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:


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.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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