U.S.-Japan Cooperation after 3-11: Report on the CSIS-Keidanren Partnership for Recovery Task Force

October 26, 2011

Michael Green
, Senior Adviser and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS); Associate Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University
J. Stephen Morrison, Senior Vice President and Director, Global Health Policy Center, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
Jane Nakano, Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)

Merit Janow
, Professor, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia Law School; Member, Board of Directors of Japan Society

Michael Green, a Georgetown faculty member who is Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joined two CSIS colleagues at Japan Society to discuss the recommendations of the CSIS-Keidanren Partnership for Recovery Task Force.

"To many of us I think [the 3/11 crisis] highlighted and spotlighted many of the challenges Japan was already struggling with," including an aging society, a debt-burdened economy and a political leadership frozen in gridlock, Professor Green said.

"A lot of people also looked at it and were struck at how much strength it revealed in Japan’s culture, society and world position," he said. Tens of thousands of young people dropped everything and went to Tohoku to help. People in the region bonded with each other and with people from other parts of Japan. A hundred thousand members of the Self-Defense Forces were mobilized in two days, and demonstrated that they are "incredibly brave, incredibly capable."

In response to the damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant and other power infrastructure, Japan, already one of the world's most energy-efficient countries, put out a call to its residents and businesses to conserve electricity; remarkably, their efforts saved an additional 25 percent.

An executive at a major Korean conglomerate that had to shut down several lines for lack of key components from Japanese suppliers told Professor Green that his management team gave thought to developing local sources as a substitute, but decided not to. They were confident that the Japanese factories would be back on line quickly, which indeed proved to be the case. And they concluded that it would take five or 10 years to master the critical technology in question.

The Partnership for Recovery and a Stronger Future between CSIS and Keidanren was announced on April 11. It was chaired by Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing, and led by Professor Green and Kiyoaki Aburaki, Keidanren U.S. representative and CSIS visiting Fellow, as directors.

Six working groups were set up, covering energy, health, disaster relief and prevention, economic recovery, security and civil society. The goal of the task force, whose report will be released on November 3, is to support the plans of Japanese government and business leaders and to share lessons learned from American successes and failures alike. "Some of the most important recommendations we had were don't do what we did after Katrina," Professor Green said.

To boost foreign direct investment and keep Japanese manufacturing and investment in Tohoku, the economic recovery working group concluded, would require "some immediate policy measures. And we wanted to tread carefully on these, because these are big, hard decisions" on issues like trade liberalization, labor mobility and flexibility in labor market regulations, and how to fast track approvals in Tokyo for projects with local-level support.

The security working group considered Operation Tomodachi "enormously successful," Professor Green said. Yet there are lessons learned on communications, as an example. Emails and phone communications during the operation were on open, unsecured lines. "If this were a contingency where someone was shooting at you or doing cyber attacks, we would have been halted on day one."

Energy Issues
Jane Nakano, a Fellow in the Energy and National Security Program at CSIS, noted that before 3/11, about a third of the power generated in Japan came from nuclear plants. Many plants that were shut down after the Fukushima nuclear accident aren't being restarted. Other plants are offline for regular maintenance, or due to go offline soon. Given this, it's possible that as of June 2012 Japan literally will have no electricity being generated by nuclear power plants.

Japan's use of natural gas is up, with this year's LNG imports expected to increase by 10 to 13 percent, Ms. Nakano said. By 2020, natural gas is expected to account for 24 percent of Japan's primary energy consumption, up from 18 percent, with nuclear at 9 percent, coal roughly constant at 20 percent and oil at 38 percent. Hydroelectric and other alternative power sources will account for 7 percent, up from 5 percent today.

In terms of the overall economic impact, it's being projected that demand for electricity will fall by 5.7 percent this year and 7.7 percent in 2012. Industrial production is anticipated to shrink by 1.8 percent; GDP will contract by 0.1 percent this year and 0.8 percent in 2012; and over the next two or three years, jobless claims will rise by 197,000.

One nuclear power topic that's come to the fore is decontamination processes. U.S. and Japanese experts worked closely on this after the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident, and the time may be right to renew that collaboration, Ms. Nakano said. Another is industry self-regulation. TMI in fact prompted the U.S. industry to create INPO, the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations. Its influence was at first resisted by industry, but INPO now works closely with utilities and is responsible for inspections and ratings, which in turn affect insurance premiums.

Alaskan natural gas resources are another area of interest post-3/11, given the price differential between Asia-Pacific consumers and those in North America.

In August, the Diet passed legislation to promote the use of renewable energy sources, and details on feed-in tariffs and the eligibility of specific technologies will be fleshed out in the coming months. Smart grids and micro grids could help improve the resiliency, connectivity and capacity of Japan's electric power system. Tohoku, with so much of its infrastructure destroyed, may become a demonstration hub for grid technologies, Ms. Nakano said.

Health Care
J. Stephen Morrison, who directs the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, said that after 3/11, over 170 medical emergency teams went to the Tohoku area to provide care. "These were your average docs who had signed themselves up; much of that mobilization traced directly back to the lessons learned in Kobe" in 1995. Over 1,300 health care facilities, equaling 30 percent of the health care infrastructure, were destroyed, as were a vast number of paper medical records.

