Fukushima is 3
“We don’t hope for accidents” was the phrase i said perhaps a thousand times at various anti-nuclear events before the Fukushima triple meltdown. Often critics of nuclear power would theorize that a major accident would be a game changer and cripple or kill the nuclear power industry. But those of us who had studied the problems of nuclear power, especially the tremendous suffering that Chernobyl had wrought, knew better than to wish these problems on anyone. It has been exactly three years since the the earthquake and tsunami that catalyzed the disaster on the east coast of Japan. And while this accident has been a tremendous setback for the nuclear industry, i hold to the sentiment i had expressed so many times before it.
I wanted to do a quick post on a handful of commonly misunderstood aspects of this accident to mark its dark anniversary. The first point is that the biggest and most comprehensive study of the Fukushima meltdowns places responsibility not on mother nature, but on the Japanese government and the utility which ran the reactor.
“What must be admitted, very painfully, is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan’,” Concluded the chair of the special independent commission of the Japanese parliament. “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to sticking with the program; our groupism; and our insularity.”
You will hear nuclear apologists talk about how such a tidal wave could never have been foreseen or the size of the earthquake was unprecedented. But this panel, initiated by the parliament itself, which had broad subpoena power and interviewed over 1,100 experts, politicians and utility staff concluded differently.
While the people of Japan want an end to nuclear power, the government and the business elite of the country want nuclear power to continue and are doing all they can to make this possible. In a little reported story, Japanese prosecutors have decided to drop all charges against the government and the nuclear utility TEPCO for the problems caused by Fukushima. [Update August 2015: After being let off the hook twice before, 3 Top TEPCO executives are being charged, because of the ongoing deaths associated with Fukushima.] This means despite hundreds of billions in damages, tens of thousands losing their homes and unable to return to their land and worsening radioactive pollution in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific, no one will be held responsible for this disaster.
“But no one died.” Conveniently short sighted US Americans love to remind us of Fukushima. Except that this is not true. The provincial government and the local police are now estimating that the fatalities associated with the meltdowns exceed the number of people killed by the earthquake and tsunami in the prefecture of Fukushima. This is 1,656 who have died prematurely as of Feb 2014, because of Fukushima. These are not green groups with an agenda of stopping nuclear power, these are the local bureaucrats and law enforcement folks watching the premature deaths of people in their neighborhoods and counting them.
Similarly depressing is the report that 136K people from the Fukushima prefecture are still displaced. Many will never be able to return.
So don’t wish nuclear accidents on anyone. But if they do happen, go out and organize and stop nuclear power in your country. Over the last three years, citizen efforts have pushed governments to end nuclear construction and phase out reactors in Mexico, Italy, Belgium, Venezuela and Switzerland.
The big win for safe energy activists world wide is Germany where there will be a complete nuclear phase out by 2022. Where the largest nuclear construction company in the world, Siemens, is phasing out of building reactors. And where on a sunny summer day over half the country’s electricity comes from solar power.
[This post has been proofread by GPaul]