Leaders of a private-sector foundation that investigated the Fukushima nuclear accident said pursuing criminal charges against individuals responsible for the crisis will be difficult because the entire nuclear power system is to blame.
Questions about criminal responsibility for the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were repeatedly raised at a news conference March 1 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan held by three individuals associated with the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation.
The group earlier this week released its report into what happened during the Fukushima nuclear accident.
"Our mission is to find out the facts, and the legal issue is the next thing to come, so the report does not mention who is responsible in a legal sense,’’ said Koichi Kitazawa, a former chairman of the Japan Science and Technology Agency who served as chairman of the committee of experts overseeing the investigation. “But, because we found out many details, I think the results of this investigation should be the starting point when they start thinking about legal responsibility."
Yoichi Funabashi, the former editor in chief of The Asahi Shimbun who heads the foundation, said, "I feel personally (someone should go to jail), but we are not designed to blame somebody and we are not going to delve into the legal aspect of the accident."
Kitazawa said that during the course of the foundation’s investigation, all those interviewed who were involved in the process said they regretted they had not done more.
"The organization and legal part of the whole system was not designed well so that the sense of justice of each person could function," Kitazawa said. "We have to throw out the organization and the legal part of the system. My position is that someone was responsible for having introduced that system."
Although the accident laid bare the many inadequacies in the nuclear energy sector in Japan, it could also prove to be the starting point for a rethink among scientists.
"At the beginning of the accident, most Japanese scientists lost confidence because they had no idea what would happen later" at the Fukushima plant, Kitazawa said. "Nobody predicted a hydrogen explosion could take place, including the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission."
Kitazawa said scientists were unable to speak up about the deficiencies in preparing nuclear power plants for quake and tsunami damage because they had also become convinced in the myth about the 100 percent safety of the plants.
But now, many scientists are regretting that attitude and are beginning to focus on the importance of dealing with the possible dangers of earthquakes and tsunami, Kitazawa said.
Caution was also urged about rushing forward with changes before a serious examination is conducted into the actual problems.
With major flaws exposed in Japan’s nuclear regulatory process, the government plans to pass legislation to establish a new safety agency.
"A critical examination of the problems involved in the regulatory process will be very important" before any decision is made about the structure of the new agency, Funabashi said.
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