The Art of Change by Crisis

―Japan’s nuclear policy after the Fukushima nuclear accident―

September 20, 2018 6:00 PM (finished)

Florentine Koppenborg

(Technical University of Munich)

Date/Time September 20, 2018 6:00 PM
Location Room 549 5th floor, Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo  [map]
Abstract The Fukushima nuclear accident eroded trust in the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan. In response, nuclear safety administration was reformed in a bid to strengthen nuclear safety and regain public trust. After similar efforts following the Mutsu nuclear powered ship accident in 1974 and the 1999 Tokaimura criticality accident, nuclear power promotion continued unabated. This time, however, the creation of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) inadvertently put Japan on a path towards a nuclear phase out. Despite pressure from a powerful coalition of actors pushing for restarts, dubbed the “nuclear village” by critics, five years after Fukushima, nuclear power made up only two percent of the electricity generated in Japan. Why was the outcome of nuclear safety reforms different this time? In answering this question, the presentation focusses on two things: the nature of the newly established NRA, and the reform process itself. As an independent regulatory agency, the NRA proved able to defy pressure from the pro-nuclear coalition. It forced an internalisation of safety costs and broke the information monopoly pro-nuclear actors had held for decades. Moreover, this time the reform process included new agents of change, which were able to steer the outcome in a different direction. These include the DPJ government in 2011/12 as well as international actors that had not participated in previous Japanese safety reforms. The findings presented are the result of a three-year research project on nuclear safety governance reform in the wake of the Fukushima accident.
Bio Florentine Koppenborg received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the Free University of Berlin in 2017. Since October 2017, she has been working as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Chair of Environmental and Climate Policy at the School of Governance, Technical University of Munich. She is teaching comparative environmental politics, sustainability transition studies and global environmental governance. Her research interests include energy and climate policy, particularly related to energy transition (“Energiewende”), and possible conflicts with climate policy goals. She is the author of several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on Japan’s nuclear energy and climate policy. Currently she is working on a book manuscript titled “The Art of Change by Crisis: Japan’s nuclear policy 1955-2017.”