. Everybody remembers, particularly in the US in the east, East Coast. But that was the first of my birthday of the new century. So many remembered me, so that I think I get so many e-mails on my birthday, Congratulations and this thing.
But now, what's in this August 15 of 2008, the Lehman shock that affected the entire financial institution of the world. That is one of the globalization and connectivity. And then what happened in 2010, December 18, which is just three months preceding the Fukushima accident and Tohoku disaster. That was the beginning of the Arab Spring in [INAUDIBLE].
So that means, after this three months prior to Fukushima what kind of a change we are seeing now in the world. Northern part of Africa is gone, sort of, the Middle East affecting. And then all of a sudden, Syrian refugees, things which are impacting a lot in Europe right now.
We are not so sure, so many things are happening. But have we seen any significant change in Japanese governance, corporate governance? Even seeing the Toshiba scandal and other things, that's is 03/11, March 11, which is five years ago.
And then November the 13, last year you may remember there was a massacre in Paris by [INAUDIBLE] Islamic states, and that was the Friday. I was in the airplane between Vancouver, University of British Columbia to Toronto. Just when I arrived in Toronto, everything on this massacre in Paris. That could happen anytime, anywhere.
Now this is the Tohoku disaster. Many in the world watch this thing live in front of the TV in color live, so that had a lot of impact. Maybe 10, 20 years ago, you may not have seen this thing. But many people in the world watched this, and watched this briefing by the government and TEPCO.
Almost every day, although these are done in Japanese, I think that we translated right away in different languages. And everybody began to see within a week the Japanese government and TEPCO were hiding something. You just cannot hide it in this connected world.
Now this happened only one hour after the tsunami hitting. And that was really a struggle, everybody watching this thing. Also, that this independent commission was enacted. And because this is the fifth year, I just published a book on this story of this Fukushima accident, why this commission was created, my role was there, how I assembled the team, and how to deliver this thing, how we did that. And I think the response of the world and in Japan after this accident report, and why I did that kind of thing, that book just appeared yesterday.
And it's Japanese. You can search under Amazon. I just brought three copies to them, but I plan to publish this in English, too. Right now we've started also translation right now. Maybe publishing by Cornell University Press, perhaps that is an option.
All right. So just as I said, I think I started with this when I was given this mandate by the parliament. This is on the video. You can see that in December 8, and also just an excerpt in National Diet Record.
And I made three keywords I liked to just carry this commission were the people, and future, and the world. And this I said on the record, you can see that, I'd like to see this commission first time in the Constitution of democracies Japan, I consider this commission is a commission of the people, by the people, and for the people, reminding them what kind of fundamental democracy. And for future means to make some future sort of recommendation to the parliament. And we had to study the past, although it's become irrelevant.
So that's what we did. And the world, sharing with the world, so that we could learn this thing. And also incorporating, asking some wisdom and suggestions by the world affairs how to mend this sort of accident. And so that's what it is.
Now, what we did, and this mandate was within six months. So that was a very difficult thing, because first time, and who would be working with us? Many Japanese are maybe full time and cannot come from a typical. There may be some old spies maybe coming.
How to recruit our staff? That was one of the first questions I think I really struggled with. But at least at the end, we had a 20 commission meeting. So with 38 key peoples, chairmen and many political leaders. And you can see that a 900 hours hearing, with more than 1,000 sort of people, politicians, and TEPCO, and also sufferers.
Nine nuclear power plants visits, three overseas visits. I led a visit to the US, like Washington, DC, DOD, and FEMA, and many people NRC and Academy, too. I went to see somewhere, I forgot the name of the South Carolina, where the nuclear headquarter was there. We visited this and was a reasonable young woman, very impressed. And also Chattanooga, Tennessee to see the training center for nuclear operators. That was also very interesting to see.
Evacuees survey and on-site working survey of workers, and town meetings with over 400 attendees. All the commission meetings broadcast live and online with simultaneous English translation. So you can see that, NAIIC, and Geo and JP. Geo, JP, you can see that.
And also, press briefing after each session, also that broadcast it. So any question by the press, you can value what kind of saying they are stupid, or just a very piercing questions. I told them, [INAUDIBLE] your question is already on the record for the rest of your life.
And the core message of this NAIIC turned out to be the regulatory capture. And this is a collusion by TEPCO, and this and that, that regulatory capture is one of the economic theories advanced by George Stigler of University of Chicago, which led him to have a Nobel Prize in economics. So that happens everywhere, but we are addressing, is there any factors in Japanese society which may be more conducive to regulatory capture?
So that was the case in analysis. In fact, David Pilling was head of the Financial Times Tokyo within the year 2002 to 2008. And he really likes Japan, so he just studied a lot on Japan during his tenure in Tokyo. But now he moved to Hong Kong as the head of Financial Times Asia Pacific. So he just comes often, quite often.
And he published a book, Bending Adversity, Japan and the Art of Survival. And he just interviewed many people while he was in Tokyo. But after this 3/11 accident, he just came to Japan quite often to do-- he continued to study on his research.
But he published this book in the year 2014. Chapter 14 focuses on the Fukushima accident and the story going around, our story, our report. And was op-ed to Financial Times about 10 days later, criticizing report is not accusing anyone. And this is made in Japan.
And this is Japan culture, that was the message. So that they just-- Gerald Curtis, who is sort of a Columbia University expert Professor in Japanese politics. But I think he just made an op-ed to the Financial Times, claiming our research paper is not accusing any specific person which is that means nobody is responsible. But I argue that is a different thing.
And the fact, David Pilling just wrote this. "The accident exposed in a flash, quite literally, the worst trait of all Japan, with its elitist and secretive bureaucratic culture." he just pointed out. And if you read this thing, he really supports and gets my core message.
Everybody as an individual or a member of any institution, you have to be more responsible, and just think for the future just what you have to do and what you have to say. So I just-- so just that thing. So I think, in my view, I think there's a certain factor in Japan which leads to this collusion.
That's part of a Japan is trait or societal norm. So that was my argument. And in fact, utility companies in Japan, about they are paying these companies. TEPCO is the largest, and every utility company has a monopoly in the region of distribution and production of energy, electricity.
And monopolies always lead to some collusion, right? I've never seen any monopoly in the history of humans, which never becomes sort of perfect. So that's is an impression of my Japanese society.
For example, this is a very-- do you see this kind of thing? If you know enough about Japanese friend, For example, somebody who works for Mitsubishi Bank. You've never heard of somebody moving to Sumitomo Bank.
Why is that? Engineers in Hitachi never moves to Toshiba. Why is that? How about [INAUDIBLE]? Are they moving to [INAUDIBLE]? No
Why is that? Why this is an anomaly in Japan? In this country, you could work as an engineer in Hitachi or somewhere, in GE, can't you move to some other company? You could do that.
And once you're in one ministry, ministry of education, health, or whatever ministry, fresh out of college, you stay there for the rest of your career. That is the norm and the perception by the majority of Japanese. Strange.
