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Endogenous causes, risks perception and policy responses to the Fukushima disaster–political ecology comments

Schneider, Nicolas (2023) Endogenous causes, risks perception and policy responses to the Fukushima disaster–political ecology comments. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 90. ISSN 2212-4209

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2023.103650


On Friday, March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake produced a 46 feet high tsunami that hit and flooded the northeast part of Japan's main island. Being damaged, the cooling system of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant failed to avoid the cores of three nuclear reactors to melt down, which led to three hydrogen explosions releasing radioactive particles over the Pacific Ocean, with disastrous human and biodiversity consequences. In each aspect of a cataclysm intervene complex processes of power relationships, historical dynamics, and political forces, framing the way societies represent, absorb, and respond to a shock. In this paper, we take those events as illustrative cases and conduct a stepwise political ecology analysis. First, we assess the fundamental causes of the Tōhoku earthquake and underline why qualifying it as natural, random, and exogenous makes it apolitical, and dilutes some responsibilities into the civil society. Then, we show how the belief in technological solutionism may have partially fuelled a myth of nuclear safety, widely shared in Fukushima, and disguised other less obvious vulnerability evidence. Along with power dynamics illustrations, we shed light on the political discourses that undermined the nuclear risks perception of the population which set the conditions of an insufficient society's preparedness to a nuclear incident. Next, the disaster’ impacts and their unequal distribution across social lines are assessed, highlighting how the most vulnerable groups could have been ex-ante identified. Furthermore, we document how government responses, embedded into a larger technical pattern, may have disregarded some political and social contexts, or narratives. Inversely, we argue that the immediate public intervention tended to deepen the ruts of social differences, while fueling household's conflicts around socially constructed notions of gender that weakened the resilience of rural communities. Overall, we suggest that the waste management strategy opted by the authority, along with its maintained ambitious nuclear agenda, not only failed to internalize the lessons from this disaster but planted the seeds of new potential environmental justice issues.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 Elsevier Ltd.
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
J Political Science
Q Science > QE Geology
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2023 13:36
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2024 21:09

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