Lessons from Fukushima: Interview with William Magwood


“Fukushima has not had the dire impact on the future of nuclear power globally that some people thought might happen.”

Like the “Lessons from Fukushima” interviewees before him, Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Director-General William Magwood opens by placing emphasis on the unpredictability of nature. No matter what we expect, an earthquake can be stronger, and a flood can be higher, than any that came before.

bill magwood with titleTo this end, throughout his interview, Magwood emphasizes the importance of a steadfast safety culture in the nuclear industry, one that is thorough and can be trusted by the public. “The human aspects of nuclear safety are at least as important as the technical aspects of nuclear safety,” he asserts. Fundamentals in establishing a good nuclear safety regime include effective training, correct functionality of all organizations, and a strong, ingrained safety culture.

While expressing the devastation and disconnect he witnessed between the public and the Japanese industry when he visited the Fukushima site in the months after the accident, Magwood highlights communication improvements within Japan and globally. Even more significant, the aftermath of Fukushima has garnered unprecedented robotics advancements, resulting in exciting innovations unmatched in range and capability.

Although he acknowledges that the “dark mark” of Fukushima will last for now, Magwood believes that if industry players such as Tepco can prove effective implementation of new knowledge and improvements, ultimately this will contribute significantly to the public reception of nuclear power in Japan.

To close, Magwood presents his two most salient lessons from Fukushima:

  1. We cannot predict what will happen at a nuclear power plant site and must be prepared to react to whatever does happen.
  2. We must be sure that all involved parties are complying with a very high-level safety culture; the public perception of this safety culture is key to industry success.

Ultimately, Magwood wants people to recognize that this lift in the nuclear sector is very important to get right, but is also very difficult to get right. Successful implementation can be the key to perpetuating the nuclear energy industry in the modern global economy.