AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility
2012 Award Recipient
Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa is honored for the extraordinary integrity he demonstrated in his responsible chairmanship of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission and for his courage in challenging some of the most ingrained conventions of Japanese governance and society.
The severe earthquake and devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 were followed by a catastrophic failure at the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Japan and the rest of the world were shocked that an accident of such severity could occur in a country admired for its technological sophistication and competence.
The Japanese Parliament appointed an independent commission to investigate the causes of the accident, the first such body in the history of constitutional Japan. Dr. Kurokawa promised “the highest standard of transparency” in the Commission’s efforts, a promise that was fulfilled. Over 900 hours of hearings were conducted, with witnesses from around the world. All hearings were streamed live on the Internet and, along with documents presented to the Commission, are archived on the Web. Dr. Kurokawa used Facebook, Twitter, and town hall meetings to elicit feedback from the public and received over 1700 comments.
Technically detailed, the Commission’s Report was frank in its condemnation of the negligence leading to the accident and the many errors committed following the first signs of trouble at the plants. Most dramatically and courageously, the Report amounted to an indictment of aspects of Japanese society, which it labeled the fundamental cause of what it termed a “manmade disaster.” Dr. Kurokawa claimed that Japanese society had a “diminishing regard” for anything not invented in Japan, a disregard that led to a failure to adopt international safety standards. He urged all Japanese to “reflect on our responsibility as individuals in a democratic society.”
The Japanese government has pledged to respond to the Report’s recommendations by establishing a new regulatory body that is independent and transparent.
Dr. Kurokawa is a graduate of the University of Tokyo Medical School and is Professor Emeritus at that institution; he has held positions at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Southern California, and was a Professor of Medicine at UCLA. He has been a Special Advisor to the Japanese Cabinet and a Commissioner on the World Health Organisation Commission for Social Determinants of Health. He is a recipient of the Order of the Purple from the Japanese government for Excellence in Academic Achievements and National Order of the Legion of Honour from the Government of France.
The AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, established in 1980, honors scientists, engineers, and their organizations whose exemplary actions, sometimes taken at significant personal cost, have served to foster scientific freedom and responsibility. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.