2012年3月20日 星期二

My findings in the existential fallout from Fukushima

福島核事故的教訓My findings in the existential fallout from Fukushima日本再建基金會主席船橋洋一為英國《金融時報》撰稿

In retrospect I cannot but marvel at the extent of my naivety and ignorance then. But such was the mindset of almost everyone in my country in those fateful two weeks, after Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was plunged into “station blackout” by the impact of the tsunami of March 11 last year.
回首過去,我無法不對自己當時表現出的幼稚和無知程度感到驚訝。但在受去年3•11海嘯影響,東京電力公司(Tokyo Electric Power Company)下屬福島第一核電站陷入“全廠斷電”狀態之後的兩周中——這兩週對我們的命運產生了重大影響——在我的國家,幾乎每一個人都是這種心態。
What I simply did not recognise ​​was that Japan was on the edge of an existential crisis, as a cascading nuclear accident rapidly unfolded. For 48 hours from March 14, disaster seemed especially imminent. Officials in the prime minister's office were gloomy if not desperate. Late on March 14 Masataka Shimizu, then president of Tepco, began telephoning officials and insinuating the company's intentions to abandon the plant and evacuate workers – compelling the then prime minister, Naoto Kan, to intervene decisively: he stormed into Tepco headquarters and ordered senior managers not to abandon ship. He also implored that a “death squad” be formed to continue the battle and inject water into the reactor vessels.
我當時完全沒有意識到,隨著一場重大核事故一環接一環地迅速展開,日本正處於一場事關生死存亡的危機邊緣。 3月14日之後的48小時內,大難臨頭的感覺似乎尤其明顯。首相辦公室的官員們即便沒有絕望,也已十分悲觀了。 3月14日晚間,時任東電公司總裁的清水正孝(Masataka Shimizu)開始致電政府官員,暗示該公司欲捨棄核電廠並疏散工人——這迫使時任日本首相的菅直人(Naoto Kan)採取果斷干預:他氣沖沖地來到東電總部,命令高管們不得棄廠。他還要求組建“敢死隊”繼續戰鬥,並向反應堆容器注水。
The stakes, we now know, were extraordinarily high. Unbeknown to the public, Mr Kan also instructed Dr Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), to draw up a “worst case scenario”. The resulting contingency document submitted on March 25 envisioned a hydrogen explosion in Unit 1 initiating a succession of meltdowns. The resulting plume of radiation could have led to the evacuation of Tokyo's metropolitan area, the report projected.
現在我們知道,當時的風險是何等之高。可我們並不知道,菅直人當時還指示日本原子能委員會(Atomic Energy Commission)委員長、近藤駿介(Shunsuke Kondo)博士設想出“可能出現的最糟糕情況”。這份3月25日提交的意外事故報告設想,1號機組將發生氫氣爆炸,繼而引發一連串的熔毀事故。該報告預計,由此產生的輻射將令東京的中心區域不得不進行疏散。
How could we have come to this? How could such a technologically advanced country be so unprepared? Reflecting on all this, after six months heading an independent commission on the accident, I have a better sense of what transpired – and the lessons Japan badly needs to learn from the disaster.
For one, our nuclear industry became ensnared in its twisted myth of “absolute safety”, propagated by interest groups seeking to gain broad acceptance for nuclear power. To wit, when Niigata Prefecture made plans in 2010 to conduct an accident drill for earthquake preparedness, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) recommended revising the plans to avoid sparking “unnecessary misunderstanding and anxiety” in the public; the prefecture was duly obliged to drop the earthquake premise in favour of a less menacing alternative – heavy snow! Similarly, utility companies' aversion to actions smacking of preparations for a potential nuclear disaster meant that development of ro​​bots to assist in nuclear accidents was never pursued.
At its core, Japan's nuclear safety regulatory regime was phoney. Regulators pretended to regulate; utilities pretended to be regulated. In reality, the latter were far more powerful in expertise and clout.
Beyond this hollow structure, an excessively risk-averse approach and a stovepipe structure within the administration did not serve the country well. Submitted to this critical test, inherent governance problems came to light, exposing two fundamental lessons. First, we need to overcome the myth of “absolute safety” and shatter the taboo that surrounds the very concept of risks in the nuclear energy business. We must also learn how to prepare for the unthinkable and unanticipated. This requires constant vigilance regarding the safety and security of nuclear plants as well as practices of nuclear waste disposal. Second, we need to build a regulatory body independent from the “nuclear village” of industry, bureaucrats, and academics working to promote nuclear energy. This demands a foundation of solid expertise and professionalism. And then, one more lesson – if we can call it a lesson – is that we really should look back upon the crisis with an appropriate sense of vulnerability and humility, recognising the uncontrollably destructive power of the nuclear monster once unleashed. This latter should never be forgotten.
Japanese society has learnt keenly the crucial role of leadership in a time of national crisis. It is precisely this issue that continues to divide and even polarise my country most profoundly. One year on people are still grasping for an answer as to what kind of leadership Japan really needs. In the course of our investigations, a staff member in M​​r Kan's office made a striking statement –​​ one he would never utter publicly out of respect to the evacuees: “How lucky we were that God is still with us in this country .”
The truth is that the imagined “worst-case scenario” was closer than anyone would wish to admit: but for the direction of the wind – towards the Pacific, not inland, in the four days after the earthquake; but for the manner in which the gate separating the reactor-well and the spent-fuel pool in Unit 4 broke – presumably facilitating the transfusion of water into the pool. Luck was undeniably on our side.
Is that it – providence? What of individuals? Some would say we had Mr Kan as the nation's “chief risk officer” at the critical moment, even if many would take offence at that. Masao Yoshida, manager of the plant at the time of the disaster, has also been praised for his courage and his leadership. His legendary kabuki play – making a show of agreeing to the order from Tepco's head office to halt water injections until further notification from the government, while simultaneously instructing his employees to proceed – has entered popular folklore.
這是天意嗎?還是個人的作用?有些人會說,菅直人在這個生死攸關的時刻肩負起了“首席危機處理官”的重任,但也有很多人並不認同這一說法。災​​難發生時擔任福島第一核電站站長的吉田雅夫(Masao Yoshida),他的勇氣和領導力也得到了人們的讚揚。他上演的那出帶有傳奇色彩的“好戲”——他假裝接受東電公司總部要求停止注水以等待政府進一步通知的命令,與此同時卻指示員工繼續注水——已成為人們津津樂道的話題。
Against the backdrop of ineptitude and risk-aversion at Tepco headquarters, admiration for him is understandable. Yet there is something troubling in a manager on the ground disobeying instructions from above so brazenly. It is even more troubling to see his rebellion widely praised in the court of public opinion. In truth, this a story without heroes – only a long sigh of relief and an invoice of vital morals to be parsed.
The writer heads the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, which set up the independent investigation commission on the accident
本文作者是日本再建基金會(Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation)的負責人,該基金會組建了核事故獨立調查委員會。