5 Dec 2012

OIST BOG Member Awarded for Fukushima Nuclear Investigation

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced on December 3 it will award a member of the OIST Board of Governors (BOG) for his investigation into the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. AAAS chose a surprised Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa to receive their prestigious 2012 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award, which recognizes exceptional scientists and engineers working toward scientific freedom, particularly with regards to public policy.

As chair for the first independent Nuclear Accident Investigation Commission chartered by the National Diet, Kurokawa swiftly compiled a thorough report in an astonishing six months. The work included multiple site visits, international travel to consult with experts, hundreds of hours of meetings, and more than 1100 interviews, which included evacuees and workers. The Commission concluded that important preventative measures and regulatory oversight to protect the public were absent.

“Developed countries usually establish independent commissions,” he said, citing his initial reaction to public calls for a probe. “So why aren’t we doing this?” He was unanimously chosen by Parliament to lead this subpoena-empowered committee, the first in Japan’s constitutional history, he said, but his initial hurdle, he said, was locating suitable staff.  “My first thought was, mission impossible!”

Remarkably, Kurokawa set the bar for transparency by live streaming and simultaneously translating into English all but one of his Committee meetings online. He reached out to the world on this issue through social media--Facebook, Twitter and his blog, which is written in both Japanese and English.

Kurokawa hoped that by broadcasting interviews and translations in English online, the entire world could learn from Japan’s mistakes. By outlining seven recommendations in the Commission’s report that Japan must take in the future, and making transparent the entire investigative process, he aims to reinstate faith in Japan’s capabilities.

“If Japan does not learn from the lessons of Fukushima nor change the many systematic problems of Japanese society, I believe that it is inevitable for this country to sink,” he writes in his blog.

Kurokawa not only broke tradition in accountability in Japan, but also embraced modern technology to do it. “Now, it’s known to the world; lessons must be learned and shared,” he said of the Commission’s report.  

He travels to Boston to accept the AAAS award next February, honoring his efforts to expose the truth of that tragic day in March of 2011.

 

Dr. Kurokawa has held top-level positions such as President of the Science Council of Japan and Special Advisor to the Cabinet of Science, Technology, and Innovation. As an advocate of educational reform in Japan, he has been involved in the creation of OIST since 2005. Currently he is an Academic Fellow of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. Among his rewards, Dr. Kurokawa also received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.

By Amy West


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