By that is really the built in the Japanese psyche. So that means you just can't-- any institution or society at large tends to be seniority based. Belong to the one sort of Mitsubishi Bank, so that means you cannot move. If you do move, then you'll be sort of alienated by Japanese societal pressure. And so that seniority based promotion becomes the norm.
Why is It? That's strange. But that sort of thing, that's become very conducive to not raising the voices, and conformity, and norm, even from kindergarten. So this is really encouraged not to make a noise in your institution.
So that is the background of even Toshiba, Olympus for five years, that is what it it. Is there any society in the world, I'm telling you bureaucrats, once you're in, somehow-- who is the head of this each ministry. I mean, that's crazy.
There's no such country. So, that's it. So the mindset of Japanese tend to be group think, because with the same group of people and not talking any different opinions. And transparency and openness is still lacking.
Do you see the Japanese government and TEPCO really trying to ask you advice, any advice? Or just make their data open, so that they welcome any new ideas, input, or criticism, whatever that may be. So a lack of transparency and openness, and group think is the prevailing norm.
Lack of a sense of accountability. Even in Japanese, accountability is translated into-- do you know what is the Japanese meaning of accountability? [NON-ENGLISH] They have translated accountability into responsibility to explain.
Explanation is not enough. I mean, that's a completely typical one of lost in translation. So even Japanese media and everything, they say, [NON-ENGLISH] responsibility to explain. If that is the case, that is an easy job, to be an executive, or senior of government.
Obligation dissent is not really norm. If your child tends to be a more out of box saying, even in kindergarten, there's a lot of pressure not to do that from a parents. So that's the typical mindset of Japanese.
In fact, the title of my book, which published yesterday, the title of the book is Regulatory Capture, Group Think can Kill Japan. So that's the subtitle. In response to our report, there's many report on [INAUDIBLE] journalistic paper have been appeared on the Fukushima accident.
But Richard Samuels, perhaps some of you may know, he's a professor at MIT. His expertise is in Japanese politics. He wrote a book 311, year 2013. And the book, at the conclusion, the title of the book is 311, Disaster and Change in Japan. And his conclusion is, little sign of change in policy making process and democracy in Japan. So in conclusions, what kind of this disaster Japan is really needed to change? So that's his message. And the Government Accountability Office in the USA also published a paper on the Fukushima thing, year 2014. And I think they really addressed safety culture is a very important element of nuclear safety. But why Japanese or something is not really missing there.
And one week later, IAEA, first time in their history, organized a three days workshop addressing IAEA recommendations, and safety culture, and national culture. Because even they recommend a safety culture, safety recommendation. Japan has not implemented defense in depth recommendations by IAEA, because I think the IAEA people asked the Japanese government, why are you not implementing this? And the answer was some sort of civil servant and expert from the Japanese community said, well, we assume there is no severe accident in Japan.
That's what I was told after I delivered this report. So everybody in that nuclear community in the world knew the Japanese lack of implementing this defense in depth, so assuming there was no accident, severe accident. So that's IAEA.
So the IAEA, first time, had a workshop on safety culture and national culture. But I was not invited, not informed of course. So my friends, they just attended. And there were three people representing Japan.
So they asked the representing delegates why Dr. Kurokawa is not here? And they are frozen, because somebody ordered them to come, so that's what they did. So they sent me an email, somehow you are not invited, you didn't know anything. So that's the connected world, a scary thing.
National Academy of USA also mandated National Academy for two years study on this Fukushima accident, what the US can learn from it. That's [INAUDIBLE] engineering aspect that started August of 2012. That means one month after we delivered this paper. And the chairman of the National Academy, the chairman was Dr. Neureiter, Norman Neureiter, who was the first chief science adviser to the State Department, which began in the year 2000.
And we have been friends, so he sent me an email, I'm studying this, but your report was just like me very clear, straightforward report. Then two years later, he came to brief the Japanese government on this thing, but I think he also came to visit me, because he asked the Japanese government, through perhaps US and the Japanese government in Washington, DC for a tour or appointment. But they didn't include me. Of course, they didn't know.
This was their first time. They delivered it or not, I'm not so sure. So he came one day earlier by himself, and we had a meeting. Wonderful. And David [INAUDIBLE].
So, lessons learned from NAIIC. Apparent causes are insufficient defense-in-depths that have been reviewed, and lack of systematic knowledge management and transfer. And lack of safety consciousness, and regulatory and academic capture, including media, too.
And let's see, that's what it is. And also I think after 9/11, the US government had an exhaustive investigation of 9/11 incidents, and nuclear plants could be a good target for a terrorist attack, so that they have a different recommendation to every hundreds of nuclear plants here. And they have briefings twice with the Japanese government how to augment the safety and prevention for potential terrorist attacks. But they never implemented anything. So that's now being reviewed after these many studies of this Fukushima accident.
But the root cause, according to us, is lack of learning and questioning attitudes of Japan. Do they have it? Are they asking you for any advice? Poorly-developed safety culture, complacency mindset, and closed mono-cultured community, and groupthink.
The responsibility of Japan in the world. It's a reasonably large economy, which is sort of under reputation of excellence in science and technology, and also innovation, and also industry of manufacturing. But this happened in Japan.
Active open-minded bi- and multi-lateral communication with international partners, they should do that. And lessons learned, sharing, attitude, openness, and inviting any sort of advice. Do you fear that decommissioning process? Why not ask?
Contaminated water? Why not ask? In fact, they asked for open bidding for this contaminated water thing, and they have 200, 400, 750 applications for suggestions, and about 200 of those from abroad. But have they revealed all the proposal? And how to make this many proposals to develop actual practical solutions for time, and technology, and cost?
But they have not done that. That's the crazy thing. A new nuclear safety agency has been established. Commissioner, the head of a commission is Dr. Tanaka-san. But they have about 800, 900 civil servants and academics under his office. But again, each civil servant from each ministry has ties with their own ministry.
Our recommendation is no written rule, but they just don't do that, of course. And as a matter of the future perspective, reflecting on Fukushima nuclear accident like this and sharing it with the world. That is the responsibility of the Japanese government and all the industry. Nobody wants to see the same thing again.
So Japan viewed from the world, a positive, stable business operation, hardworking engineers, well-trained operators, skillful technicians, reasonably well informed the public. But I think media was a part of the capture, and press [INAUDIBLE], all those things is not really useful at the moment.
Negative is unclear decision making process. Nobody takes any responsibility. And isolated, closed from international community. And governance is show a strong loyalty to something, weak leadership, and lack of a sense of accountability.
Now, just for your interest, there are certain elements of the Japanese culture mindset which is written by many. And I guess one is author Ruth Benedict, which she wrote about Japanese culture, Chrysanthemum and the Sword in 1948. And she recommended what kind of governance body Americans should implement. And I think that was very well studied, although she is not an expert in Japanese, but I think she did a really great job.
And then Nakane Chie is only one member of the National Academy a Women who just really wrote about Japan's society in Japanese, 1972 in English. And an accompanying paper is "Japan and Dynamics of Vertical Society." This is not in English, but as you see is very well known, this Japanese culture mindset.
