Nuclear "Regulatory Capture" -- A Global Pattern

by Karl Grossman
Investigative Reporter

The conclusion of a report of a Japanese parliamentary panel issued 
last week that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster was 
rooted in government-industry "collusion" and thus was "man-made" is 
mirrored throughout the world. The "regulatory capture" cited by the 
panel is the pattern among nuclear agencies right up to the 
International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of 
collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco [Tokyo 
Electric Power Company, the owner of the six Fukushima plants] and 
the lack of governance by said parties," said 
<>the 641-page 
report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation 
Commission released on July 5. "They effectively betrayed the 
nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we 
conclude that the accident was clearly 'man-made,'" said the report 
of the panel established by the National Diet or parliament of Japan.

"We believe the root causes were the organizational and regulatory 
system that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions," 
it went on. "Across the board, the commission found ignorance and 
arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with 
nuclear power." It said nuclear regulators in Japan and Tepco "all 
failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements."

The chairman of the 10-member panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical 
doctor, declared in the report's introduction: "It was a profoundly 
man-made disaster -- that could and should have been foreseen and prevented."

He also placed blame on cultural traits in Japan. "What must be 
admitted -- very painfully," wrote Dr. Kurokawa, "is that this was a 
disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in 
the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture; our reflexive 
obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 
'sticking with the programme'; our groupism; and our insularity."

In fact, the nuclear regulatory situation in Japan is the rule globally.

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, 
never denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear power 
plant anywhere, anytime. The NRC has been busy in recent times not 
only giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power plant construction in 
the U.S. but extending the operating licenses of most of the 104 
existing plants from 40 to 60 years -- although they were only 
designed to run for 40 years. That's because radioactivity embrittles 
their metal components and degrades other parts after 40 years, 
potentially making the plants unsafe to operate. And the NRC is now 
considering extending their licenses for 80 years.

Moreover, the NRC's chairman, Gregory Jaczko, recently resigned in 
the face of an assault on him by the nuclear industry and his four 
fellow NRC members led by William D. Magwood, IV. Magwood is typical 
of most NRC and AEC commissioners through the decades -- a zealous 
promoter of nuclear power. He came to the NRC after running Advanced 
Energy Strategies through which he served as a consultant to various 
companies involved with nuclear power including many in Japan -- 
among them Tepco, 
revealed by Ryan Grim on The Huffington Post.

Before that, Magwood served as director of nuclear energy for the 
U.S. Department of Energy. He "led the creation," according to his 
NRC biography, of DOE programs pushing nuclear power, "Nuclear Power 
2010" and "Generation IV." Prior to that, he worked for the Edison 
Electric Institute and Westinghouse, a major nuclear power plant manufacturer.

Jaczko, although a supporter of nuclear power, with a Ph.D. in 
physics, repeatedly called for the NRC to apply "lessons learned" 
from the Fukushima disaster to its rules and actions -- upsetting the 
industry and the other four NRC commissioners. As Jaczko declared in 
February as the other four NRC commissioners first approved the 
construction of new nuclear plants since Fukushima, giving the 
go-ahead to two plants in Georgia: "I cannot support issuing this 
license as if Fukushima had never happened."

The NRC was set up to be an independent regulator of nuclear power to 
replace the AEC which was established by Congress under the Atomic 
Energy Act of 1946. The AEC was given the dual missions of promoting 
and regulating nuclear power -- a conflict of interest, Congress 
realized in 1974, so it eliminated the AEC and created the NRC as 
regulator and, later, the Department of Energy as promoter of nuclear 
power. But both the NRC and DOE have ended up pushing nuclear power 
with revolving doors between them and the government's national 
nuclear laboratories -- and the nuclear industry.

The International Atomic Energy Agency was established as an 
international version of the AEC by the United Nations after a speech 
made at it by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 in which he 
espoused "Atoms for Peace." Its dual missions are serving as a 
monitor of nuclear technology globally while also seeking "to 
accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, 
health and prosperity throughout the world."

Its first director general was Sterling Cole who as a U.S. 
congressman was a big booster of nuclear power. Later came Hans Blix 
after he led a move in his native Sweden against an effort to close 
nuclear plants there. Blix was outspoken in seeking to spread nuclear 
power internationally calling for "resolute response by government, 
acting individually or together as in the [IAE] Agency."

Blix's long-time IAEA second-in command was Morris Rosen -- formerly 
of the AEC and before that the nuclear division of General Electric 
(which manufactured the Fukushima plants) -- who said after the 1986 
Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster: "There is very little doubt that 
nuclear power is a rather benign industrial enterprise and we may 
have to expect catastrophic accidents from time to time."

Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt followed Blix, and as he told an 
"International Conference on Nuclear Power for the 21st Century" 
organized by the IAEA in 2005: "There is clearly a sense of rising 
expectations for nuclear power."

The current IAEA director general is Yukiya Amano of Japan. In Vienna 
at the heaquarters of the IAEA, marking the first anniversary of the 
Fukushima disaster in March, Amano said: "Nuclear power is now safer 
than it was a year ago."


Shuya Nomura, a member of the Japanese investigation commission and a 
professor at the Chuo Law School, was quoted in the 
York Times as saying that the panel's report tried to "shed light on 
Japan's wider structural problems, on the pus that pervades Japanese society."

Those "wider structural problems" are far wider than Japan -- they 
are global. The "regulatory capture" cited in the Japanese panel's 
report has occurred all over the world -- with the nuclear industry 
and those promoting nuclear power in governments making sure that the 
nuclear foxes are in charge of the nuclear hen houses. The "pus that 
pervades Japanese society" is international.

With some very important exceptions, people have not adequately taken 
on the nuclear authorities. And we all must. The nuclear promoters 
have set up a corrupt system to enable them to get their way with 
their deadly technology. They have lied, they have connived, they 
have distorted governments. The nuclear industry is thus allowed to 
do whatever it wants. The nuclear pushers must be firmly challenged 
and they and nuclear power must be stopped.

Ring the bells that still can ring,  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen