It’s research time! Over the next two years, the Nuclear Regulation Authority is going to make public around 900,000 pages of documents concerning the Fukushima nuclear crisis. The plans to digitize the material, much of it previously unreleased, will mean that independent researchers, academics, the media and the general public will have access to important information about the truth of the 3/11 nuclear catastrophe.
The project will make accessible documents from all ministries and agencies connected with the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but it will not include material from the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco). Those documents should also be made accessible since they contain critical information about the disaster that cannot be found elsewhere. Considering that Tepco owes its continued existance as a private company to the fact that it was bailed out with taxpayer money, it should not try to hide facts about the disaster from the public. If it does not voluntarily release the information, the government should pursue all available means to force it to do so.
The documents in the NRA’s computer system will be searchable by keywords online and available to anyone. This access is what a democratic society demands. The public has a right to know this information and how the ministries and agencies made decisions based on that information. They can decide then what failures and mistakes happened. Without knowing the facts, the public essentially remains in the dark about the most serious crisis in Japan in decades.
The release of information will be an important turning point in understanding what happened, but more importantly it will help to decide what should be done in the future. The problems associated with nuclear energy in Japan remain unresolved, and these documents will be crucial to shaping the best energy policy for the nation. The information can help to evaluate how well nuclear energy has, or has not, been regulated in the past and how well a crisis can, or cannot be, handled in the future.
The information will help to establish responsibility, upgrade safety standards, and determine whether nuclear energy really can be made safe or not.
These documents are not about historical trivia. They are about a vital ongoing issue of safety in the lives of Japanese. Their release is an important step forward and an example of why freedom of information is one of the most important means to ensure the safety of citizens. This is all the more reason why it is critical that Tepco release all documents in its possession that are related to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.