And also, Ivan Hall, Cartel of the Mind, Japan's Intellectual Closed Shop. That means he spent 20 years in academics, and he just found out the Japanese mindset is very, very close. A very intellectual community, like academic universities, research community, and also lawyer's community, even media. And they're just trying not to invite non-Japanese.
Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, that's also Japan is very unique, and there's no country to share Japanese mindset. van Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power, that's a rising the Japanese economy. He wrote a nice book about Japan.
Nobody takes any responsibility. If you contact somebody, nobody has any sort of responsibility and decision making process. So I think he wrote this in English, because I think now Japanese is rising, so everybody wanted to come to Japan and negotiate, but he wanted to educate non-Japanese people because he spent so many years in Japan.
Eiko Ikegami is fantastic. She is also New York City University. She's wrote The Taming of the Samurai and also Bonds of Civility. These are a very thick books, but that's very insightful.
John Dower's Embracing Defeat is also another very famous bestseller in this country. Richard Samuels, I'll just introduce to you. And David Pilling, I just comment to you, he is at FDA headquarter.
And Taggart Murphy, who also likes Japan, he lives in Japan. He, two years ago, also 2014, published book, Japan and the Shackles of the Past, why the Japanese mindset is something like that [INAUDIBLE]. If you want to know more about Japanese culture and mindset, these are some suggestions.
So I plan to have lunch with Mr. Murphy, who now teaches at Tokoha University next week over lunch. Thank you, this is just an introduction on how unique the Japanese tend to be, and I say, which is a good thing about Japan. But sometimes, good things become a very weakness of Japan.
And in fact, I see many friends from China and India. And they told me, Japan is fantastic, Tokyo, great. So even Russia, if I go to Tokyo station, everybody on the escalator on the left side, is that any rules or regulations? No, I say, no, they do that.
If you were to Osaka, just be on the right side. Is there any rules? No, somehow, so they conform, and just educated to conform. And that was the thing.
So that's kind of conformity may be a strength in certain times, but that becomes a weakness of other times. So we have recognized strengths become a weakness on certain occasions. So, thank you very much for coming to this seminar.
HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: Thank you very much, Professor Kurokawa. And I'd now like to ask Rebecca Slayton, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, and also a core member of the Judity Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, and would ask her to introduce the other two speakers before we assemble here for roundtable discussion.
REBECCA SLAYTON: OK, thank you. All right, thank you very much, Professor Kurokawa. That was really informative.
I'm delighted to introduce our next speaker, Professor Charles Perrow. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at Yale and an organizational theorist who is widely recognized for his work on nuclear power and complex technological organizations, among other areas. He's the author of over 50 articles, and three of his six books have won awards, including Normal Accidents, Living with High Risk Technologies, which was published in 1984 about the meltdown at Three Mile Island, the AIDS Disaster, the Failure of Organizations in New York and the Nation, published in 1990 with Mauro Guillen and Organizing America, Wealth, Power, and the Origins of American Capitalism, published in 2002. He's received numerous other awards and honors, but I don't want to take away from his time, so I'll just welcome him to come deliver his remarks. Thank you.
CHARLES PERROW: The major question I have, and will speak to, is, why are we still building nuclear power plants after three major accidents, and after demonstrations that they are very expensive? And we now have renewable energy in the form of wind, and solar, and geothermal that can replace this very dangerous, very expensive production of electric power. And the Fukushima accident might have closed all these efforts to keep on building these things down, but they certainly didn't.
And why not? Well, one reason is given, it was a unique event. It's really kind of wild to have both one of the largest earthquakes ever and the largest tsunami coming a little under an hour later to these plants.
And so that we can defend. Again, you won't have that very often. Actually, the builders of the Fukushima site were responsible for lowering the hill on which the nuclear plants, six nuclear plants, were put, a great deal in order to save money on pumping water from the ocean in order to cool the plants. And so they made it much more exposed to a possible tsunami. And of course, things like putting the generators in the basement where they would be flooded.
A nearby plant about 30 miles or 50 miles away had the same exposure to the earthquake and the tsunami as Fukushima, but they hadn't chiseled away the hill. And so they sat high enough so that neither the earthquake nor the tsunami bothered them. Nice lesson there.
But another lesson we should take from it is that it wasn't the tsunami-- the tsunami caused most of the trouble, but we were likely to have a meltdown even without a tsunami, because after the earthquake took place, the radiation alarm suddenly went on on the Fukushima site, especially at unit number one. And the operators testified that there was broken pipes inside the reactor vessel.
And so we might have had a huge problem, even without the tsunami. As a matter of fact, 14 plants in Japan were damaged, some of them quite seriously, from the earthquake. They didn't have tsunamis.
So the Japanese experience should still lead us away from nuclear power, because even earthquakes can do a great deal of damage. But why do we have something like 67, by one estimate, 80, by another estimate, nuclear plants being built in the world today? Why this mad rush, nuclear renaissance, with all these dangers and with the cheapness of solar and wind power showing?
I think there's two major issues involved. One is, nuclear power plants generate something that's very valuable for states for safety's sake. They generate plutonium. If you have plutonium, you can have a nuclear weapon. And you have to keep generating plutonium, because they keep expanding their number of bombs or weapons they want to have available.
So that's a good reason for doing this. In the case of Japan, why is it opening up its plants again? They don't have a nuclear bomb, and don't show any strong signs of wanting to build one. However, it is admitted but not publicized that having nuclear power plants makes them one step closer to having nuclear weapons in their arsenal. So the Japanese ministries are quite concerned about keeping nuclear power going to generate plutonium and make the transition to a weapon considerably quicker.
OK, that's the first reason, states. And the evidence that states are pro-nuclear is pretty obvious. But in the case of Japan, I'll just mention one. When we started having reporters and the press cover Fukushima more closely, they were turning up things that were embarrassing to the government. Actually, the Commission's report that was referred to was embarrassing enough.
But in 2015, Japanese parliament passed a secrets law, which allows the Japanese government to imprison, to put in prison, any journalists who divulge unwanted, unapproved information about Fukushima and its effect. So we have a secrecy law in effect. They really want to keep things quiet there.
Are we going to learn from the lessons? No, because we're not going to get the teaching that ordinarily you would get on the cancer rate, the thyroid cancer rate among children, and so forth. So they keep it quiet. The US does so also, and certainly Russia did with Chernobyl.
So the second reason, I think, is an economic one. These are very expensive, huge, complicated plants that take from 5 to 15 years to build. And they have contractors from all over the world involved. Toshiba owns Westinghouse, and Westinghouse builds these plants. Areva in France, GE in America, these are big, powerful corporations. And they do not really want to see wind and solar take off, because they don't own it.
It's not centralized. It's not terribly profitable. It's a cheap shot. You pay a little bit for solar panels and get on the grid. Nobody's going to make much money at that except a few solar panel makers.
However, if you have nuclear power plants in your future, that's big money, big expense. And those companies are very powerful. At least, they're powerful in Japan, and they're powerful in the US. And I suspect so in France, although I've not investigated that.
