{0>ۑ薼<}100{>Name of the Research Project<0}

Risk and Rationalities in Japan among Residents of Nuclear Plant Areas

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Tarek Katramiz


Graduate School of Media and Governance<0}



Tracking the Field: Outline of Research

Research design:

A research operationalization plan was drawn and executed in order to make the problem clearly distinguishable and to understand it in terms of empirical observations, also to achieve the objectives set out for this study and answer the questions formulated. This section discusses the type of research conducted, the reasoning framework and the methodology applied in the study. The techniques employed in data gathering are also described, as well as the sources of data and information.




In line with the objectives and questions, this study is a combination of an exploratory and descriptive research, which later on develops towards explanation. The exploratory part is primarily with regard to the part of the puzzle on the paradigm of human security, and the descriptive part accounts for risk element in the site of Hamaoka nuclear power plant. The explanatory component involves the merging of the two main themes, as an explanation of the problem is attempted.

The main objectives of wanting to understand and explore give reason for the study to be a qualitative research, primarily following an inductive line of reasoning. Utilizing qualitative methods were deemed appropriate for an in-depth understanding toward an explanation of the puzzles. The research was also patterned after Ecksteinfs conceptualization, which can be categorized as using a combined application of his disciplined-configurative and heuristic types of case studies. Disciplined- configurative case studies are studies where case interpretations are based on established or provisional theories. On the other hand, heuristic studies allow for the refinement of theories applied, as new ones are encountered or new puzzles/questions surface in the process of the research. This research is disciplined-configurative in the sense that the cases encountered were interpreted and analyzed following a thinking based on the human security and risk society framework. It is heuristic in its approach on the analysis, as the researcher encountered new theories and concepts during the period of study and applied this to the research. With regard to the writing of this actual thesis including the discussion, interpretation and analysis of data, the approach used is primarily, but not purely, etic intertwined with reflexive discussions. This is akin to the Bifurcated Approach as conceptualized by Deborah Padgett in her treatise on qualitative research. In this thesis, the reflexive discussions are not annexed, but are included in the main sections, particularly in the discussion of the fieldwork conducted and in the analysis.




In line with a qualitative research, several data gathering techniques were used. First among these are the three basic modes of qualitative date gathering: interviews, observation and document analysis. In addition, the researcher also participated in relevant focus group discussions and academic symposia. This section briefly describes how these techniques were applied and their significance to the research. Details of the actual research conducted (i.e. fieldwork site and informant profiles, etc.) are discussed in the next section.

The interviews that were conducted have both gordinaryh community residents and identified key informants as respondents. The interview of residents and village officials were undertaken in their natural settings, within their own communities and in the middle of what their regular activity at a specific time. The fieldwork research sites selected had one required characteristic – that these have been directly affected by living next to a nuclear plant. This follows another emphasized trait of a qualitative research, the natural setting that maintains the context of the interviews in the respondentsf realities. The identification and final selection of the sites however, depended on the feasibility of going into the villages under constraints of safety/security considerations and resource limitations. This was supplemented by attending a focus group discussion, which was organized and facilitated by a civil society organization

The key informant interviews served, among others, as a tool to verify the information gathered from the community interviews. Key informants were selected to give different perspectives on the topic from their own experiences in their engagements in Hamaoka nuclear plant communites. They are composed of people from local government, civil society organizations and the academe. Information and insights gathered from the FGDs, roundtable discussions and symposia, which the researcher participated in, were treated as key informant responses. In addition to airing/raising questions and other relevant concerns during the discussion portions of the programs attended, the researcher also had informal conversations with other key participants in said events, as well as communicated with them through e-mail for further exchange of information specific to the study.

The interviews were in-depth and lasted no shorter than half an hour. For greater flexibility while maintaining structure, interviews were semi-structured and employed the interview guide strategy. The interviews were also conducted in a manner that engaged the informants in a conversational approach, instead of a rigid question-answer format. The interviews were conducted in the Japanese language.

