Nuclear risk governance in Japan came to the fore of public concern following the triple disasters of March 11, 2011. For the first time since atomic energy was incepted, citizens became aware that despite pervasive narratives of technological safety, nuclear power poses a tangible risk on people’s lives. In this context, 3.11 reveals the urban and compound nature of contemporary disasters. Regardless of having taken place in a nonurban region, the effects of the earthquake, tsunami and cascading accidents at the Fukushima plant were severely compounded by inadequate decision-making in the capital. Lack of transparency, lack of governance and poor risk communication emerged as salient issues affecting disaster prevention and response. This chapter interrogates the historical and political context that paved the road to the worst nuclear accident in recent times. It then discusses institutional weaknesses in safety assessments and describes conflicts that characterized the expansion of nuclear power. Finally, it argues that in order not to repeat the same mistakes that led to the Fukushima catastrophe, important lessons in nuclear risk governance have yet to be learned. These include the need for greater transparency, strengthening the independence of regulatory bodies, the importance of taking into account people’s perceptions of nuclear energy, facilitating citizen participation in the construction of risk discourses and acknowledging the vital role of cities (especially Tokyo) in disaster governance.
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