So we have people who are economically concerned about building more nuclear plants, and we have states that as governments that are want more nuclear power plants for defense reasons. It's going to be very hard to come up against that. And let me stop there. Thank you.
REBECCA SLAYTON: Thank you very much, Professor Perrow. I am now very pleased to welcome our third speaker, professor Sonja Schmid, who is an associate professor at the Department of Science and Technology and Society at Virginia Tech at the northern Virginia campus. She very recently published a book on the development of the civilian nuclear industry in the Soviet Union. It's entitled Producing Power, of the Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry, published by MIT Press in 2015.
It's based on extensive archival research in Russia, and on interviews with nuclear experts in Russia. She's fluent in Russian, so that's a huge advantage in her ability to write this book. She's also won the very prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award, which is enabling her current research into the challenges of globalizing nuclear emergency response.
As part of this grant, she's been organizing monthly seminar series on interdisciplinary research and education in nuclear emergency response. So hopefully we'll hear a little bit about her research today. Thank you.
SONJA SCHMID: Thank you, Rebecca, and thank you, Professor Miyazaki, for the invitation to come here. I'm very honored to be part of this distinguished panel. In the interest of time, I'll be very brief, and I want to say a few words on Chernobyl and lessons learned or not learned from Chernobyl. So first of all, and inspired by Professor Perrow's normal accidents approach, I think we cannot look-- and nobody has done this, but I'm just reiterating this-- we cannot look at a nuclear disaster in isolation.
It's always part of a complex sociotechnical system that encompasses a lot of factors that interact in very specific, and in the case of an accident, unfortunate ways. The other caution I wanted to mention is that there is a tendency among the, especially in the technical community, to focus on the immediate time frame preceding the accident. And that tsunami hit, and then what happened?
But as we've already heard in the presentation, in the Keynote presentation, there's a longer historical, organizational, political, economic, and cultural history leading up to these disasters that we need to understand better to hopefully prevent these disasters, or at least respond to them more effectively in the future. So very briefly on Chernobyl, and this is something that you will see in pretty much any disaster response, I would say, there's three main explanations that are mounted, not necessarily in this order, but typically in this order, the first one being human error. These were operators, and usually not the top operators, but someone in the control room or someone on the buttons, who actually messed up, and made a mistake, and triggered this accident.
And the consequence of that in Chernobyl was that six people, three of them senior management at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, were tried in a semi-public trial a year after the accident, and were sentenced to 10 years in labor camp. Now, it's kind of interesting to imagine that three people, three random managers at a nuclear power plant, if you really think of the big picture, could be responsible for the worst, at that time, civilian nuclear accident to date. But that's exactly what happened.
The second argument that usually comes up is there were design flaws. There was something wrong with the technology. At Chernobyl, this argument was very easy to make from Western states, in that indeed it was made.
This reactor that exploded at Chernobyl was uniquely Soviet. It could have never happened here, because we don't have these reactors, we don't run these reactors. And therefore, it could never happen here, so we don't have to worry about it.
I think this is also a trap, because we miss the opportunity to understand why a specific design choice, whether it was uniquely Soviet, whether it was uniquely American, whether it was uniquely Japanese, made sense at the time, and why it made good sense at the time when it was chosen. Because it did. In the Soviet Union, this design definitely made sense at a time. Otherwise, the Soviets wouldn't have built numerous reactors of that kind next to big cities, urban centers that they hold dear, such as St. Petersburg, for example.
And then the third explanation that sometimes, or that often follows is the system's explanation, or kind of a cultural explanation, as we heard in the keynote earlier, where a nation is blamed for a particular mindset. Or as in the Soviet Union was the case, the system was blamed for being corrupt, and dysfunctional, and what have you.
But again, I want to remind us that these systems and these cultures worked. And the mechanisms that hold these cultures together that make up these economic systems or political systems, they work in their own way. And so dismissing them in retrospect is an easy way out, I would say. It's much more difficult to understand how human factors, design issues, and the systemic factor, regulatory capture, et cetera, interacted in unique and specific ways to trigger this disaster.
And in terms of looking forward, going forward and anticipating future disasters, I think Fukushima was, as unfortunate as it was, for a student of Chernobyl like myself, it was very encouraging, because all of a sudden this was a disaster that could not easily be dismissed as something that happened in a country that was corrupt, with operators that were probably not really trained and probably were drinking under the table anyway, and a technology that was not up to speed. So Fukushima was a disaster that could not be dismissed as easily. And so hopefully going forward, the idea is that we will anticipate more combinations of factors that might lead to a disaster and be more, the buzzword is resilient, and nimble to deal with these issues.
But the problem is that we can never anticipate all of these combinations. So I suspect, and I would side with Professor Perrow here, I think if we continue to use nuclear power, there is going to be more accidents. And either we decide not to use nuclear power for that reason, if we consider it too risky, or we go on and develop emergency response procedures that actually work, and work faster and more effectively. Thank you.
HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: So now I would like all the panelists to come forward, and we're going to have just about a half hour or so of discussion before opening the floor to Q&A. And Rebecca is going to moderate our conversation.
REBECCA SLAYTON: So we are open to questions. I have several questions that I can certainly pose. I'll mention just a couple of them, not so much to dominate, but to hopefully open up our conversation a little bit.
One is that Professor Perrow has argued that the accident at Three Mile Island was normal, whereas the disas-- meaning it was a systemic failure resulting from complex sociotechnical systems, whereas the disaster at Fukushima with the result of a corrupt system. And are there nonetheless similarities that we can find when we're thinking about the causes of disasters of these three different places. So are these completely different cases, or are there similarities between them?
Similarly, as Professor Schmid has been thinking about responses to nuclear emergencies, do these different disasters had common lessons to teach about how we respond to nuclear emergencies? To what extent do these responses need to be modified to adapt to local cultures, and conditions, and political differences? Can nuclear power ever be safe enough? That's sort of a big question I think that a lot of people are asking.
Given the reality of imperfect organizations and imperfect government systems everywhere, in every country around the world, throughout all of history, can it ever be safe enough, given those problems? And if so, could a fail safe governance system, if it could be designed, could it work in any country? Or would we really need to see major political changes in our current countries?
And then the final question that we could think about is, when the costs of accidents are included in the cost of nuclear power, it is still less expensive than the renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, which are often said to be more expensive than nuclear power? So those are some questions that we can think about. I don't know if anybody wants to take a stab at that while I develop a list of questions?
If you want to choose one and say something about it, and while you do that, why don't I go ahead and just start keeping a list? I'll just take a list of names, or if someone has names of people out in the audience. Do you have any responses?
CHARLES PERROW: I think that Three Mile accident was a so-called normal accident. That is, nobody did anything wrong. Everybody played their part. Everybody tried really hard, and it still went down because of the complexity of the system and the tightly coupled type of--
SPEAKER 2: Can you speak, please, through the microphone, close?
CHARLES PERROW: OK, I wasn't aware that you couldn't hear, sorry. It was a normal accident, because everybody tried very hard to do everything right, and it still went wrong because of the complexity of the system and its tight coupling. So that does not apply, however, to the two other nuclear accidents and does not apply, in general, to the near misses that we have.