The observation employed for the research was also of two kinds, participant and non-participant. Non-participant observation particularly took place at the same time as the interviews. Observation of physical surroundings and contextual cues and sub-textual responses served to supplement what was verbally stated. On the other hand, participant observation was accomplished as the researcher stayed and lived with a host family - one of the respondents, for the duration of the community interviews. This enriched the research and the researcher, further aligning the study towards being a research in human security.13 While the period of stay is admittedly not as extensive, it has provided the researcher valuable snapshots of the glife as livedh in conflict affected villages, enriching the study to be not just a study of ordinary life but a study in ordinary life.14 Also, going to the ground allowed the researcher to get close to the realities of people affected by the conflict, towards a more precise characterization of the people and their situation.

Document analysis involved the review/analysis of related literature that included both printed and electronic forms of published books, journals, academic studies, media reports and articles, government documents and statistics, historical documents, and culled presentation materials. This task had its challenges and difficulties not because of the dearth related materials but inversely because of the voluminous amount of existing works on the two subjects of the study (Human Security and Mindanao Conflict). This is due largely to the fact that both are the subjects of dynamic discourse that are presently and continuously evolving. The researcher performed the daunting task of gleaning information and insights from reading, reviewing and analyzing the voluminous materials that were acquired in the course of the study, both from the classroom lectures/seminars, and from the field research.

These methodologies and techniques allowed for the process of triangulation to validate, verify, corroborate, and/or correct the information gathered to provide for credibility and conformability of the findings, and more confidence in analyzing and discussing conclusions.



Omaezaki City lies approximately 80 miles (130 km) south of Shizuoka City at the tip of a peninsula of the same name, stretching east into the Pacific Ocean. The majority of the city consists of gentle hills and valleys with some steep cliffs on the peninsula's east coast. Like much of Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture is an earthquake zone, and small tremors frequently occur in the area. Omaezaki is also in an area at risk from tsunami. Due to its location, Omaezaki experiences strong coastal winds between October and April. The Japaneserainy season

 also affects Omaezaki, with typhoons liable to hit the city between July and September. During summer, the region is cooler than the majority of inland Shizuoka Prefecture.


Omaezaki has a long history of commercial fishing and of green tea cultivation and these continue to play a central role in the local economy. More recently, the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant situated in the former town of Hamaoka has brought investment to the city. Water sports account for a large number of visitors daily to the city, and during the summer months, tourism attracted by Omaezaki's beaches is an important part of the economy, and water sports made possible by strong coastal winds have become as much a part of Omaezaki's identity as that of a rural town.

Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant

The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant (lq͔d) is a nuclear power plant located in Omaezaki cityShizuoka Prefecture, on Japan's east coast, 200 km southwest of Tokyo. It is managed by the Chubu Electric Power Company

. There are five units contained at a single site with a net area of 1.6 km2 (395 acres). A sixth unit began construction on December 22, 2008. On January 30, 2009, Hamaoka-1 and Hamaoka-2 were permanently shut down.

On 6 May 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan requested the plant be shut down, as an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher is estimated 87% likely to hit the area within the next 30 years. Kan wanted to avoid a possible repeat of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. On 9 May 2011, Chubu Electric decided to comply with the government request. In July 2011, a mayor in Shizuoka Prefecture and a group of residents filed a lawsuit seeking the decommissioning of the reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant permanently.


Vulnerability of the Area: Earthquake susceptibility

Hamaoka is built directly over the subduction zone near the junction of two tectonic plates, and a major Tokai earthquake is said to be overdue. The possibility of such a shallow magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the Tokai region was pointed out by Kiyoo Mogi in 1969, 7 months before permission to construct the Hamaoka plant was sought, and by the Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction(CCEP) in 1970, prior to the permission being granted on December 10, 1970. As a consequence, Professor Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a former member of a government panel on nuclear reactor safety, claimed in 2004 that Hamaoka was 'considered to be the most dangerous nuclear power plant in Japan'[7] with the potential to create a k (domino-effect nuclear power plant earthquake disaster). In 2007, following the 2007 Chūetsu offshore earthquake, Dr Mogi, by then chair of Japan's Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction, called for the immediate closure of the plant.

