A New Japan

…But So Do Its Critics

With the press piling on the troubled Japanese utility, some of the criticism begins to look misplaced.

By James Pach for

As readers will have gathered, I have about 0.5 nanobecquerels of sympathy for TEPCO, which really has a sorry track record when it comes to transparency. But some of the criticism is beginning to seem a little misplaced. Take for instance the demands for more and more data from the plant. Of course, the more information the better, but nuclear researcher Peter Hosemann makes a valid point when he notes that the data needs to come from workers onsite, who right now have priorities that might preclude crawling into every radioactive orifice of the plant to satisfy the needs of armchair experts overseas. (The Diplomat has posted two very good interviews about Fukushima in recent days. The other one is here.)

I would also respectfully disagree with Forbes blogger Marc E. Babej, a marketing strategy expert who has taken a look at the English-language version of the TEPCO website. After quoting from the admittedly clunky English, Marc chastises TEPCO for not removing its corporate policies and sustainability report, which embarrassingly talk about the company’s commitment to safety and the environment. Apart from, again, the question of priorities (I mean, really, rewriting your foreign-language ‘2020 vision’ statements can wait a while), removing investor relations material because it’s now embarrassing raises disclosure questions. (My own disclosure: My firm provides these kinds of corporate communications services to many Japanese companies; TEPCO is not one of them.)

In fact, after a slow start that has provoked much of the current mistrust, TEPCO seems to be warming at least a little to the concept of disclosure. At the time of writing, it had issued 245 press releases in English since the start of the crisis, mostly updates on the status of the troubled plant. The Japanese version of the site—and this is, after all, a Japanese company—has more information, including very regular updates of radiation levels and news about the ongoing blackouts, along with the obligatory apologies. The utility has also opened a Twitter account, mostly covering news of the blackouts. It even has a webcam of the troubled plant, shades of the BP oil spill webcam.

Will this be enough to get TEPCO off the hook? Not a chance. But let’s keep the criticism focused on the areas that matter.

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James Pach is the publisher of The Diplomat and the founder of Trans-Asia Inc., a Tokyo-based translation and investor relations company.


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