Causes of Fukushima disaster exist in Canada, says Greenpeace

Feature story - February 28, 2012
The Fukushima nuclear disaster was not caused by a freak act of nature but rather by failures of the Japanese government, its nuclear safety watchdog and the nuclear industry, says a new report released today by Greenpeace International. This raises questions about the safety of Canada’s nuclear stations, says Greenpeace Canada.


“The Fukushima disaster was caused by the choice of Japanese authorities to ignore risks and prioritize the interest of the nuclear industry over public safety. This underlines the need for an independent nuclear safety watchdog that allows meaningful public participation and scrutiny to ensure protecting Canadians comes before protecting the nuclear industry,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

Greenpeace International commissioned several international experts to examine the causes of Fukushima and the adequacy of Japan’s response to the environmental and human disaster. The report Lessons from Fukushima draws two significant conclusions:

  • The Fukushima disaster discredits the nuclear industry and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) claim that the probability of a significant nuclear accident is very low. The industry maintains that the risk of a significant reactor accident is once every million years of reactor operation. Instead, the observed frequency of significant nuclear accidents is once a decade.
  • A key cause of Fukushima was the political influence of the nuclear industry on Japan’s safety regulator. The failure of human institutions is also a key cause of past nuclear accidents.

“In light of the Fukushima disaster, we can now see how dangerous the Harper government’s decision was to fire former nuclear safety watchdog president Linda Keen for enforcing modern nuclear safety standards. It sends a signal to industry and our federal regulator that nuclear safety can be ignored or dismissed. This same political environment set the stage for Fukushima,” said Stensil. The Harper government fired Keen in 2008 and installed a new president.

The CNSC’s response to the Fukushima disaster has focused on technical issues as opposed to institutional failures that led to the Fukushima disaster. Greenpeace says this should raise questions about CNSC’s unqualified claim that Canadian reactors are ‘safe’ in its draft Fukushima report.

“Canadians continue to be told that the chance of a major reactor accident is one in a million when in reality we’ve been seeing a meltdown once a decade. Canadians should not be forced to live with the myth of nuclear safety. We should follow the lead of other countries that have chosen to eliminate nuclear risks by investing in renewable energy,” said Stensil.

Download the report Lessons from Fukushuma
Download the executive summary