Humility in the Face of Nature Can Save Lives

A committee from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is in the process of visiting Tokyo, Japan, where they are hearing a presentation about the causes of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that happened in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in March 2011. The purpose of their visit includes determining lessons learned from the meltdown and apply it to plants in the U.S. to try and prevent such a crisis from happening here, according to an article by http://news.sciencemag.org.

The 22-member committee comprised of experts from a variety of scientific disciplines, has held meetings twice in Washington, D.C., before traveling to Japan to speak with experts studying the disaster and its probable causes. An official from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) conceded to the committee that one of the main underlying causes of the disaster was a lack of humility on the part of company officials, which in turn kept them from fully anticipating the full effects that a natural disaster could have on their plants. There was also a reluctance to share any information with regulators and the public, as company officials feared that coming clean with such concerns would create concerns about the safety of nuclear power.

In addition, the group heard from prominent Japanese physician and scientist Kiyoshi Kurokawa. He headed a committee authorized by the Japanese legislature to investigate the Fukushima disaster. The committee concluded that the accident was manmade. The U.S. committee then heard from TEPCO’s general manager, Akira Kawano, who spoke on the plans for improvements at other nuclear power plants it owns and runs to prevent future disasters like Fukushima.

Kawano also gave details on the company’s own investigation into the matter. He stated that the lack of humility in considering what the full impact of a natural disaster could be kept the company from taking a necessary step in seeking the advice of outside experts — a step that could have prevented the accident altogether.

For more information about the committee’s investigation of the Fukushima disaster, visit: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/11/lack-of-humility-and-fear-of-pub.html