On 6 May 2011, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu Electric Power Company, which operates the Hamaoka plant, to halt reactors No. 4 and No. 5, and not to restart reactor No. 3 which was then offline for regular inspection. Kan said that a science ministry panel on earthquake research has projected an 87% possibility of a magnitude-8-class earthquake hitting the region within 30 years. He said that considering the unique location of the Hamaoka plant, the operator must draw up and implement mid-to-long-term plans to ensure the reactors can withstand the projected Tokai Earthquake and any triggered tsunami. Kan also said that until such plans are implemented, all the reactors should remain out of operation. Chubu Electric has decided to comply with the government request on 9 May 2011. Yomiuri Shinbun, one of Japan's largest newspapers, criticized Kan and his request, calling it "abrupt" and noting the difficulty towards Chubu Electric's shareholders and further stated Kan "should seriously reflect on the way he made his request." Yomiuri followed up with an article that wondered how dangerous Hamaoka really was and claimed the request was "a political judgment that went beyond technological worthiness."  The next day damage to the pipes inside the condenser was discovered following a leak of seawater into the reactor.

The plant has been designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8.5. Sand hills of up to 15 meters (49 ft) height provide defense against a tsunami of up to 8 meters (26 ft) high, but Hamaoka currently lacks a concrete sea barrier.

On 22 July 2011 plans were unfolded to build an 18-meter-high embankment by December 2012 to prevent tsunami damage to the facility. This would protect the reactors against waves higher than the waves that occurred in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011. The barrier would also be 10 meters taller than the highest waves expected in the area in the event of 3 major earthquakes occurring at the same time. Plans were studied to build a new embankment 1.5 kilometers along the coast by the plant. Next to this a waterproof building was planned to house a backup-pump and also the wall around the reactors was extended. Overall costs of the plans: 1.3 billion dollars.

Risk Perception

Living with nuclear power in Japan – Hamaoka Nuclear power plant

Background: Previous nuclear power research and findings

Nuclear power is generally thought of as a uniquely anxiety provoking technology capable of generating intense emotional states such as fear and dread, due to the largely invisible and long-lasting effects it is presumed to have in the event of something going wrong, concerns about radioactive waste, and a historic association with atomic weaponry (see for example, Weart, 1988: Slovic et al., 1991; Joffe, 2003).

In particular, national surveys have shown that dread of nuclear power originate in continued fears regarding potential contamination from radioactive material, health fears (such as developing cancer), and the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents (Slovic, 1987; 1993; Slovic et al, 1991; also see Masco, 2006) and most lately the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.  National surveys also show that, in recent years and particularly after the Fukushima nuclear plant accident, more Japanese people are against nuclear power than support it. It has also been consistently found in survey research, that the acceptability of nuclear power is closely related to levels of institutional trust.

Research that has focused on communities living in very close proximity to nuclear facilities, has found that proximity is associated with somewhat higher levels of support for nuclear power (Eiser et al., 1995).   A commonly voiced explanation is that acceptance of, or refusal to overtly criticize, nuclear power by those living close to an existing nuclear facility, caused by the perceived economic benefits it brings to the community, in particular where a community is otherwise economically marginalized (Blowers and Leroy, 1994; Wynne et al., 2007 [1993]).

Several psychometric studies have been devoted to determining how high levels of risks are associated with nuclear power. In attempt to determine levels of acceptance related to nuclear risks, Fischhoff et al. (1978) found that risks associated with nuclear power were judged to be extremely serious and to require immediate action to control. Nuclear power risks were perceived to exceed substantially acceptance levels.

Key to research that has focused on specific nuclear facilities as well as other forms of socio-technical and environmental risk issues present within local communities, is that local context, values and place are all essential components for understanding how people live with  (or resist) the notion that they are exposed to risk.  From such a perspective eplace and spacef are constituted by particular socio-cultural, geographical and political characteristics, that are vital to understanding how people construct, perceive and reflect on their experiences of living in close proximity to such hazards (cf. Bickerstaff, 2004; Bickerstaff and Walker, 2001; Masuda and Garvin, 2006; also see Burningham and Thrush, 2004; Howel et al., 2002). Eyles et al. (1993) skillfully tie the importance of place to risk and studies of risk perception by stating:

gRisk is now widely recognized to be socially constructed; appraisal and management [of risk] are determined by peoplefs place in the world and how they see and act in the world.  All ideas about the world are in fact rooted in experience and different forms of social organization and their underlying value systems will influence risk perceptionsh (pp. 282).