In those cases, people haven't tried hard, haven't worked hard, haven't used the best knowledge. And so they have let things slip, and you can't do that with a complex system like this. In the last month, we've had four cases of nuclear power plants in the US leaking tritium, which is not good for you, into rivers, bays, lakes, and ocean. There's two of them in New York state, on in Vermont, and one in Florida, where this has gone on.
This is because of poor maintenance practices of not testing, as often they should. They will have a finger wagged against them by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and maybe even a trivial little fine might be paid. But this is the basis on which we are going to get most of our nuclear power accidents, from small things like that, that were not attended to. It's not going to take tsunamis to bring down the next nuclear power plant.
But one final thing, I'm really amazed because I have expected many more serious nuclear power accidents than we have had in the 57 years that they have been going. They are in undeveloped countries with poorly trained staff without a technological culture like Japan or the US has, or Russia. And they keep going on and working. So it's maybe pretty hard to have a serious accident in a nuclear power plant, and that puzzles me.
SPEAKER 3: So Dr. [INAUDIBLE], I actually come from the climate change side of things, so I was actually surprised by Professor Perrow's comments on nuclear power producing base load for zero carbon emissions is not one of the things that you mentioned as a reason for building new plants. I was actually talking Tuesday with a [INAUDIBLE] commission for [INAUDIBLE] resource board on meeting California's green [INAUDIBLE] standards, and she is absolutely convinced that it's not possible with current technology to be zero carbon emissions [INAUDIBLE] nuclear power. So just wondering if anyone wanted to comment on that.
SONJA SCHMID: I'm not an expert on climate change or renewables and how nuclear fits in there, but that's certainly the argument that the nuclear industry has been making, that renewables that work now, like solar and wind, produce intermittent electricity, and nuclear provides base load electricity. I think the picture is more complicated if you look at smart grids, and de-centralized generation, and put that into the mix. Although, with the discussion about small modular reactors, that is ongoing at the highest DOE levels to this very day. This might be something that the nuclear industry is also trying to address. So yeah, I don't know.
CHARLES PERROW: When the whole cycle is taken into account, and especially uranium mining and shipping of uranium, nuclear power does not turn out to be as a zero contaminator as we think. That is, there's a lot of pollution that goes along with just manufacturing those huge vessels that they put in each plant. So there's that kind of thing. And then there's the emissions that come from uranium mining, which are serious.
And then there is one more serious thing which gets almost no attention. We've had studies in France, Germany, and the US that show that if you live within a short distance, like three kilometers, of a nuclear power plant, your children's chance of getting radiation sickness, thyroid cancer especially, is 10 times as high as if you lived 100 miles away, the same kind of otherwise family situation. These plants have to burp every now and then. They have to let off radioactive steam in order to keep them running safe.
And we have a government that says that low level radioactivity, such as you get from these burps, is not very harmful. So that's another cause that's not included in it. Of course, coal plants are much worse. There's no doubt about that. We shouldn't have coal at all, and we don't need to have coal at all.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: Is this working, this microphone? It's, working right? I think this is a very important question. I think if you see the long range, and also in Japan, smart grid was not being really implemented, so I think the monopoly of utilization has to be dissolved. So in my principle, at least in Japan, without no nuclear over the last four years, at least we could survive.
But the principle of Japanese, I think I wrote, is decentralized electric power company, decentralized first. And then renewable, as much as possible, in that local situation, like geothermal, maybe solar, could be wind, even sort of sea current, and waves, other things. Many things, I think in Scotland they are doing a lot of things.
And then visualizing energy expenditure with new technology, with smart phones, all the things that could be done, and change the mindset. And California, they are using nuclear, but I think they are doing a lot of smart grid things with Enron and many new devices of IT. And I think, so to change the mindset of utilization, and also setting, and other things.
So change the mindset of this conservation is a very important. I think we should do maximum of the [INAUDIBLE] technology, which is conducive to many innovations through the internet, and also smart phones. And I think there are many new innovations coming up, at least that's a Japanese issue.
REBECCA SLAYTON: OK, thank you Next question.
LINDA: Aloha. My name is Linda [INAUDIBLE]. I think I wrote to most of you. Sonja, I had a question for you about Chernobyl, because I know there's a lot of young people in the audience who maybe don't have an idea of the scope of that accident.
So I was trying to get a sense, when you look on the internet, there's such wildly different estimates. So I'm wondering, through your research, if you could give people a sense of what you found the scope of mutations, of thyroid cancer, of the impact of the accident, if you could just give a sense for those people who maybe don't know. Thank you.
SONJA SCHMID: I have to disappoint you. I'm not going to make that mistake and dabble in a field that I know nothing about. I'm not an expert in medical consequences of radiological exposure. I can tell you that the only direct cancer that is recognized as being associated with the Chernobyl disaster, and that's a big hedge, I realize, is thyroid cancer in children. And pretty nasty thyroid cancer in children.
So not the standard variety that occasionally occurs in this country and elsewhere. But according to Olga Kuchinskaya's book-- Rebecca, do you know the title, something invisibil-- The Politics of Invisibility, I'm sorry, she actually documents using the Belorusian example of scientists investigating specifically the medical consequences. And Belarus was the one Soviet Republic that was affected most by the immediate fallout of the explosion at Chernobyl, how they were fighting to establish even thyroid cancer as a recognized consequence.
I did not know that, because nowadays this is kind of everybody admits that thyroid cancer in children is a consequence, or is recognized as a consequence of Chernobyl. Apparently, that was not always so. And there are scientists who work on other forms of cancer and other medical conditions to get that same status as recognized, historically linked to the Chernobyl disaster.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: That was the reason this-- next month is the 30th year of the Chernobyl accident, right? Next month. Now, 30 years ago, maybe we may not have enough detectors, and science, and technology to analyze all the things and early detection. Now, we have it, more or less, the like genetics and many things, and biomarker everything.
But that is the reason I think the Japanese government has to be more open, transparent on sharing the experience with the rest of the world, so that at least if something happens, the next accident somewhere, at least we have some idea what kind of thing could be done. And if we do that just with Japanese institutions, university, and research, and government, something may happen. So I think that has to be more like an international collaboration.
And the Japanese government has to take initiative. Let's follow this radiation exposure what may happen. But I don't see that attitude. That is a problem with the Japanese government.
So you push, and do that. And I think there may be other funding, but the Japanese government has to initiate such a thing, like ABCC [INAUDIBLE] Hiroshima, that was the US Army's. But I think at least in this hyperconnected, high technology world in Japan, they should do that. I have been pushing this thing, but nobody listens.
SONJA SCHMID: If I could just comment on that, I think the technology to measure, to document, to monitor was available after Chernobyl. And it was documented. But the problem is not whether you have the technology or not, but how you use it. And whether you actually write your doctor's report with what kind of instructions you get from above to put in the patient report, for example.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: No, I understand that. But at that time, [INAUDIBLE] Russia and the Soviet Union. So everybody claims, and this, and that. But now, in this time of a hyperconnected internet, the Japanese government, why they don't do that?
