Structural disaster across pre-war/military and post-war/non-military regimes

From the perspective of structural disaster, there are two kinds of structural similarities between the Rinkicho accident and the Fukushima accident: the development trajectory of technology and institutionalized secrecy.

Regarding the structural similarity between the two accidents in the development trajectory of technology, both accidents took place within the context of wholly domestic or almost wholly domestic production of a technology, during which there was successful operation of domestically produced technologies extending more than 10 to 30 years. In that particular sense, both accidents could be categorized as the failure of self-reliant technologies.

The other structural similarity bears on the similarity between the two accidents in terms of institutionalized secrecy, where its four conditions can be validated in both the Fukushima accident mentioned in Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 and in the Rinkicho accident mentioned in this chapter. Situating institutionalized secrecy in the Rinkicho accident within the contemporary social context of the wartime mobilization of science and technology, the coupling of structural integration and functional disintegration is evident in the contemporary military-industrial- university complex. Therefore, if the structural similarity still applies after taking into account the different social contexts of today, it follows that the coupling of structural integration and functional disintegration should also reside in the current governmental-industrial-university complex behind the Fukushima accident.

There are, of course, also notable differences between the two accidents, such as in the way an element of structural disaster came to be detected and corrected, as represented in adherence to erroneous precedents that causes problems to be carried forward and reproduced. In the Rinkicho accident, the conclusion reached by the final report of the special examination committee and authorized by the Imperial Japanese Navy was dynamically canceled by carefully observed facts regardless of the rank of those who pointed out these discrepancies and the past experience accumulated within the organization. Such a dynamic reconsideration of alternative possibilities that could have upset the face-saving of the members of the special examination committee actually triggered the restart of the examination and led to a drastically different conclusion.

In contrast, there has been no sign of a public showing of such work toward a dynamic correction to the adherence to erroneous precedents as seen in the Fukushima accident. Looking at the inside stories of TEPCO, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), and other governmental bodies that have been disclosed as being actors within the situation, there is the possibility of mutual “cover-ups” within and/or between those organizations, though the possibility of the dynamic correction of the adherence to erroneous precedents might still be left open. This difference is noteworthy because, even with the working of such a dynamic correction of the element of structural disaster enabling consideration of alternative possibilities and restarting of examination, the timing of the realization of the true cause of the Rinkicho accident was too late for Japan to reconsider the soundness of national decision-making before going to war in 1941.

When considering together the similarities between the Rinkicho accident and the Fukushima accident as structural disasters in terms of institutionalized secrecy and the difference as to whether the dynamic correction of adherence to erroneous precedents could work, there is the possibility that the elements of structural disaster embedded in the Fukushima accident will continue in a path-dependent manner. In such a case, the science-technology-society interface surrounding the Fukushima accident is likely unable to tolerate another impact from a serious and unexpected event, such as a second earthquake and tsunami and/or decontamination difficulty around some critical reactor areas and/or their abrupt uncontrollability.

One of the most important sociological implications of the Fukushima accident as structural disaster can be obtained from the scrutiny of the naval turbine accident that occurred immediately before WWII: How to avoid the worst-case scenario. To do so, the seemingly structurally robust but functionally disintegrated science-technology-society interface should be changed, because of the presence of institutionalized secrecy and other elements of structural disaster.*4 As long as functional disintegration of the science-technology-society interface continues to exist and operates behind the institutionally legitimate facade of structural integration, a similar dangerous weakness, in a possibly larger-scale social context, could arise. Ultimately, the functional disintegration through structural interdependence, accompanied by institutionalized secrecy and the suppression of negative information, could give rise to structural disaster in the future extreme events.

This chapter has shown that, as far as structural disaster is concerned, there is no demarcation between the pre-war social context - such as the wartime mobilization of science and technology' resulting in nuclear bombing - and the postwar one of promoting science and technology in peacetime manifested in nuclear reactors. In fact, there are structural similarities between the pre-war naval turbine accident and the post-war Fukushima accident in four different terms of structural disaster: adherence to erroneous precedents that causes problems to be carried forward and reproduced; institutionalized secrecy; the coexistence of structural integration and functional disintegration of the science-technology-society interface; and the interdependence of success and failure among the interdependence of the units of a system. The third point is a novel insight that was obtained from the analyses of the behavioral patterns of the agents involved in the pre-war accident with a comparative perspective using the Fukushima accident.

Structural integration coupled with functional disintegration in the science- technology-society interface has a telling sociological implication because, based on the analysis of the hidden pre-war accident, such a coupling eventually was the result of institutionalized secrecy as implied by structural disaster. Hence, if the Fukushima accident is a structural disaster, there is the possibility' that structural integration coupled with functional disintegration will occur again as the end state of the accident in the future. Although what the end state actually means in the post-Fukushima situation depends on further investigation, it could mean that the connection between structural disaster and its end state cut through completely different social contexts.

By focusing on structural integration coupled with functional disintegration through the lens of structural disaster, it is evident that while there are opposite social contexts among the two accidents (wartime versus peacetime), structural disaster in peacetime as seen by the Fukushima accident does not guarantee that tlie end state of the accident will be peaceful, as opposed to the outbreak of war after the Rinkicho accident.

This chapter’s key insights penetrate the dichotomous distinction between pre- war/military and post-war/peaceful regimes and thereby provide an important frame of reference from which to view unfolding events and/or states ensuing from structural disaster, freed from a narrative-in-hindsight that relies on the dichotomous distinction between wartime and peacetime. Once presupposed ways of thinking about wartime versus peacetime are liberated, the need to change the status quo via the will of the people who suffered from the event such as the Fukushima accident is clear, for the purpose of instituting a significant structural remedy. The remedy should extend beyond countermeasures that only temporarily patch over present troubles and serve to save face of responsible agents who are or are willing to be unaware of structural continuity running through pre-war/military and post-war/peaceful regimes.

5 A structural disaster in environmentally friendly oceanic energy development

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >