Nuclear "Regulatory Capture" -- A Global Pattern
by Karl Grossman
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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,
as 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
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
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
New 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.