The First Tsukuba ICR Seminar was held at the University of Tsukuba

The Institute for Comparative Research in Human and Social Science organized its first ICR seminar on ‘the Fukushima Disaster and Japan’s Nuclear Plant Vulnerability in Comparative Perspective’ at the University of Tsukuba on July 11,

2014. At the seminar, Dr. Phillip Y. Lipscy, Assistant Professor, Political Science and Thomas Rholen Center Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center Stanford University, USA, presented a comparative study about the Fukushima disaster in 2011. His study is based on the Joint project with Kenji Kushida and Trevor Incerti and is part of a broader project on the politics of energy.

After a brief introductory remarks by professor Yutaka Tsujinaka, an executive advisor to the president of the University of Tsukuba, Dr. Lipscy discussed whether Japan was uniquely under-prepared for a nuclear disaster? If so, why or why not. Then, he focused on the explanation about the variation in disaster preparedness across nuclear plant sites and as well as across countries. The study raised the question of whether other nuclear power plants would have fared any better if they had experienced a comparable nuclear disaster. Based on the within country comparison and the cross national comparison, his research project finds that Japan was indeed more exposed to a tsunami-induced nuclear disaster in cross national comparison, mostly due to natural vulnerability; however, there is an important variation within and outside of Japan. In Japan and abroad, large utilities (such as TEPCO) appear to under-invest in protection against disaster and deserve greater regulatory scrutiny.

Before ending the presentation, professor Lipscy outlined some future policy implications, which include risk assessment should be conducted by neutral parties, not utilities, and the large utilities should be subjected to particular scrutiny. However, in reality these are very difficult for political reasons, he mentioned.

The seminar was held on campus in the Jinsha seminar room A101 (1F Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences), where more than 20 participants engaged in a question-answer and a free discussion session on the Fukushima disaster, regulatory scrutiny of the large utilities and the overall vulnerability of the nuclear based energy. Along with the researcher, the participants expressed that more cross-national and comparative research on the politics of nuclear energy and its regulation would be useful to find out the future ways out. The presentation was conducted in English.