Clearly, social, cultural and political factors represent important aspects of risk perception. Thus, perceptions of risks and associated social constructions of socio-technical and environmental hazards cannot be seen as divorced from the values people develop, as well as processes of identity formation.


The aim of this chapter:

The theoretical, empirical, and policy interests described in the previous section led to the development of a broad research question:

How do people residing in close proximity to a major socio-technical hazard/site (Nuclear power plant) live with risk in everyday lives?


Case Study Area Overview:

Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant

The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant (lq͔d) is a nuclear power plant located in Omaezaki cityShizuoka Prefecture, on Japan's east coast, 200 km southwest of Tokyo. There are five units contained at a single site with a net area of 1.6 km2 (395 acres). A sixth unit began construction on December 22, 2008. On January 30, 2009, Hamaoka-1 and Hamaoka-2 were permanently shut down.

On 6 May 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan requested the plant be shut down, as an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher is estimated 87% likely to hit the area within the next 30 years. Kan wanted to avoid a possible repeat of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. On 9 May 2011, Chubu Electric  (The operating company) decided to comply with the government request. In July 2011, a mayor in Shizuoka Prefecture and a group of residents filed a lawsuit seeking the decommissioning of the reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant permanently.



After intensive analysis of the data and interviews collected, the researcher identified some factors associated with living with nuclear risk in everyday life. Although interviews were conducted in the summer of 2011; after the Fukushima Nuclear accident, the researcher relied on a narrative-based approach and tried as much as possible to explore the respondentsf attitudes toward the nuclear power plant before the Fukushima accident and after it.

Main factors to be considered in Risk Perception

Natural vs. Manmade

It makes a great difference in risk perception if the risk or the actual damage is manmade or natural because the latter are more accepted than the former. This involves the control aspect and also incorporates the question of responsibility. Locals are convinced that a manmade damage (Such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in March 2011) could have been avoided by more cautious and careful behavior, or by better knowledge about the risky subject. Locals agree that those responsible have been incompetent and careless, and demand that they take responsibility for their incorrect action. Locals think that it is senseless to certify a negative intention to natural risks such as earthquakes or typhoons. These risks are much more accepted because they can't be improved by more careless behavior. Natural processes are generally better accepted: some believe in God's will, others refer to the laws of nature or simply the world's destiny and fate that must be endured.

gWe have no influence whatsoever on a tsunami or a major earthquake.h

Making risk ordinary

In contrast to the assumption that nuclear power is dreadful and feared technology (Weart, 1988), the interviewees often expressed feelings which denied the uniqueness of living close to nuclear power station was present in the majority of the interviewees narrations the process of making the power station, or perhaps more accurately articulating a lack of noteworthiness of the presence of the power station, was revealed in two themes: ----familiarity and habituation (making risk normal).

Familiarity and Habituation

gBefore the Fukushima accident, getting used to it is a major aspect of losing fearh

Lay people are much more aware of unknown and new risks. But as they get to know a new risk they gradually habituate and start to accept it. A risk that is present for a long time is attenuated due to habituation, even though the technical risk remains the same (Slovic et al. 1986). This is why known risks are more accepted than unknown risks. Habituation means that one is getting used to a certain risk, whereas familiarity means that the affected person actually knows about the risk. Uncertainty plays a major role in risk perception. The familiarity is higher when a risk is well known to science or the affected person (Hazard & Seidel 1993). Nuclear power risks that have nothing to do with the known world are perceived as more dangerous. In this context, a nuclear power plant causes additional problems in the habituation process because locals are unable to perceive these risks with their five senses. Lay people can neither control nor observe such risks by themselves. Another factor influencing familiarity is time.

gIt used to be a good sight when we were at sea. We could see that power station and think finally we are nearly homeh

Ordinariness is apparent in the intervieweesf familiarity with the nuclear station over the period of their life in the area, as well as the longevity of the presence of the power station. The physicality of the nuclear power plant simply became part of the landscape. For a small number of the interviewees who had moved to Omaezaki as a child or had been born in the area, familiarity was resulted in growing up with the power plant; it was something that had always been there and had been part of their everyday lives. Another source of familiarity was social networks, to which some of the interviewees pointed. For some this came from direct experience of working at the power plant. For others, it was through having a family member, a friend or a neighbor who worked at the power station.


