Monday, April 04, 2011

Responsibility for what happens

Sooner or later the problems with the Fukushima power plant will come to an end and let’s hope that it will not be with an explosion of one of the reactors. Then it will be asked whether someone can be held responsible for what happened. In the past I have written already a bit on this theme. People can be held responsible for what they do and sometimes also for what other people do. But can they be held responsible for things that happen to them, like an earthquake? In a certain way they can, I think. Of course, nobody can be blamed for an earthquake as such and, in the light of our present knowledge, also nobody can be blamed for the absence of previous warnings. However, often one or more persons can be called to account for the consequences of what happened, for most natural events do not occur completely unexpectedly. Maybe it is unknown when they will happen and with what force but usually it is known that they’ll happen. Therefore in many cases preventive measures can be taken or measures that will soften the consequences. And it is here that one’s responsibility comes in.
On October 4th last I wrote in my blog: “Responsibility refers to a person and an action done by that person, to something a person did with an intention or intentionally. Only then I call … a person responsible for what s/he did or for the consequences of what s/he did. But … it is not enough that s/he was acting with an intention or intentionally. The action or its consequences must also imply a moral obligation”. In view of this it seems useful to ask whether someone is responsible for the Fukushima catastrophe in some way. To begin with the end, it was the moral obligation of the people involved that the power plant functioned safely. The earthquake was not man-made, of course, but it could have been foreseen that sooner or later a very strong seism would take place, together with a tsunami. Nevertheless a nuclear power plant had been built there with all the risks of a nuclear catastrophe, and, as it came out, the nuclear power plant did not withstand the natural disaster. Why not? And why were the safety rules often so poorly observed and why were violations kept secret? Were the safety regulations as such sufficient? And so on. In this way people can be held responsible for a natural disaster even if nobody can help that it took place. However, in my last blog I argued that a nuclear catastrophe would happen anyway, if it were not in Fukushima, as a consequence of an earthquake, then elsewhere in the world on a site safe for natural disasters. And that’s why those building nuclear power plants are responsible or at least co-responsible for a nuclear catastrophe anyhow, whatever it is that made that it happened.

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