Over a year and a half has passed since the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster that began with the earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit Japan’s Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. Much has been written about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but a cohesive, objective, readable English language narrative of what exactly transpired as the disaster unfolded has yet to widely circulated. An understanding of how events unfolded in the Fukushima disaster is critical to deriving valuable lessons about nuclear power governance, politics, and societal preparedness. As countries such as China, India, and Brazil move to build new nuclear reactors to serve the energy needs of ever increasing numbers of ever-wealthier populations, lessons from Japan’s experience will only increase in significance.
The talk focuses on a narrative of the chaotic political and corporate responses as events developed rapidly at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. It also puts the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in comparative perspective among the three other nuclear power plants hit by the tsunami. Many of the details are likely to come as a surprise even to a well-informed audience: the absence of the power operator’s president and chairman for almost a full day as the crisis unfolded; chaos magnified by the emergency nuclear response headquarters set up in the Prime Minister’s office initially unable to receive cell phone signals or faxes; the dozens of emergency backup battery trucks arriving at the plant only to discover they could not connect to the reactors in crisis, and the like. The talk is based on the following report: “Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Narrative, Analysis, and Recommendations".
Kenji Kushida is the Takahashi Research Associate in Japanese Studies at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a graduate research associate at the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy. Kushida has an MA in East Asian studies and BAs in economics and East Asian studies, all from Stanford University.
Kushida’s research interests are in the fields of comparative politics, political economy, and information technology. He focuses mainly on Japan with comparisons to Korea, China, and the United States. He has four streams of academic research and publication: institutional and governance structures of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster; political economy issues surrounding information technology; political strategies of foreign multinational corporations in Japan; and Japan’s political economic transformation since the 1990s.