After the Fukushima Accident: Noticing the extraordinary- threat and anxiety as part of everyday life

When respondents were asked about their feeling at the present time, they all have expressed a feeling of anxiety about the safety of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant after witnessing the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in March 2011.

gSure, we are all worried in our hearts about whether the same disaster could happen at the Hamaoka nuclear planth

Both theoretical and empirical analysis suggests that it is when events or symbols of risk and threat intersect with localsf everyday lives that feeling of threat and anxiety can arise. Minor accidents that are relatively experienced among the locals were narrated as primers of anxiety. However, large explosions or Fukushima-like accident was the most anxiety provoking event so far. 

Minor accidents:

The Japanese public has been opposed to nuclear power since a series of nuclear accidents occurred over the 1990s. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, although the most severe, has not been the only nuclear accident in Japan. Several nuclear reactor accidents occurred during the 1990s.  In 1991, at the Kansai Electric Power Companyfs Mihama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, there was the first ever use of an emergency cooling system causing Japanfs first ever-level 2 nuclear accident.  By comparison, on the international nuclear incident scale of 7, Chernobyl was a level 7.  In 1995, the government-run experimental breeder reactor at Monju malfunctioned causing a fire and Japanfs most serious sodium leak that had the potential of causing explosions and extensive radiation damage. In 1997, a government-run nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant in Tokaimura suffered a fire and explosion.  Radiation leaked into the atmosphere and rated a level 3 on the nuclear incident scale. In 1999, a nuclear research facility in Tokaimura experienced a criticality accident that rated a level 4 on the international scale.  Radiation leaked into the atmosphere and has thus far has killed two workers. These accidents have contributed greatly to negative public confidence in government and corporate nuclear oversight. 

Attitude toward minor accidents in the past:

Most respondents agreed that a feeling of anxiety was present when they had a minor accident in the nuclear plant, or when heard of accidents occurred in nuclear plants located in other towns in Japan. However, for some, the issue of threat was irrelevant due to distancing through time passing. For others interviewees, they thought the issue of threat and anxiety might remain at the time, but at some point they became reconciled with its existence and simply moved on with their lives.

The Role of the Media

After the Fukushima accident, media has become a tool to amplify the nuclear risk.

gThere are daily and continuous reports coming from Fukushima. Whenever we switch on TV or Radio, or even read the newspaper, there are always reports related to the nuclear accident. It is unsettling watching this when you know that you may face similar situation.h

"Minor accidents have been slightly covered by the media, whereas the major accident like the Fukushima one has been fully covered by the media"

Of course modern societies are highly influenced by the media – by television, newspapers, magazines, radio and the internet. If the media reports a risk, many people suddenly become aware of it and start to worry. Second, if a risk topic appears in the media (news), then the risk must be real because it has made it into the media. In terms of numbers, a media-covered risk might be negligible, like the post-Fukushima accident in March 2011, if compared to other risks that are less extensively covered. In the nuclear case, the inability to control the risk, the unfamiliarity, and other factors certainly played an important role. The topics covered in the media probably reflect the individual psychological perception of risk and additionally serve as a risk perception amplifier. The impact of the media has reached a level of importance that can only be hinted at in this context.

Summary of results of this chapter:

To restate this chapterfs main aim, the researcherf question was:

How do people residing in close proximity to a major socio-technical hazard/site (Nuclear power plant) live with risk in everyday lives?

The discourse across much of interviews data that relate to the power plant in Omaezaki before the Fukushima accident is one which represents the nuclear power station as both ordinary and normal: this includes, viewing them as a familiar part of everyday life and the local place.

However, after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, the results imply that the respondents view nuclear risks as potentially catastrophic, dread, and uncontrollable. This can be thought of as a process of noticing the extraordinary. Disruption could occur either at moments when media and other sources heightened for people related risk issues (Fukushima) leading them to reflect upon their local situation, or when more personal events arose such as a case of cancer in a family member or friend. These disruptions brought increasing feeling of anxiety for interviewees, despite the discourse of the power station being familiar and normal in the past.