Because we don't want to repeat these things. We want to have a more scientific database. So this is sort of making this lesson into not to go to waste. That's what Winston Churchill said, "never let a good crisis go to waste." That's what they did.
REBECCA SLAYTON: OK, thank you. Our next question-- and I'm keeping my eyes open, so lift a hand if you have a question.
SPEAKER 4: My question is from [INAUDIBLE] to Professor Kurokawa. My [INAUDIBLE]. I'm a seismologist. And of course, this is not the place to discuss the scientific aspects of the catastrophe.
However, there's a need to discuss the problems with the sighting of these [? faults ?] and [INAUDIBLE]. You talked a little bit on that. However, what is the effect on the long range effect of if you stop completely using nuclear energy in Japan, the long range and the substitute. And the impact on using, obviously you have to use more hydrocarbon. And since I don't think it's possible in the short term to have renewable energy substituted for all the requirements. And so I would like your personal opinion and reflection on the long term, since there's no chance for Japan to have hydrocarbon for its own enhancement, [INAUDIBLE].
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: But also, I think many countries, including Japan in particular, decreasing aging society and decreasing population, unless they just change certain immigration laws or whatever and rapidly changing the total population is very aged. One out of four Japanese are 65 or older and there's 50,000 centenarians, and all kind of industry and economy as a society we're going to face is a serious issue.
So in the future, more demand for energy may become less. I'm not so sure. But at least prediction of IT, 50% of future energy is used for the internet, and also servers, and this communication thing. And whether this decreasing and very aging society, whether in the long term to how much energy source we need is I'm not so sure.
At least in my pushing, we should use smart grid formation, more localized energy, more renewable, as much as possible. And maybe visualizing energy expenditure to anybody. So I think that is sort of the minimum.
And some argument, nuclear could have been smaller size, and that also may be a more better target for a terrorist attack. That may be another issue of such a fragile world. So what do we do?
Not only is global warming a major issue, but also terrorist attacks. Very unstable world, how to protect [INAUDIBLE] existing already. So these are a major issues, I think. So I think we have to communicate and share all these discussions with the public, and also a global audience.
SPEAKER 4: Do you have information on how much more hydrocarbon you had to use the past four years?
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: I don't know. Since this accident, import of oil in Japan 100% import, was declined by 20%. And the import of energy increased by 20%. Price of electricity went up very high, much higher, but because primarily due to weaker Yen.
And I think that we have to really visualize and share all the information with the public. So which kind of choices they would like to do. And there's a lot of resistance to making more smart grid formation much, much faster, because this is a good investment for Japan, but somehow there's some resistant party in it. So just, I don't see much of change at the moment.
LISA: Hi, my name is Lisa [INAUDIBLE]. I work in the language resource center here. I want to thank you all so much for a very interesting panel, and for sharing your perspectives. I have a couple questions about Fukushima and nuclear power, in general.
So first of all, in relation to Fukushima, my understanding is that one of the basic problems is that the backup generators were at sea level, which strikes me as a really easy problem to resolve. So first I'm wondering, how many other plants in Japan are in that situation? Have the generators been moved?
My second question is I understand that, I think it's GE and Toshiba are developing a prototype of modular nuclear generators that can be made on site and then shipped out. And I think the idea is that these would become economically viable over time with economies of scale, but right now the prototype is extremely expensive. I think it's over $1 billion that they've spent and invested in developing this. And I understand also that one of the problems they're running into is how to move them. Once you make the module, how to move it safely to a new site. So two questions, one about the diesel generators, backup generators. And then also the viability of modular nuclear reactors.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: Second viability, I'm not sure. Like, see what happens, how safe that may be. And that is acceptance by the greater public is a very important element.
But second, there's about now right now 48 nuclear plants in Japan. I think they want to restart. But are we really learning the lesson from Fukushima saying, as you said, I think that was in session nine in this commission meeting, we asked a question to these new sort of bureaucrats who is responsible for this nuclear safety guide.
And I told him, we are about 50 of them, why don't you just list everything, when this was built, what is the model, and what is the historic earthquake and tsunami over [INAUDIBLE]. And why don't you just make all this measurement and make it public? So which is the safer one relative to others?
And this is not deficient in this generator, all those things. Why don't you make it open, just list everything [INAUDIBLE]? And he just couldn't answer.
I repeated this question, he couldn't answer because his mindset is such that, I don't know. So I always say that you are the judge. That's the reason I made everything on the record.
You can watch this, oh, this is ahead of this guy, I mean, that's crazy. So I never commented anything, just you are the one to judge. So the core message, this kind of elite who carry a responsible person-- responsible post, they are so forgetful in certain questions. Why is that? So these are the questions I posed. So exactly why don't you see-- that was, I'm sure, commission's session [? nine. ?] So you might see the last, maybe 10 minutes or so. You'll enjoy that, too.
SPEAKER 4: I will, thank you.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: Yes, thank you.
REBECCA SLAYTON: I have Vincent on my question list next, but I seem to have lost track of where he is.
VINCENT: I'm over here.
REBECCA SLAYTON: Thank you. Sorry, I'm looking in the wrong [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT IALENTI: I'm Vincent Ialenti. I'm a PhD student in anthropology here at Cornell. And I did the study of Finland's nuclear energy sector, which had a very different experience with nuclear power than some of the situations we've heard about today.
So I'm trying to-- I guess I have two questions. One would be, how do you interpret what some people see as nuclear energy success stories? For example, Sweden decarbonized it's energy sector in a very serious way in two decades.
It went from oil to fissioning uranium rather quickly. It didn't even know it was really doing it. This happened in the '70s. And now they find out that it's been quite good for Finland's emissions.
So is there a place in the world today where nuclear energy makes sense? For example, Sweden has few big earthquakes. They have a relatively low terrorism threat.
They have a stable, highly educated society. And they have [INAUDIBLE] where you can put [INAUDIBLE]. So are there any places where nuclear does make sense, even though it seems like a bad idea from what I heard in the presentations?
The other question is, what about someone like Bill Gates who invests money in sort of TerraPower, Generation IV reactors and small modular reactors that were just brought up. How do you respond to people who say, we're not in favor of generation one, two, and three nuclear reactors. We think we should close down all existing centralized, big nuclear energy plants.
But we still want to invest tons of money in R&D for future nuclear stuff, future generation core reactors. So these people would be against nuclear, as it exists today, but would want to invest lots of R&D to support future designs of nuclear reactors, such as small modular reactors, or thermal, or fast reactors, [INAUDIBLE]. How do you respond to that?
SONJA SCHMID: OK, I'll take a stab at those. So first of all, the nuclear success stories, I think that's a great question. But I don't think that it's limited to us today assessing where it made sense or makes sense or not. That's what I meant with taking the more historical perspective, because if you look at the countries that developed nuclear power programs, and I'm thinking of eastern European countries, for example, central and eastern European countries, it made a lot of sense at the time.