Practitioners from around the world offered their help. GE Health's mobile clinics are up and running in three prefectures. To address health care IT issues, GE is working on integrated cloud computing for hospitals in the disaster area, and on a $12 million provider system project to be launched at year's end. The U.S.-based Project Hope is working with the Health and Global Policy Institute in Tokyo and Iwate Prefecture authorities to arrange for Japanese-speaking medical professionals to rotate through communities in Iwate.

The 3/11 crisis has "exposed how weak our scientific knowledge is" about a number of radiation risk factors, including the impact of age and stage of development, Dr. Morrison continued. "This is an emerging global health issue that we had not seen with sufficient force before this happened."

In fact, it "has much broader import globally, where you have 450 nuclear facilities, many of them operating under circumstances far less favorable in terms of safety than certainly in Japan. And you’ve got another 60 under construction, mostly in India, China, Russia and Brazil."

The task force report will recommend "a rigorous international study by an international panel" from Japan, the U.S., Europe, Asia and elsewhere to address the scientific issues and come up with core lessons in preparedness.

In Fukushima, "citizens’ anxieties had skyrocketed regarding the long-term low-dose exposure to themselves and their families," Dr. Morrison said. "We don’t know how many people have moved and relocated out of Fukushima Prefecture, but a safe estimate is probably in the 5 percent to 10 percent range, with a sizeable portion still weighing their options, mothers and children moving out, fathers staying in place."

Even before 3/11, a quarter of Tohoku's residents were over 65. "Youth had migrated out. The population is becoming ever more an elderly and fragile population with special needs added onto these—of course the hypertension and other disorders that have come about under the stress of being dislocated, separated from your communities on a very, very large scale and put into temporary housing in new locations."

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems have emerged and will increase. "In Japan, the mental health delivery services are oftentimes, particularly in these areas, not adequate, and there remains a very, very strong stigma around many of these issues," he said. As the work of recovery and reconstruction moves forward, it will be essential to improve the delivery of services and take steps to change community attitudes.


Merit Janow of Columbia asked the first question:

What you are most worried about in terms of structural problems that are going to be hard for Japan to deal with?

Professor Green said that he wasn't worried about civil society, nor about Keidanren members, who are "going to do what they have to do to remain competitive."

In the political world, however, "there are choices in every area we look at that require a prime minister at a national level to lay out the case and fight for progress," from restructuring the fishery sector, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to health IT. "I get the sense personally that Prime Minister Noda has the right stuff. And now the question is whether the structure of Japanese politics has become too much of an obstacle."

In the realm of nuclear energy, Ms. Nakano said, the biggest issue for Japan is human resources. "Whether Japan decides to phase out nuclear in two decades' time or not, you can't really demonize a sector and hope to attract people" to study in the field. Nor can companies build the expertise necessary to do meaningful facility inspections and "contribute to the international nuclear safety and security agenda."

As plans are made to rebuild the region's health care infrastructure, "Tohoku is a great example of a place where across multiple areas you could have very innovative regional pilots that could reverberate through Japan," Dr. Morrison said. But "I think there is going to be a strong tendency to just build back what was there, versus to build back better in an integrated and more cost-effective way."

The audience joined in:

In figuring out whether to shift away from nuclear toward more use of fossil fuels, are the health-related costs of air pollution something that you are able to address?

"Every country tries to strike the right balance" among three factors: climate, or local pollution; geopolitics; and cost, Ms. Nakano said. This issue isn't part of the task force report, but there are a number of studies being published, which CSIS is monitoring.

Will we see a real change in immigration policy to deal with the abandonment of Fukushima by its young people?

"It may be that as part of a special economic recovery zone in Tohoku there might be flexibility on immigration," but it's a hard problem, Professor Green said. Early on, the DPJ moved towards a more liberalized stance, but after criticism they've backed away.

In the aftermath of 3/11, municipal leaders had a keen understanding of what local communities needed, but often their hands were tied by the regulations and restrictions of the Tokyo bureaucracy. What are the implications of this for the future?

In his personal view, Professor Green said, "a lot of the problem [was] that local officials were working around the clock, not sleeping, living out of their cars in some cases because their homes have been destroyed. The bureaucracy in Tokyo, my impression was, was working very hard," although "candidly we didn't even get a real strong sense of urgency once we got to Nagatacho."

"You have to have scale for this to work," so it's important to have the reconstruction headquarters cover all of Tohoku. Regional pilot programs will be supported by most of the bureaucracy, he said.

Dr. Morrison commented, "The reconstruction of those coastal areas—Iwate, Miyagi and also Fukushima—is a pretty existential mix. You’ve got to decide how far back on the coast are you going to put your roads, your rails, your port, your schools, your housing, your power generation or power infrastructure... and for what population you are planning."

"There has to be some pretty serious systematic thinking" on these issues, which can't be accomplished until local leaders have a chance to step back and contribute their expertise, he said. They've been asked to put up temporary shelters by summer's end to house 400,000 displaced people for the next two or three years, and in the meantime deal with 25 million tons of debris, "which no one quite has any idea where to put." It's "a profound burden, which they performed remarkably well."

—Katherine Hyde

Topics:  Business, Policy

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