Maybe Mother Nature wasn't entirely to blame. Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear meltdown was really caused by good old-fashioned human error, rather than quavering earth or massive waves, according to an independent investigation that's upending earlier assumptions about the disaster and blasting regulators, the government response, Tepco, and the nuclear industry. The meltdown "cannot be regarded as a natural disaster," wrote the panel chairman, calling it "a profoundly man-made disaster that could have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response."
The report is also the first to conclude that the March 11 earthquake—and not the ensuing tsunami—could have crippled the No. 1 reactor and safety equipment, reports Bloomberg. "This finding basically puts into question some of the design basis assumptions that we have,” says a USC engineering professor. “We really need to go back and revisit some of (them)." And enacting tougher earthquake resistance standards will reverberate around the industry, says an expert: “Once you start doing these revisions—you’ve got to build huge walls, you’ve got to do all kinds of things—it’s raising the cost of power.”