Quick fixes for problems at hand and lack of structural reform
Another example that reconfirms institutionalized inaction is the relationship between quick fixes for problems at hand and lack of structural reform, which can be seen in the issue of restarting the nuclear power stations after the Fukushima accident. The declaration of safety for nuclear reactors No. 3 and No. 4 at the Ohi nuclear power station by the Japanese government was utilized as the grounds for restarting the reactors in the post-Fukushima situation.5 The declaration was based on a primary “stress test” comprised of 35 items that assess safety. This stress test, however, was only a simulation by computers conducted within the framework of an event-tree analysis. Although the framework was improved after its failure in the WASH 1400 report to predict the severe accident of Three-Mile Island, basically, the results of the test can change considerably in accordance with the initial conditions assumed and auxiliary presumptions introduced to fix various different parameters, as is often the case with simulations.
This creates a fitting example to examine the relationship between quick fixes for problems at hand and the lack of structural reform in the post-Fukushima situation. What had provided the substantial basic ground for the safety of nuclear reactors was the framework of severe accidents management created by the government (such as METI 1992). However, this framework was made nearly 20 years earlier, when Japan had no experience of severe accidents. This old-fashioned framework clearly stated that “the safety of Japan’s nuclear power stations is secured. Speaking engineeringly, the probability of severe accidents is so low that it is unthinkable” (METI 1992: 5). As a severe accident actually happened in Fukushima, however, there is no justification for relying on such a framework in the post-Fukushima situation. Nevertheless, despite the lack of an updated framework, the declaration of safety for nuclear reactors Nos. 3 and 4 at the Ohi nuclear power station was made and the decision to restart the two nuclear reactors was taken. The declaration of safety by the government was made on June 8, 2012 and the restarting of the Ohi nuclear reactors No. 3 and No. 4 was decided on June 16, 2012 (Prime Minister’s Office n.d.) Conversely, it was not until September 19, 2012 that the newly established Nuclear Regulatory Authority took over NISA or still later that the old-fashioned framework of severe accidents management was updated.
In this situation, the above-mentioned stress test was utilized as a quick fix for the declaration of safety and restarting of the Ohi nuclear reactors No. 3 and No. 4. Quick fixes for problems at hand as an element of structural disaster justified the state that lacked structural reform such as the updating of the old-fashioned framework of severe accidents management. The question then becomes: Who will take responsibility for the results expected from the decision to restart nuclear power stations decided on such a weak basis?
This reliance on stress test as a quick fix for the declaration of safety and restarting of the nuclear reactors could save face of the nuclear village in the post- Fukushima situation. However, on the other hand, it is obviously unreasonable to put off updating the old-fashioned framework of severe accidents management after the declaration of safety and restarting in practice, when already experiencing a severe accident that demonstrated the devastating failure of the framework. Thus, a quick fix tor problems at hand for temporary countermeasures is one of the decisive barriers against drastic structural reform that compels the first type of institutionalized inaction.6