They got technical assistance for relatively cheap from the Soviet Union, even though they had to push, and pull, and everything. And they could replace their very dirty coal plants with modern and what was considered very progressive and cutting edge technology. That was not only a sign of technical progress, but also a sign of social progress.
So what counts as success, I would argue, is very context dependent and historically situated. So that's one thing. And in part, what I was trying to do in my book is show why nuclear power made sense in the Soviet Union.
Because if you look at the Soviet Union, they had so many natural resources that at first you would think, well, why on Earth would they even develop nuclear power? True, they had a weapons program, so it was kind of a byproduct in the first place. But at the same time, if you look at the distribution of resources and demand, you also realize that the resources were far east in Siberia, and the demand was in the western part. So it did make sense when you dig a little deeper.
On the small modular reactors, I mean, I could talk for a long time about those. But I think even industry representatives would agree that the current fleet of nuclear power reactors that are operating are very inefficient. They're a product of their time.
We didn't know any better at the time. And there are new designs out there that could probably perform better. The problem is, and this is from the outset in the nuclear industry, do you stick with what you know and standardize what you know and can control?
Or do you modify, innovate, change, and implement something that you don't know, and that potentially might result in dangerous issues? And that tension is apparent, no matter where you look. And also in this debate.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: One thing, I think I'd like to make a comment to you, is I think are we really willing to learn from these accidents? That is the thing. That may be more political, and economic, and many factors of this thing.
Now, after Fukushima, what kind of lesson would we like to share? One is, I think at least Japanese are economically reasonably advanced, technology is good, so why don't we share all the radiation and long-term follow-up? And why don't we do that with the international community? That's what I'm really suggesting.
And second is look at the airline industry. Like nuclear plants, it's [INAUDIBLE] by GE, Hitachi, and Westinghouse, and Toshiba, and [INAUDIBLE], Mitsubishi, and maybe four or five different manufacturing companies, just the airlines, like Boeing, Lockheed, and Airbus, and you buy it. If you buy this thing, that becomes a national airline, right?
And how are their pilots, engineers communicating with each other? Even national airlines, they fly overseas, and they have to communicate with the common language of English. They are landing at this and that, right?
So why not apply this principle in this nuclear thing? When I was arguing this at MIT, and there were many nuclear experts from Nigeria, a few other countries, and who are sure their operation and regulation is reasonably on par with others. And they could just buy this thing and build this in your country.
But how do we know, because in the globalization, you just cannot hide a thing. So my suggestion-- also, I made it to Tanaka-san, who is the new head of the safety commission-- why don't you send maybe 30 Japanese, younger generation, [INAUDIBLE] to the US, 20 to France, and 10 to the UK, and 10 to Sweden. And then the same number, just exchange.
Once you start exchanging these regulators and operators, and then become incorporating each's better practices. And their communication becomes not Japanese, but English, most likely. Or maybe Google Translator works, and they can do that, alter what you speak.
But at least you know, this guy knows a lot of things, and this guy knows. So I think they are sharing better practice. So then I think, once you build this operation in Nigeria or somewhere, at least we are creating international licensing of regulators and operators. And they have to go through recertification every three years, or something.
And I think that kind of thing is a more constructive, assuring global community. Because unless you follow this kind of pilot and regulators, even in some countries, national airlines just cannot land somewhere. So that's a way to make the world at least safer, even this nuclear to be sort of implemented.
So I think that's my suggestion, but I think the Japanese government did not say do that, not saying it. Even I knew that, but also perhaps what will be the best country to start saying this kind of thing? Operators and regulators exchange program for maybe two or three years so they communicate with each other and become more transparent. And I think I suggested maybe Canada and Sweden, maybe propose such a thing for this international exchange for future operators and regulators. So it will become a sort of uniform operation.
REBECCA SLAYTON: OK, we are slightly over our time, but I have four questions left. So what I'm going to do, which is totally unusual, is ask each person who has a question to state their question. Don't answer, and if you'd like to, take a shot at answering whatever one you want, that's great. And [INAUDIBLE] I hope you can stay for the final question [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE]
SPEAKER 5: So thank you ver much. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. student at Cornell. I have a question for Dr. Kurokawa, which is, how can people in Japan change that unique [INAUDIBLE] I work for the Japanese government for [INAUDIBLE] years, so I am very aware of these things you mentioned earlier. So I wonder how the people can change their behavior. Thank you.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: I am not working for the Japanese government. My sponsor was the first time I democratic constitution of japan. This is the first time, which is quite normal in many countries. But I think that's the reason I said people, for the people of Japan, and for the people of the world. That is our mission in full. So I'm not representing the Japanese government.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: Right, thank you.
REBECCA SLAYTON: I want give everyone a chance to give their questions.
SPEAKER 6: Hi. You mentioned the connectedness of the world. This also means [INAUDIBLE] can get information out can get this information out very quickly. So we're going to prepare a path from energy sources here, and have a discussion about what is wrong with that energy source, and 1,000 people tell us why it's a disaster [INAUDIBLE] including renewables. So [INAUDIBLE] talk? How do you weigh a risk of trivia versus [INAUDIBLE] if we don't convert to nuclear power?
REBECCA SLAYTON: Thank you very much.
SPEAKER 7: Hi, I'm [INAUDIBLE], [INAUDIBLE] columnist. I wanted to follow up on the last statement that was made by our keynote speaker. The French have actually got a pretty good nuclear program, and they have done things very differently from the US. They have a fairly standardized design.
They can handle competition. They reprocess their fuel, so they don't have to dig up so much uranium. Have they done it right, or have they just been lucky?
SPEAKER 8: Hi, [INAUDIBLE] Cornell [INAUDIBLE] program. And my question, I guess for Dr. Kurokawa [INAUDIBLE] might have answered it in his ending speech. But it might be for Professor Schimd, which is this matter of regulatory capture. And particularly academics.
And what I'd like to know is, from your perspective, what does that look like with an international training, international academic research based for the nuclear industry. And yet, everything is nationally based, and so I'd like to know [INAUDIBLE].
REBECCA SLAYTON: All right. [INAUDIBLE] take one other question you would like to answer. And I'll close the conversation.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: I think in this hyperconnected world, the principle of the trust is become transparent and sharing, because this is a global issue. And also, I think in the world that is changing very rapidly, Germany now is starting sort of industry 4.0. Why 4.0? Because they just had this changing industry revolution to this and that, but industry 4.0 means beginning of the internet that started from 1970.
And you just cannot hide things, because we have iPhones, we are video tapes, and those are recorded without any permission. So in essence, I think transparency is the foundation of trust. Any organization, or individual, or government, and in fact this is in my view the beginning of the end of a nation state, which is based on the European [INAUDIBLE]. Even Scotland wants to be independent. Why is that?
Czechoslovakia was there 20 years ago, but it's gone. So why is it? So the corporate has become global. So why, if I want to buy some company in Iceland or Iran, because this corporate tax is cheaper. When Pfizer wants to buy AstraZeneca, there's a big political issue between the US and the UK because of taxing.
And Google raised lot of revenue in the UK, but they are not paying that much tax. So I think that's is the thing, the end of nation state's control is very becoming limited. Energy is becoming sort of global, so Medicins sans Frontieres is a French [INAUDIBLE], but nobody cares about the French entity.
