|The damaged roof of reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after an explosion that blew off the upper part of the structure is seen in this Saturday photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.|
The timing of the near nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi could not have been more appropriate. In only a few weeks the world will mark the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear plant disaster ever to affect our planet – at Chernobyl in Ukraine. A major core meltdown released a deadly cloud of radioactive material over Europe and gave the name Chernobyl a terrible resonance.
This weekend it is clear that the name Fukushima came perilously close to achieving a similar notoriety. However, the real embarrassment for the Japanese government is not so much the nature of the accident but the fact it was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear plants in areas of intense seismic activity. Several years ago, the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko stated, specifically, that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a "fundamental vulnerability" to major earthquakes, Katsuhiko said in 2007. The government, the power industry and the academic community had seriously underestimated the potential risks posed by major quakes.
Katsuhiko, who is professor of urban safety at Kobe University, has highlighted three incidents at reactors between 2005 and 2007.
Safety is never a priority until someone starts pointing a finger at a politician or a bureaucrat or a businessman. Then, and only then, will you hear the same old platitudes and excuses.
Has anyone ever tried to smear or discredit Katsuhiko? Has anyone ever accused him of insanity or incompetence?