The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a major energy accident, which shook the world with the depth of its destruction to humans, property and the environment. The disaster happened at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant located in Japan on March 11, 2011. It was classified as level 7 by the International Nuclear Event Scale, meaning it was a major accident. The general cause of the accident has often been attributed to a tsunami which occurred on the same day of the event (Katata et al., 2015). Meanwhile, there are significant ethical issues that can be associated with the actions of leaders who were either directly or indirectly involved in the disaster. That is, investigations by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) revealed that leaders could have foreseen the accident and prevented it if basic safety requirements including risk assessment were duly followed (Hayama et al., 2017).
The negligence of the leaders to take the right safety precautions is considered an ethical issue because authorities of the company involved, which is Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted a day after the accident that it did not take the right measures because it feared such measured could result in lawsuits and protests against the company (Fackler, 2012). Such a position by the company clearly shows that the put the financial interest of the company ahead of those of the general public, including the safety of the people. Such actions breech the sustainability philosophy, which focuses not only on economic development but also on social and environmental ones (Katata et al., 2015). The company was therefore totally negligent but disaster management agencies took drastic steps at controlling the effect of the disaster after it had occurred. For example the government implemented a four-stage evacuation process, which was a full scale evacuation process to get people in the affected areas to move as far as they could from the disaster as possible.
Cleaning up of nuclear spills is more difficult than other forms of solid and liquid spills. For this reason, the strategy adopted by the company with regards to cleaning up was to contain the extent of spread of the harmful gas. This decision was influenced by significant external pressures, not only from government but also from civil society. The concerns of these people were very legitimate, given the fact that any delays in neutralizing the atmosphere within the affected areas could lead to serious risks from radiations. Indeed, no direct fatalities were associated with the event but there continues to be reports about how close to 1,6000 deaths that occurred in elderly people after the disaster could be associated with radiation issues from the disaster (Hayama et al., 2017). Even though the clean-up occurred, there have been significant criticism about poor communication and delays during the process, leading to the deaths that occurred after.
The issue of poor communication and delays in clean-up can be seen to be a social responsibility ethical issue. That is, the company clearly did not conduct itself in a way that showed that it had the interest of society at heart. Rather than being socially responsible, the company continued counting its financial losses. This is however not a situation that did not face much criticism. Even though the event occurred in Japan, it was criticized globally, affecting the ethical culture in the United States also. for example after the disaster, several US companies came to make pledges about their ethical commitments for social responsibility and the protection of human lives, property and the environment (Fackler, 2012). Such considerations were pledged to be made ahead of economic or financial interests of the companies and it became a binding ethical contract between companies, particularly those in the oil and gas industry and the general public.
- Fackler, M. (2012). “Japan Power Company Admits Failings on Plant Precautions”. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- Hayama, S. I., Tsuchiya, M., Ochiai, K., Nakiri, S., Nakanishi, S., Ishii, N., … & Omi, T. (2017). Small head size and delayed body weight growth in wild Japanese monkey fetuses after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Scientific reports, 7(1), 3528.
- Katata, G., Chino, M., Kobayashi, T., Terada, H., Ota, M., Nagai, H., … & Torii, T. (2015). Detailed source term estimation of the atmospheric release for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident by coupling simulations of an atmospheric dispersion model with an improved deposition scheme and oceanic dispersion model. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics, 15(2).