Monday, September 26, 2016

Fukushima – the Truth at Last

By Pascal Dennis

Problems are gold – make them visible.
Toyota proverb

That’s how I was taught at TMMC our fine old plant in Cambridge Ontario. But evidently, there’s a very different mental model in nuclear power industry.


The past few years I’ve reported the extraordinary story surrounding the nuclear meltdown at three Fukushima reactors in 2011. Well, the truth is finally out.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPPCO) President Naomi Hirose, and senior director Takafumi Anegawa have formally apologized to the people and President of Japan for TEPPCO’s lying about the biggest problem a nuclear power company can have.

An investigative report released last Thursday by three company-appointed lawyers said TEPCO's then-president, Masataka Shimizu, instructed officials not to use the phrase ‘meltdown’ under pressure from the prime minister's office, though the investigators found no proof of such pressure.

The report said TEPCO officials, who had suggested possible meltdowns, stopped using the description after March 14, 2011, when Shimizu's instruction was delivered to the vice president at the time, Sakae Muto, in a memo at a televised news conference. Shimizu had a company official show Muto his memo and tell him the prime minister's office has banned the specific words. Government officials also softened their language on the reactor conditions around the same time, the report said.

Former officials at the prime minister's office have denied the allegation...

Mr. Hirose said he will take a 10% pay cut, and another executive will take a 30% cut, for one month each to take responsibility. He vowed to take further steps to improve TEPCO's safety culture but ruled out a possibility to further investigate what really led to Shimizu's instructions.

Mama mia…

How do such cultures evolve? How to change such a culture? What kind of management system is needed? What kind of leadership is needed? What overall approach should we take?

I’ll share my reflections in the weeks to come.

Best regards,

Pascal


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