Speaking to NHK's "Project Wisdom," Carnegie's Mark Hibbs discussed a number of questions sparked by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, official reactions to that accident, and the challenges of decommissining the plant.

Mark Hibbs
Hibbs is a Germany-based nonresident senior fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program. His areas of expertise are nuclear verification and safeguards, multilateral nuclear trade policy, international nuclear cooperation, and nonproliferation arrangements.
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Hibbs pointed out that on March 11, 2011, there was no defense against the tsunami, which destroyed the seawater pumps, leaving no cooling capacity for the Fukushima Daiichi reactors or the emergency power supplies which started up after the earthquake. In the end, said Hibbs, "there was no cooling capacity in the reactors."

"The bottom line is that TEPCO was basically unprepared for this accident," added Hibbs. "There was unnecessary debate in Japan and elsewhere about whether the event was level five or level seven, but the event scale was designed as a public relations tool to show the world that most of these events are level zero; anything above level two means that a nuclear reactor is in big trouble."

Furthermore, said Hibbs, there was no understanding between the government and TEPCO about who was actually responsible for managing the accident. "In Japan there was a micromanagement of the events on the ground from Tokyo and it led to a lot of wasted time," he argued.