A Japanese parliamentary panel has concluded that last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster was “man-made,” even as authorities announced the controversial return of nuclear power for the first time following the crisis.
The report, based on a six-month investigation, faulted both the government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, for failing to foresee and prevent the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, eastern Europe.
The investigative panel found that officials “deliberately postponed decisions” that would have protected the Fukushima power plant from the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck in March last year.
It said the accident “cannot be regarded as a natural disaster” and that its effects “could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.”
Meanwhile, a nuclear reactor in western Japan began generating badly needed electricity for the first time since a nation-wide nuclear shutdown was implemented in the wake of the disaster.
The number 3 reactor at the Ohi nuclear power plant went back on the grid Thursday, despite widespread public opposition to the resumption of atomic power.
Following the meltdown at Fukushima, all of Japan's nuclear reactors were eventually taken offline to conduct safety inspections and stress tests. The country had been without nuclear power for two months. The government has argued the restart is necessary to avoid blackouts during the upcoming summer months.
The parliamentary report released Thursday could have major implications for the future of nuclear power in Japan, which before the disaster relied on atomic energy for about 30 percent of its electricity.
The investigation was the result of over 900 hours of hearings and 1100 interviews with officials, including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and TEPCO ex-President Masataka Shimizu.
The investigation committee chairman, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, said he was confident the commission has completed a thorough investigation.
“We have managed to compile this report within six months. Though this is a short period of time, we have conducted a thorough investigation and verification process during this time.”
The conclusions of the final report did not vary greatly from previous panel reports, which have also criticized TEPCO for incompetence and the government for failing to quickly release information on the disaster to the public.