Ten years after Fukushima, Japan remembers 'man-made' nuclear disaster
Japan then caused a nuclear power plant in Fukushima to go into meltdown. It was a traumatizing event, one that left the Japanese public and the world wanting guarantees that a nuclear disaster like that would never happen again. But can Japan make that promise? Some of Japan's most prominent earthquake, experts say. Not really the world's Patrick win has more. Okumura. Koji is a paleo seismologist. That means he studies earthquakes, old earthquakes that may have shaken the earth. When wooly mammoths were still around. It's like archaeology off course Quake. Archaeology of earthquakes. Sounds really nish on Lee. It's not. It's actually a matter of life and death because if they fault erupted even 10,000 years ago, that's a sign that it might erupt again in our lifetime, and you really shouldn't build a nuclear reactor anywhere near it. Because this could happen. In 2011 tsunami created by an undersea earthquake that squeaking noise, those air buildings crumbling in a torrent of water. And at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Waves pounded the power plant, causing a meltdown. It happened on March 11 and Japanese people still call it 3 11 shorthand for catastrophe now, Okumura. He is one of the top earthquake experts in Japan. And before 3 11. He was on a government safety panel as a caveat. He wants to say this. Nobody knew and nobody could have predicted kid. What he means is no one could have predicted this earthquake at this specific time. But Okumura and a few others were warning the nuclear industry that some of their reactors were sitting on potentially shaky ground. In those days, nuclear companies were almost regulating themselves. But after 3 11, Japan started over what they knew nuclear watchdog agency one with an unofficial motto, the new nuclear regulatory regime in Japan must be the world's strictest, which tracks with an acknowledgement that seismic risk in Japan is among the world's worst. Drew Richard is an author whose new book, Every Human Intention follows Scientists struggling to figure out how to prevent another Fukushima because that's what people want to hear. Alice that this will never happen again. Okamura, the seismologist says. That's almost an impossible request. We cannot tell when underwear a big Oscar eco cars, he can tell you this, like it or not. No nuclear problem. These profit pretty save Every nuclear power plant, he says, comes with risk, especially in Japan. Here's the deal. Japan just doesn't have much oil or gas. So starting in the 19 sixties, with lots of American help, it went heavy on nuclear to power, one of the world's biggest economies. And they did this. Knowing Japan as a lot of earthquakes again. Here's Drew Richard nearly all of Japan in nearly all the sites where nuclear reactors are built, our seismically hazardous. It's a nation that faces a level of seismic risk that's almost uniformly comparable to Seismically active areas of California on Lee, California has one nuclear plant. Japan was running 50 Woz after 3 11 that nuclear watchdog shut down all of them. It has since allowed only five to reopen. Watchdog is so strict that even experts who were advising the government before the disaster are effectively not allowed to join. That includes scientists like Okumura, Koji. And others who were warning the government, Okumura says. They just scrap the whole system for them, or the system was useless and I'm used to, and I'm useless to, he says. Other Japanese seismologists, who could join the watchdog agency won't because well, scientists don't want the spotlight the immense political pressure Okumura says. Right now, the agency actually does not have a solid team of earthquake specialist say Don't Tall, you know, professional scientists. Yes, it's a big laws. Drew Richard says. Most earthquake experts agree seismic safety is a real blind spot in a real weak spot for the current regulatory agency. And that's glaring because the Fukushima disaster was a seismic event. That's bad, Richard says. The current top seismic safety regulator isn't really an earthquake expert. He's more of a geologist, so it's a little bit like asking an influential kidney doctor to operate on your heart. Richard says most officials mean well, yet they face a traumatized public. Still looking to scientist for peace of mind the expertise of these earthquakes, scientists has been applied to Ah, fundamentally impossible question that question. Are any of those dozens of reactor sites absolutely safe from earthquakes. And as it turns out on the basis of the limits of human knowledge At this time, the answer is maybe we don't know. At this point half of all Japanese people just don't want nuclear power at all. Nuclear companies are pushing to reopen their reactors, but keep getting denied. Try again, Regulators say, Make it safer. Meanwhile, with most nuclear plants closed, Japan has had to import way more coal, dirty polluting coal warming the whole planet and people aren't happy with that, either. Just listen to these protesters. Follows at US. I'll call, you know, Call Japan. They're chanting, Okamoto says. There are no easy solutions here. He knows the public. Just want scientist to tell them their energy source is safe. What science can never be published again. It's the nature or not. You're Hauser. I admit he also admits that actually, he wants more nuclear plants to open up. That's coming from the scientist who foresaw Lay Fukushima like nuclear nightmare. Look, some of Japan's plans should clearly never open again, He says. They're just too close to fault lines. For others. The odds of another earthquake seem low enough that Japan should take the risk. He says. The country needs power. Yes, I'm afraid people against nuclear power may be hungry after me. Just try not to be too angry at me, Okumura says. He's just a guy who wanted to study prehistoric earthquakes, never imagining that pursuit could affect the fate of his country. And the entire planet. For the world. I'm Patrick Quinn.