The Fukushima, Japan Mega-Disaster (updated)


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Fifteen Lessons to Be Learned

The Fukushima, Japan Mega-Disaster that occurred on March 11, 2011 (2:45 PM Japan Time) will continue to unfold its tragic consequences for years to come.  The tragedy must not pass without extensive public and private discussions and reports of the lessons learned from the disaster. As the events unfolded (e.g., earthquake, tsunami, nuclear radiation) each disaster problem became compounded in a seemingly endless list of tragedies (i.e., deaths, injuries, food, housing/shelter, medical care, communications, animal care, disease vectors, economic losses, political deceit and misrepresentation, long-term human, environmental, and economic costs, sacrifice of containment worker lives).  The following list is a beginning, in my opinion, of what needs to be done so that any future tragedies can be responded more effectively and more humanely. Please add to the list.

Lessons to Be Learned

1. Control of Nuclear Industry Lobbyists: Efforts must be made to resist and control individual lobbyists and organized lobbyist groups from influencing the construction of nuclear plant.  All lobbyist activities must be published in the media with regard to the individuals or organizations targeted, the lobbyists engaged in their efforts, the amounts being expended, and risk statements of any proposals.  Special attention must be given to the disposal of nuclear materials.

2.  Laws and Regulations Are Needed: Efforts must be made to develop laws and other regulatory statutes that require complete transparency by all officials involved with any disaster including local, national, international  governmental, commercial, military, and media source. The laws must provide for punishments for any and all organizations that engage in deceit and deception regarding the status and implications of the disaster.   Laws and statutes must resist any “en loco parentis”  (i.e., acting as protective parents).

3.  Identification of Fault and Liability: Efforts must be made to prepare fault and risk statements regarding all post-natural and post-man-made disasters with regard to individuals and to governmental, commercial, military, medical, NGO, and media organizations. Offenses can be both criminal and civil.

4. Research and Evaluations of Existing Nuclear Plants: Efforts must be made to conduct extensive research and evaluations of all existing nuclear power plant for risks from possible natural and man-made disasters. Disaster likelihood statements must be prepared that identify vulnerabilities and consequences (e.g., San Andreas Fault Lines and existing nuclear power plants).  Disaster drills must be conducted. Table 1 lists disaster types.

5. Site Risk Indices: Efforts must be made to prepare lists of possible natural and man-made disasters for different global world locations (i.e., Risk index ).

6.Disaster Resource Supplies: Efforts must be made to develop disaster planning resources that are kept in active condition with regard to basic essentials for survival including food, water, housing, transportation, medical care, clothing, and communication.

7. Disaster Team Resources: Efforts must be made to develop disaster response teams that include a broad spectrum of resources personnel to enhance recovery including mental health, economic reconstruction, media/communication trained personnel.

8. Building Sustainable Communities and Nations: Efforts must be made to build and rebuild sustainable communities capable of relying on their own needs for food, water, shelter, energy and emergency services.  A priority must be placed on efforts must be made to develop individual, familial, neighborhood, community, regional, and national sustainability.

9. Education Regarding Energy: Efforts must be made to create educational programs to increase public consciousness of energy expenditures (i.e., carbon footprints) for individuals, communities, and nations.

10. Funding for Alternative Energy Sources: Efforts must be made to fund research in new and massive amounts on alternative energy sources including wind, solar, geo-thermal conversion, ocean-thermal conversion, algae conversion, re-processing grease, waste methane gas, and fusion.

11. Standards for Response: Efforts must be made to develop local, national, and international standards must be developed with regard to essential, necessary, and acceptable disaster responses capabilities.  These efforts must include public input and consultation.

12. Immediate and Long-Term Care: Efforts must be made to develop emergency, short-term, midterm and long terms resources must be established to monitor consequences (i.e., Victim needs may continue for generations).

13.Public Consciousness of Disasters: Efforts must be made to raise public consciousness of the human, environmental, and economic  costs of all natural and man-made disasters in the 20th and 21rst Centuries. While these are present on the internet, there is often little enduring awareness or consciousness of them beyond the victims.  I will call this disaster consciousness.

14. United Nations: Efforts must be made to increase UN effectiveness, efficiency, involvment and authority in addressing all aspects disaster preparation and response. Increase awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

15.Nuclear Waste: Address the issue of nuclear waste disposal and the risks this imposes for the world.  Identity disposal sites, longevity issues, and consequences.

In a global era in which all of our lives, and the lives of all living beings — including the environment — has become increasingly interdependent, efforts must be made to promote an understanding of the growing frequency, severity, and consequences of natural and man-made disasters.  We — life itself — can no longer afford responses that are inadequate to the task because of poor planning and preparation, and the protection of those at fault. The entire world has watched in horror at the scores of egregious offenses and excuses by governmental and commercial leaders designed to protect narrow interests at the expense of the people and nation of Japan, and the world. This is no longer acceptable or tolerable.

Table 1

Disaster Types

From Marsella, A.J., et al (Eds) (2008). Ethnocultural Perspectives on Trauma and Disasters. NY: Springer SBM Publishers

Natural Disasters Human Caused Disasters

Catastrophic Disasters

(i.e., Massive destruction)




Ice and Hail Storms

Insects (e.g., Locusts)



Secondary Disasters

(e.g., unemployment, violence, rioting)


Tsunami (Tidal Wave)


Volcanic Eruptions

Asteroids , Meteors

Species Extinction (Bees, Plankton)

Sink Holes


Accidents in Communities or Work Sites Bomb Ecological Destruction (e.g., Acid Rain, Global Warming) Nuclea Leaks and Meltdowns Oil Spills (Wells and Ships) Terrorist Attacks Toxic Waste Spills Transportation Accidents (e.g., Air, Sea, Train) War and Civil Destruction Acts Nuclear Waste Disposal Mining Disasters because of Human Failures

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D,  Emeritus Professor, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822. April 17, 2011. Dr. Marsella is the former co-founder and director of the Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Program (1997) at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of many publications on trauma, and has served as a consultant to national and international government agencies. He is the senior editor of Ethnocultural Perspectives on Disaster and Trauma: Foundations, Issues, and Applications (2009). NY: Springer SBM Publishers (ISBN: 978-0-387-73284-8).


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Apr 2011.

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