and Risk
in Democracies


International Conference
Risk after Fukushima Crises, Disasters and Governance 17-18 September 2012, CERI- Sciences Po, Paris

The conference “Risk after Fukushima: Crises, Disasters and Governance” was organized by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI-Sciences Po), in the framework of the DEVAST and Sustainable RIO projects, to present the results of both projects, and to reflect on the profound and transformative impacts of the triple disaster that hit Japan on 11 March 2011.

The conference aimed first to address the social and political consequences of the disaster, with a special focus on the evacuation of the population and the challenges related to post-disaster management. The results of DEVAST field research were presented focusing on the government response and the process of evacuation both from the tsunami and the nuclear accident. The international comparison was made with other disasters in highlighting both the similarities and differences with the Japanese disaster and in drawing lessons.

The following panels exposed the role of Japanese social and cultural context affecting the Fukushima nuclear accident, such as the myth of absolute safety or the regulatory system of nuclear industry in Japan, and attempted to examine the universality of such context, in varying degrees, with the nuclear industry at large. The social and psychological consequences of the Fukushima disaster were also addressed, revealing the trauma of the population affected by the nuclear accident.

Finally, the conference sought to look beyond the disaster and reflect on how democracies deal with extreme risks, and how collective preferences toward risk are translated into the decision-making process. The panelists addressed the various challenges of the democracies in dealing with the future risk and the disaster prevention when individual perceptions of risk and the economic interest intervene with the collective choices.

    Conference coordinators:
  • François GEMENNE, DEVAST Project Coordinator
  • Reiko HASEGAWA, Research Fellow, DEVAST Project
  • Daria MOKHNACHEVA, Conference Coordinator, DEVAST Project
  • Elisa VECCHIONE, Sustainable RIO Project Coordinator

Conference Agenda

Monday, 17 September 2012

    Welcome and Opening Remarks
  • Mr Kazuya Ogawa, Minister at the Japanese Embassy, Paris
  • Laurence Tubiana, Director of IDDRI
  • Presentations of the DEVAST and Sustainable RIO projects
  • "Walking in the Fukushima Hot Zone", a photo essay, Antonio Pagnotta

Session I: The 3.11 Disaster in Perspective

First Panel: Disaster Evacuation
Chair: François Gemenne, IDDRI-Sciences Po

This panel provides an overview of the disaster response in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the ensuing accident of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The results from the field research conducted under the DEVAST Project will be presented, focusing on the evacuation process and the handling of the disaster by the authorities. The panel will deal with both the evacuation triggered by the tsunami and the evacuation triggered by the nuclear accident, in a comparative perspective.

4 Presentations followed by Q&A

Second Panel: Post-Disaster Management
Chair: Elodie Vialle,

This panel seeks to understand the challenges that the affected communities face in the relief and reconstruction process both from natural disasters such as earthquake and tsunami, and man-made disasters such as nuclear accident and conflict. Issues such as local resilience, social and political tensions, and post-crisis management will be discussed in relation to these complex emergencies. The 3.11 disaster will be put in perspective and related to other experiences of post-disaster management.

4 presentations followed by Q&A

Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Session II: Perception and Management of Extreme Risks

First Panel: The Safe Society - Japanese Perceptions
Chair: Guibourg Delamotte, INALCO

Despite Japan's extensive experience in dealing with natural catastrophes, the 3.11 disaster raised serious questions regarding its disaster preparedness and its notion of safety. The poor handling of the nuclear crisis shook public trust in the government and major corporations, traditionally considered as the guarantors of the public safety and welfare. Meanwhile, the contamination of the land and the sea by radiation, in a country as densely populated as Japan, will have lasting ramifications for the entire population and for the local and national economy, as the prospects for return and reconstruction in these areas remain unclear. This panel intends to decode the profound and transformative impacts of the 3.11 catastrophe on the Japanese society from social, economic, political and cultural perspectives and expose the intensive political debates triggered by the catastrophe in Japan.

4 Presentations followed by Q&A

Second Panel: A Chain of Impacts – The Meaning of the Fukushima Disaster
Chair: Leonardas Rinkevicius, Kaunas University of Technology

The initial earthquake triggered a chain of impacts that profoundly shook the foundations of the Japanese society. The nuclear accident of Fukushima is naturally at the heart of this chain of impacts: this panel will reflect on the way the accident was handled, as well as on its repercussions on the way nuclear risks are perceived, not only in Japan, but also abroad. How did the accident affect our perceptions of risk, and what does this chain of impacts unfold? Though industrialised societies are typically considered as less vulnerable than developing countries, such chains of impacts reveal significant vulnerabilities.

4 Presentations followed by Q&A

Third Panel: Risk, Democracy and Collective Preferences
Chair: Gabrielle Hecht, University of Michigan

The regulation of collective risks, such as nuclear installations, imposes a reflection on how collective preferences are and should be revealed. Either policy-making should better represent individual preferences with regard to risk, or new modes of deliberation should be envisaged so that individuals go beyond their own preferences. In the aftermath of a disaster, the discussion of the democratic implications of collective and potentially catastrophic risks is particularly important, for individual perceptions of risk may evolve and engender new social modes of aggregating preferences in a democratic way. In Japan, the public’s dissatisfaction and mistrust toward the government increased and prompted new social activism, while discussions are still ongoing in France. How do democracies apprehend individual preferences towards risk and aggregate them into public decisions?

5 Presentations followed by Q&A

Concluding Remarks

  • François Gemenne, IDDRI-Sciences Po
  • Elisa Vecchione, IDDRI-Sciences Po