Academic journal article Asian Perspective

After Fukushima: A Survey of Corruption in the Global Nuclear Power Industry

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

After Fukushima: A Survey of Corruption in the Global Nuclear Power Industry

Article excerpt

Investigations of the Fukushima nuclear power accident sequence revealed the man-made character of the catastrophe and its roots in regulatory capture effected by a network of corruption, collusion, and nepotism. A review of corruption incidents in the global nuclear industry during 2012-2013 reveals that the Japanese experience is not isolated. Gross corruption is evident in nuclear technology exporting countries such as Russia, China, and the United States, and in a number of nuclear technology importing countries. The survey results make clear that national nuclear regulatory regimes are inadequate and that the global regime is virtually completely ineffective. Widespread corruption of the nuclear industry has profound social and political consequences resulting from the corrosion of public trust in companies, governments, and energy systems themselves. KEYWORDS: nuclear industry, corruption, regulatory capture, public trust.

THE NOW JUSTLY FAMOUS REPORT OF THE NATIONAL DIET OF JAPAN Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, chaired by Kurokawa Kiyoshi, outlined the commission's answer to the fundamental question the Fukushima disaster raised: Why did this accident, which should have been foreseeable, actually occur? "The root cause of the accident was man-made. . . . The Commission considers that the man-made disaster was actually caused by organizational and institutional problems resulting in a reversing of the relationship between the regulated and regulators" (National Diet of Japan 2012, 11).

Much has been written since March 2011 about the extraordinarily complex networks of corruption, collusion, and nepotism that structured what the commission called the "intricate form of 'Regulatory Capture'" created "with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination" in the five decades since the construction of Japan's first nuclear power plant, Tokai, began in 1959 (National Diet of Japan 2012, 3). Yet, while the level of detailed evidence and analysis in the Kurokawa report and other studies was deeply shocking, glimpses of this "intricate form" had been available for some years, not least in the public history of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) itself, especially in the events of 2002 leading up to the resignation of the company's president (Takemoto 2003). Part of the report's shock value comes from its emphasis on the power of this set of interlocking structures both to suppress damaging evidence and to induce self-censorship by otherwise well-informed media and by professional and academic specialists (Onishi and Belson 2011).

Yet for all of its importance in assigning culpability on the basis of irrefutable evidence in the Japanese case, the report raises a wider set of issues that are not addressed. Before March 2011 Japan's nuclear industry was taken to be an exemplar to the world, and to the global nuclear industry in particular. The Japanese public and its political leaders were not alone in subscribing to what former prime minister Kan Naoto labeled "the myth of nuclear safety."

Was the Japanese situation unique? Are corruption, collusion, and nepotism present in the nuclear industries of other countries that manufacture nuclear reactor technology-and on the same scale and with the same structure? Given the increasing concentration of corporate power in fewer but larger companies, and cross-national ownership of those companies in the global nuclear industry, are there instances of transnationalized corruption, collusion, and nepotism (Secor 2007; Findlay 2010)? Moreover, as the Japanese case reminds us so bluntly, nuclear reactor manufacturing countries are also, or hope to be, nuclear reactor exporting countries (Harlan 2011). How salient is the Japanese picture of nuclear industry corruption to the export activities of those nuclear manufacturing countries? Also, given that most nuclear reactor exports today are to countries with substantial endemic problems of corruption, do the networks of corruption, collusion, and nepotism in countries supplying nuclear technology intersect with the processes of importing nuclear technology? …

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