Fukushima: “Usual suspects in Japan are getting richer… at the expense of public safety”

This revelation about the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is interesting.

After the earthquake, tsunami, and the resulting shutdown (meltdown) of the plant, the widely respected technology writer Robert X. Cringely offered TEPCO, the Tokyo power company that still controls the site, a water-treatment technology that was known to work. They rejected it for a technology costing 100 times more (that’s two orders of magnitude) that failed in less than one day. [Paragraph corrected; it really is two orders of magnitude. See quote below.]

Cringely lays the charge at corruption in the Japanese corporate-government system. Is he right? Feel free to decide for yourself. Here’s Cringely, writing at his site I, Cringely (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

[A recent] story from Japan Times, if you choose to read it, says Japanese Prime Minister Abe is reaching out to foreign experts in an attempt to deal with the problem of radioactive cooling water that is accumulating in hundreds of makeshift tanks that are now beginning to leak. “We want your expertise!” Abe proclaimed in a speech given in English.

No he doesn’t.

Longtime readers will know I have a background in physics and was a zillion years ago an investigator for The Presidential Commission on the Nuclear Accident at Three Mile Island. … Only hours after the tsunami I said the plant was a goner and why — explanations that have held up with time.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government have done a spectacularly bad job of managing this accident. In large part they haven’t managed it. Rather they’ve extended the Japanese patronage system to benefit from the disaster at the expense of public health, public safety, and the Japanese economy.  As a result, the usual suspects in Japan are getting richer than ever while the real problems not only haven’t been fixed, for the most part they haven’t even been addressed. …

For the past couple of years I have been advising an environmental remediation startup that has excellent water treatment technology. Yes, I own three percent of the company. Within hours of the accident I offered this technology to TEPCO, which never replied. I offered it to the Japanese Embassy, which never replied. I offered it to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, which replied, said they’d do their best, but nothing ever happened except I am now on a couple mailing lists.

In the meantime TEPCO spent more than $200 million installing a French water treatment system that took months to install and then functioned for less than a day. The system I proposed would have taken two weeks to get operational and at the time would have cost TEPCO $2 million. …

What’s Cringley’s expertise in dealing with the Japanese system? He explains:

Understand that I did business in Japan on almost a daily basis for more than 20 years. I have deep contacts there and know how business is done. Why is it that a guy like me can’t even get a reply? Because Japanese industry is too busy making money at the country’s expense.

Again, Cringely is a widely known and respected technology observer and writer. TEPCO is, well, TEPCO. Do click. Here’s that post-disaster site again:

fukushima_site_1fuku1

Who’s right, TEPCO and the Japanese government, or Cringely? Feel free to make that call for yourself.

Sign the MoveOn Fukushima petition today

In my most recent post on Fukushima I mentioned a petition you could sign. It’s a good action by key people, and has more than 100,000 signatures already. For the commenter who asked for a video (good idea), here’s nuclear expert Harvey Wasserman explaining the situation and the petition:

The petition can be found here. Please check it out if you’re at all interested in this problem.

Wasserman makes an interesting call near the end of his explanation above — let’s have live video coverage of TEPCO’s attempt to remove the 1500 damaged fuel rods from ruined Reactor 4. Remember, they’re high off the ground in a leaking, tilted water-filled storage room.

What could go wrong? The would might deserve to know, live as it happens. After all, there are some things even Our Betters shouldn’t completely control. Your irradiated future is one of them, one would think.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • DARKSIDE099

    JAPAN SHOULD DIE! IT’S A PEDO NATION DRAWING KIDS HAVING SEX KNOWN AS LOLI MANGA! GOOGLE IT AND YOU WILL KNOW!

    FOR I AM YUMEKICHI11 AND WILL KILL JAPAN WITH THE POWERS OF THE NECRONOMICON!

  • lilyannerose

    I read today that from 27 to 30% of the babies born on The West Coast within one to 16 weeks after this disaster are at high risk for thyroid damage and studies are just now underway for further assessment. They are seeing signs of radiation poisoning in polar bears and, of course, marine life from the Alaskan coast south. At this point I wouldn’t trust any Pacific seafood.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Don’t forget Mothra!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    If this was a movie, Godzilla would be showing up right around now…

  • Bill_Perdue

    After the debris from the meltdowns is collected put it in the swimming pools of the rich to cool down.

  • MoreorLess

    Excellent article; it was posted on ENENEWS, a highly recommended site that has been covering Japan’s nuclear crisis daily.

  • Bev

    Thought you would like to know Gaius Publius that this article of yours was included at the top of the first page under news articles on google when searching for Fukushima among app. 54,000,000 hits. Just a little later, and I don’t see it on any of the several first pages. I think you have made a big impression, hit many strong points, and now I can’t see it anymore.

    Is this a new censoring?

    via:
    http://www.nukefree.org/editorsblog/robert-stone-must-now-film-fukushima

    Oct 28, 2013
    Robert Stone Must Now Film Fukushima

    We are in desperate need of documentary filmmakers at Fukushima.

    The Japanese government is about to pass a national censorship law
    clearly meant to make it impossible to know what’s going on there.
    ( http://www.nukefree.org/state-secrets-act-will-curb-knowledge-fukushima )

    from:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/25/us-japan-secrecy-idUSBRE99N1EC20131025

    Japan secrecy act stirs fears about press freedom, right to know

    (Reuters) –
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

    The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years.

    Japan’s harsh state secrecy regime before and during World War Two has long made such legislation taboo, but the new law looks certain to be enacted since Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc has a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament and the opposition has been in disarray since he came to power last December.

    Critics see parallels between the new law and Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted, post-war constitution to stress citizen’s duties over civil rights, part of a conservative agenda that includes a stronger military and recasting Japan’s wartime history with a less apologetic tone.

    ……….

    Also, please post at Greenpeace.

  • cole3244

    we defeated japan in ww11 and then we helped rebuild them and taught them how to destroy the planet without using the military, a more acceptable way of carnage and profitable just like conflict, a win win for corporations everywhere.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Wow, that’s nuts.

    Really though, they got a bargain; it would have been more expensive to build a healthcare exchange website. :)

  • GaiusPublius

    I screwed up the math, but the statement is right. See the quote (cost of Cringley’s technology, $2 million; they spent $200 million). That’s a factor of 100, not 20 as my addled brain originally typed. Thus two orders of magnitude is correct. Thanks for point this out, Skippy.

    GP

  • Indigo

    Why wander overseas to investigate the financial boondoggle that is nuclear energy? Cast your glance to the southeastern United States and see what you make of the paper trail of Duke Energy aka Progress Energy aka Florida Power and just peek into the on-going story of the money flushed into the Gulf of Mexico (or maybe the Everglades) to keep the nuclear power plants on the Florida peninsula funded while being built and now on hold while the money keeps on flowing out of the customer’s pocket into the conglomerate’s accounts with no work being done, no decommission in sight, and no particular state let alone federal oversight going on. And you’re fussing about Foreign Country? Cheap and easy target, buddy. Look around here at home.

  • Monoceros Forth

    Yeah, that is cheating a bit, although you can be a bit sloppy. I’d say for example that 50x counts as “two orders of magnitude” because log(50) = 1.699 which rounds to two, but log(20) = 1.301 which rounds to one, so that’s still just one order of magnitude.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’m no math guy but isn’t two orders of magnitude 10^2 or 100x, not 20x?

  • Gindy51

    It’s known as Disaster Capitalism as written by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. What always gets me about situations like this is the fact that the rich have to live there too. Their children and grandchildren are going to be hurt by their greed and short sightedness.

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