Via Nature News Blog: Japanese science ministry takes partial blame for tsunami and meltdown. Excerpt from a very interesting post:
Japan’s ministry of science and education was supposed to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first annual White Paper on Science and Technology with the 2011 edition.
Instead of a long spread of great achievements by Japanese scientists over the past five decades, however, the document, which was approved by the government yesterday, became the latest mea culpa for the poor handling of last March’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. The document puts the spotlight on the responsibility of the countries’ scientists and engineers.
Yasuhiro Yukimatsu, director of the ministry’s Strategic Programs Division and head of the 6-person team that put the 260-page document together, says it’s the first time that the ministry’s White Paper has become a work of atonement.
The list of failings is by now familiar: scientists lacked “fundamental knowledge about the mechanism of ocean trench earthquakes” and didn’t predict the possibility of a mega-earthquake. They underestimated the height of the tsunami and produced a hazard map with a large gap between estimated and actual inundation. Risk communication efforts failed to prepare citizens for the unexpected.
The document also pointed to slow and inconsistent handling of various crucial endeavors after Fukushima nuclear reactors went haywire: establishing and lifting evacuation zones, implementing radiation monitoring, sizing up the effects on human health, decontaminating the environment and food, communicating risk, and the ongoing difficulties in decommissioning the reactors.
Headlines of most Japanese newspapers have introduced the document as expressing, on behalf of the Japanese scientific community, “deep regret”.