And also, academic institutions and research institutions become global, they attract global talent and also produce many global talent. I think who cares about-- so many US universities, like Cornell, are attracting a lot of global talent and producing many global talent. So national entity becomes less of importance in governance.
So the government wants to control, but talent is becoming global, too. So like nuclear, if this is a common source of very important element of energy for this climate change, and [INAUDIBLE] disaster, why not exchange regulators and operators, and producer could belong to any nation. So national entities become less relevant.
And that is the reason many countries do not allow breakaway, do not allow this or that, because they are afraid of this globalization, and public awareness of different things of different countries. So nuclear thing, I really like to have sharing this [INAUDIBLE] with the rest of the world, the radiation thing. Long term follow up, supported not only by the Japanese government, but I think many concerned citizens and some big foundations like Gates. And those operators and regulators have to go to more international.
And also licensing and exchange program from scratch. Japan should do that. But I think they are not willing to do that. Then just why not start somewhere else?
CHARLES PERROW: Could I just make an observation that's been missing from this interesting discussion? Fukushima accident is not over, not by any means. Its going to go on for maybe 40 years.
The cancer rate in Japan is going to rise steadily. Its going to be denied by the government, because there's no transparency on this issue in Japan. A particular example of the problem that intrigues me is, when they put the plant in, and they not only dug it out so it would be closer to the water source and the sea, but they put it where there was a river flowing underneath that area.
But they went up the hill, and they diverted the river. So it flew down on the sides of the large area there. And that was no problem.
They never anticipated that an earthquake could wreck their diversion. So now we have a strong underground river flowing directly under the plant where three huge globs of molten fuel are sitting on the bottom, giving off radiation and sending that radiation to the water, to the river that's underneath the plant. And it's going out to the ocean.
And we were seeing damage of marine life and the west coast of the US and British Columbia. And there's no way that that's going to be stopped until they get the molten boat cores out of there. And they have no way that they know of of doing that. Nobody has any idea what to do about the continuing Fukushima contamination.
KIYOSHI KUROKAWA: Thank you for your commentary. In fact, I thought the Japanese government has an open proposal for, a request for proposal, in last maybe September, or so. The deadline was only three months or three weeks, or so, which is crazy. But at least how to reduce contaminated water, like 1,000 tons each day and contaminating like 300, 400 tons of water from upstream. And they sort of, that's a formality again.
They received about 750 sort of proposals, and 200 from abroad, which they did sort of wait for to show they are willing to just open up a request or proposal. But they haven't shown what kind of proposals came in. So I called the head of the nuclear agency, which I know him very well, I'm sure that are at least one or two, because I know somebody submitted this thing, divergent over this upstream. And so that plant itself becomes eventually dry land because water is coming through, diversion of this water. There's such a things, I knew.
So I say, what's going to happen with this thing? And I think all of sudden, a few months later, they raise we're going to do this in freezing land, most expensive energy intensive. Stupid?
So why is it? Why they could be so stupid? That's my question.
Because any proposal has to be cheap and reasonably faster. And downstream becomes dry, so it's much easier to work on this debris thing. And technology has become available.
And cost, it's divergent in the long term, it's a much, much easier. You don't need high tech. So I told him, I know that there's such a proposal, but why they are not showing what kind of proposal came in, what kind of combination would be the best way, and then they announce this is the way we're going to try this. That is a foundation of trust and transparency. And [INAUDIBLE] there, that's a very simple one, don't you think?
Just upstream? Absolutely. They don't want that. They want to spend more money.
SONJA SCHMID: Yeah, I wanted to take a stab at the question, how do we figure out what the real risks are? Because it ties in with some of the questions that Rebecca had posed in the beginning, can nuclear power ever be made safe enough? I think ultimately the question is not so much can we find out what the real risk is, but who gets to define what risk we prioritize and we focus on?
And so the question of nuclear then becomes a question of democracy, and ultimately a question of justice. Who gets to say something and whether we entrust these decisions to governments and technocrats, or how, if we decide to do so, we actually democratize the process. And it's challenging no matter how you plan to go forward. But I think that's the ultimate lesson of this, that we can no longer have technocrats, scientists, and engineers in charge, defining the real risk and then solving it. And the rest of the population just watches and has no impact, whatsoever, on these questions or how they are being addressed.
HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: OK, well, thank you. And I'd like to just say a few things before we close. I think we have two important takeaway points from my point of view. One that, I think, just to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of this disaster of Fukushima.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge that the crisis in Fukushima is ongoing. And this is actually an important point. We should remind ourselves.
And so the second point is I think that nuclear energy is a very complex and very highly contextualized issue that really in turn calls for an equally complex and highly contextualized solution in response. And that demands very truly international, very transnational collaborative and interdisciplinary and sustained work. And in that spirit, and I know the center is hosting a series of events on this issue this year.
In May, on May 3 we are going to have land critical debate on this very question, is nuclear the answer to climate change? We have invited two speakers, Daniel Kamen from UC Berkeley and [INAUDIBLE] from the Finnish Energy Consult. So please come again to join the debate.
And on September 12, the fall, we have a Henry E. and Nancy Horton Bartels World Affairs Lecture by Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Novel Prize in Literature. She has written extensively on the crisis of her lifetime, from the war to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. So she is going to do a public lecture on September 12.
And I'd also like to note that this initiative, the Einaudi Center's initiative for nuclear energy is a collaboration between the Center and the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies [INAUDIBLE] world center in the study of nuclear nonproliferation, and also a collaboration with the marriage in my native project in the Cornell Law School, which has developed an international working group on the technical, and economic, and political dimensions of nuclear energy. And finally, we'd like to thank all for contributing to this inaugural event.
And particularly, I thank members of the Center's foreign policy network for their guidance and support. And I also want to thank Rebecca for working with me really closely and planning this event, and this whole series for this year. And also, I need to thank the Center's longstanding sponsors and fans, Luigi and Carol Einaudi, and the Bartels family, and [INAUDIBLE] for their generous support.
And I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank my staff, Nishi Dhupa, [INAUDIBLE], and our brand new staff member John Miller, as well as staff writer for VPIA's office, Linda Copman, who wrote a group of stories on nuclear energy and Center's engagement for this issue for our website. Please visit our website for that fascinating group of stories.
And also, like to thank Vice Provost for International Affairs Laura Spitz and Jerry Wall, Director of Communication in that office, for making Linda available to us. And so with that, I'd like to thank you all for coming today. And this is just the beginning of a long conversation and collaboration. And so I'll see you again, hopefully in May on May 3, and and critical debate on nuclear energy. And thank you all, panelists today.
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Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Sonja Schmid and Charles Perrow address safety and energy issues surrounding the nuclear accidents at Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island at an Einaudi Center panel discussion March 11, 2016. Hirokazu Miyazaki, the John S. Knight Professor of International Studies and director of the Einaudi Center, and Rebecca Slayton, assistant professor of science and technology studies, moderated the discussion.