Post-Fukushima Controversy on “SPEEDI” System: Contested Imaginary of Real-time Simulation Technology for Emergency Radiation Protection

Shin-etsu Sugawara

Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, Japan

Kohta Juraku

Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tokyo Denki University, Japan

Once the striking news on the crisis at TEPCO’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station arrived, public attention was focused on the magnitude, trend and consequence of off-site radioactivity release. Everyone in the surrounding area to the reactors wanted to have concrete information to protect them from its possible harm. In this context, a simulation system attracted very strong public attention during the emergency period of the accident. It was “SPEEDI” (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information). SPEEDI is a Japanese original real-time simulation technology for emergency radiation protection developed and implemented since 1980s. It was expected to output both graphical and quantitative simulation results which enable the relevant actors to take appropriate actions to protect the people from undesirable radiation exposures.

However, it was not the case that SPEEDI achieved the good reputation by a result in line with such expectations, in reality. It has been repeatedly criticized the insufficiency in its performance, public release of its output and governance for its handling since just after the acute emergency period of the disaster. It became one of the controversial points on the off-site nuclear emergency management. Evaluations on this topic were divided into pros and cons even among major accident reports. For example, the Governmental report argued that more active use of SPEEDI could help the decisions better, while the National Diet’s one counter-argued that it could not due to many technical limitations.

In this paper, the authors would illustrate the public imaginary on this kind of real-time simulation technologies which are believed to make the society more “disaster-preventing” through “scientific prediction”. Then, the similarities and gaps between that and experts’ notion on “precautionary action” and/or “optimization of counter measures” concepts would be discussed. Interactions and consequences of these notions centering on “resilience” would be examined critically.

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