There’s a good story in today’s New York Times about the cozy relationship between nuclear regulators and utility companies in Japan, with details about the way that a whistleblower who revealed issues at Fukushima Daiichi unit 1 was punished for what turned out to be true revelations.
In Japan, the web of connections between the nuclear industry and government officials is now popularly referred to as the “nuclear power village.” The expression connotes the nontransparent, collusive interests that underlie the establishment’s push to increase nuclear power despite the discovery of active fault lines under plants, new projections about the size of tsunamis and a long history of cover-ups of safety problems.
One of the key differences between Japan’s regulator and our NRC is that Japan relies on industry experts to write nuclear regulation, in part because industry has stifled independent nuclear research at universities:
Unable to conduct research, skeptics, especially a group of six at Kyoto University, languished for decades as assistant professors.
One, Hiroaki Koide, a nuclear reactor expert who has held a position equivalent to assistant professor for 37 years at Kyoto University, said he applied unsuccessfully for research funds when he was younger.
“They’re not handed out to outsiders like me,” he said.
Japan, like the US, still has plants on fault lines without enough portable generators.
Meanwhile, back at Fukushima, TEPCO is still revising (upward) the amount of fuel damage to its reactors, and it is undertaking the risky operation of filling unit 1’s containment with water. Japan’s health ministry released results of new radiation studies showing that some areas as far away as 24 km will expose residents to almost five times the allowed yearly dose for a nuclear plant worker.