Today former prime minister Kan Naoto is appearing before the Diet's "Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Power Plant Accident Investigative Committee" (Tokyo denryoku Fukushima genpatsu jiko chosa iinkai). Kan's testimony is the culmination of the Committee's investigations, which have seen former minister after former minister summoned to tell his version of what happened during the first few hours, days and weeks of the Fukushima Dai'ichi disaster. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio had his day before the Committee yesterday (On a Sunday! The Diet is normally like Melina Mercouri -- never on a Sunday!).
Today, however, is the grand finale, the final act, where the biggest fish in the sea is hauled out and interrogated about his actions and decisions in the most hectic and desperate days this blessed land has known since 1945.
The Committee's chairman is Kurokawa Kiyoshi (bio), a Fellow at National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) and an emeritus professor of Tokyo University. Despite the pointed, possibly highly technical questions it might ask, the Committee is likely to not be the kangaroo court the opposition and members of the news media desire.
Nevertheless, the news media and the opposition will hover like vultures over Kan's testimony, trying to find sentences to misconstrue, quote in isolation and otherwise tease and torture until meaning is drained from them. The colossal politico-media-entertainment squid bought into and promoted a narrative that the PM was an impediment to those who were fighting a panicked and ultimately failed effort to prevent meltdowns, explosions and the release of many terabequerels of radiation. Its members even went so far as to accuse him of initiating cascades of events that worsened the disaster.
So far, the news has accentuated the negative:
Japan refused US offer of nuclear experts in PM office
Edano: PM's office did not block use of 'meltdown'
Japan government spokesman says he didn’t deliberately mislead public on nuclear crisis
(Check out the accompanying photo. Shameless!)
As can be expected, each of the participants has used the occasion of his testimony to exonerate himself (E - photo issue as above). As a consequence, the final report of the Committee is likely to present a braid of different narratives, rather than a definitive chain of causation.
Most desperate to get their version out are the Tokyo Electric Power executives, who were not interviewed for the most recently compiled comprehensive investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster, produced by Funabashi Yoiichi's Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (Link - J). If anybody has had a story to tell (and I do mean story) it is TEPCO executives, particularly as then president Shimizu Masataka checked himself into a hospital less than two weeks into the crisis. (E)
In the end, the report will disappoint those who want someone to blame. A giant earthquake and a towering tsunami hit a nuclear power station designed to resist the greatest natural blow this blessed land had heretofore experienced, not a black swan event. With the main and backup systems gone, everyone, with the possible exception of the TEPCO executives and the unprepared public information service of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, performed heroic ad hoc efforts to bring the nuclear reactors under control and ensure the public's safety.
So while the wire services, the nightly news on the anti-DPJ channels and even the reports the neutral channels, out of a misunderstanding of the concept of fairness, will bore in on the confusion and improvisation in March and early April 2011, and tomorrow's newspapers will echo and elaborate upon tonight's themes, the truth is that individuals like former Prime Minister Kan and plant manager Yoshida Masao, by following their better instincts, led others to do the same, and prevented a disaster from becoming a cataclysm.
Hold up your chin, blessed land, for producing men and women such as these.