Lessons from Fukushima

Energiepolitik - Atomkraft

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 19, No. 2, May 13, 2013.


Kerstin Lukner and Alexandra Sakaki
Lessons from Fukushima: An Assessment of the Investigations of the Nuclear Disaster


Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, the Japanese Cabinet, the Japanese Diet, a private-sector group as well as the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, TEPCO, each set up an investigation commission to examine the causes of the accident, scrutinize the crisis response and make recommendations for future policies. This article provides some background on the four commissions and then examines and assesses the contents of the reports. Four key conclusions emerge from the analysis. Firstly, the establishment of the commissions was accompanied by immense mistrust, as each of the initiators suspected bias in the other inquiries. Secondly, the comparison demonstrates that while biases can be detected to some extent, the four reports overall agree in their identification of fundamental issues and crucial problems. Thirdly, the article maintains that the four reports used in combination convey a more complete picture than any single one of them. A comparison of the reports highlights diverging interpretations and differing degrees of criticism, while exposing open questions and unresolved issues. Finally, the article argues that the four investigation reports can serve as important reference points, enabling critical assessments of reforms currently undertaken in Japan's nuclear power administration and crisis management system.


Kerstin Lukner is a postdoctoral research fellow/assistant professor at the Institutes of East Asian Studies and Political Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen and a member of the DFG-funded Graduate School on 'Risk and East Asia'. She studied Japanese Studies and Political Science at Bochum, Bonn, Nanzan and Tokyo University and received her doctorate in 2006. She has published a monograph on Japan's Role in the United Nations: Basis for a Permanent Seat in the Security Council?, co-edited a volume on UN-disarmament efforts (both in German), and various book chapters and journal articles. Her recent work includes a guest co-edited issue of the Japanese Journal of Political Science focusing on Japanese crisis management (publication in June 2013). She can be reached at: kerstin.lukner(at)uni-due.de

Alexandra Sakaki is a research fellow in the Asia division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP/ Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) in Berlin. She holds the Robert Bosch Foundation's Senior Fellowship on the topic 'Japan in the international system'. Having studied East Asian Studies and International Relations at Princeton University (USA) and at the University of Cambridge (UK), she received her doctorate in political science at the University of Trier (Germany). She is the author of the monograph Germany and Japan as Regional Actors: Evaluating Change and Continuity after the Cold War (Routledge, 2013) as well as numerous scholarly articles published in such journals as Pacific Affairs and the Japanese Journal of Political Science. She can be reached at: alexandra.sakaki(at)swp-berlin.org

Recommended citation: Kerstin Lukner and Alexandra Sakaki, "Lessons from Fukushima: An Assessment of the Investigations of the Nuclear Disaster," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11 Issue 19, No. 2, May 13, 2013.

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