This french documentary does not go into much details. Still it shows the French government eagerness to minimize the Fukushima catastrophe in the eyes of the public, of the world, to push for the continuation of nuclear, so as to save its own nuclear industries from economic repercussions.
The matter was heard and investigated. The Fukushima disaster, which took place almost six years ago, is a “man-made disaster” as Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the chairman of the parliamentary commission of inquiry, wrote in black and white.
Since March 11, 2011, reports, investigations, Japanese and international documentaries have not failed to describe the sequence of events, unpreparedness, serial errors and the panic that seized the political- Industrialist powers in the early days of the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
Even though it is still necessary to remember that the Japanese authorities envisaged the catastrophic scenario: a total loss of control of the Fukushima-daiichi power plant and a nuclear crisis that would have condemned much of Japan for decades and Authorities to evacuate more than 50 million people, as told in these columns Naoto Kan, Prime Minister at the time.
Journalist Linda Bendali, who signed the investigation in this documentary, had access to key witnesses on the Naoto Kan team, among the rescuers, soldiers and members of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which manages the plant. But if this documentary reveals secrets, it is especially on its French side that it brings a welcome light.
In constructing a narrative between Japan and France, it explains the “strategy of the French government to safeguard the interests of nuclear power”. And shows how Paris embarked on a “diplomatic and industrial battle crucial for France”.
Even though EDF, François Fillon – then Prime Minister – and his advisors, and Eric Besson, the then Minister of Industry, refused interview requests, the journalist was able to reconstruct the narrative on the French side. Informed by a Tepco source, the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) was among the first to be informed of the crisis.
From March 12, the explosions caused by concentrated hydrogen in the Fukushima plant and the tinkering of the interventions are “very scary”, as Anne Lauvergeon, then president of Areva, said.
France, the country of nuclear with the EDF and Areva giants, is seing falling prices of its nuclear industries and of uranium on its stock exchanges. It must be countered. The Prime Minister and the Industry and Ecology Ministers, the IRSN, will enter the battle to “lower the pressure and the anguish”.
Press conference, language elements, audit of French reactors, etc. Paris maneuvered so that “nuclear power does not become a subject of debate” and that “the place of the atom is not called into question in Europe”. France opposes the “hallucinatory decision of Germany”, to disconnect its power stations, in the words of Frank Supplisson, cabinet director of Eric Besson, Minister of Industry, Energy and Economy at the time, and does not hesitate to threaten its European partners who do not seem to share its views, and pressured European diplomats.
In Tokyo, the French ambassador, Philippe Faure, put online a statement recommending to French nationals to leave for a few days the Japanese capital. The Quai d’Orsay Foreign Affairs Ministry ordered him to withdraw the text. Then, with delay, Paris dispatches an plane of aid with “tons of useless material”, tells a member of the embassy. “In the country of Nissan and Toyota, what was sent was bulk, not dazzling,” recalls Philippe Faure.
“Paris rented a very expensive Antonov to transport its robots able to intervene in a contaminated environment, but Tokyo wanted French experts to pilot them. “The engineers agreed to come to Tokyo,” says Linda Bendali, “but not at the foot of the reactors.” As a result, the Japanese declined the offer.
In this diplomatic-industrial offensive, the presidential Elysee palace was not left behind. The french president, Nicolas Sarkozy, went out of his way to be the first head of state to come to Japan. Twenty days after March 11, he arrived in Tokyo to remind the need to pursue nuclear power.
Naoto Kan finally agreed to host him despite an overloaded schedule. On that day, “I was convinced that we had to stop” using nuclear, says today the former Prime Minister who became one of the most ardent anti-nuclear militants of the archipelago. But facing Nicolas Sarkozy on March 31, 2011, he kept silent.
Cellule de crise. De Paris à Fukushima, les secrets d’une catastrophe. Dimanche 12 février à 22h40. France 2. Rediffusion, jeudi 16 février à 1h40