There’s something going on in Japan, because earlier in the week the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (here). This is just the latest in a series of leaks, prompting the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority to raise the severity of Fukushima from one to three on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale. Ever since the start of the Fukushima disaster, TEPCO and the Japanese Government have put out a constant stream of cover-ups and lies (the biggest porky was probably in December 2011, when they declared that reactors 1, 2 and 3 were in ‘cold shutdown’, when in fact all three reactors had melted down in the early days of the disaster). For the officials in Japan to now admit that they are having trouble, Event Scale 3 trouble, is a sure sign that something much worst is probably going on. Indeed, on Friday, TEPCO announced that ‘there are more than 200,000 tons of radioactive water in makeshift tanks vulnerable to leaks, with no reliable way to check on them or anywhere to transfer the water’ (here). Due to the track record of TEPCO, this has led many experts to speculate that contaminated water is pouring out from under the melted-down reactors into the groundwater and straight into the Pacific Ocean (TEPCO have admitted that tritium levels off the coast of Fukushima are this week 18 times more than they were last week – here). The important point in all this is that TEPCO are all but admitting that they can no longer control the situation. To try and give this some context, Chernobyl No.4 reactor contained 180 tons of nuclear fuel, of which about 57 tons were blown up into the atmosphere and the rest melted down. At Fukushima there’s about 2200 tons of nuclear fuel (including spent fuel rods), of which about 100 tons was blown up into the atmosphere and it looks like much of the rest of it is going to end-up in the Pacific Ocean.
The mega problems now occurring could have been foreseen 2 years ago. Trouble is, TEPCO is a big corporation with close connections to the Japanese government, and due to the Fukushima disaster it’s now a bankrupt corporation and was nationalised last year (ie, bailed-out by the Japanese tax payer). The Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is pro-nuclear and wants to restart Japan’s 50 reactors (they were all closed down following Fukushima). Even the Nuclear Regulation Authority has no direct control over TEPCO. Thus, at a time of major crisis, we have this cosy relationship between TEPCO and the powers that be, and TEPCO has been allowed to try and contain the worst industrial accident in history on the cheap. For example, the leaking storage tank problem is happening because the pipework entering the tanks has a rubber gasket, instead of being welded (which costs more money), and the incredibly toxic water is eating through the gaskets (here). Also, TEPCO recently said that these water storage tanks, which weigh 1000 tons when full, are sitting on a concrete base that is only 20cm /8 inches thick and has no reinforcing bars (here); and because the site has been continually inundated with water the concrete base is sitting on what is in effect a marsh. You couldn’t make this up, could you; likewise with the confusing and chaotic chain of command at Fukushima. A surreal touch to these latest events is that at the time, Prime Minister Abe was on a tour of the Middle East, trying to flog Japanese nuclear technology (here).
Benito Mussolini once famously said: “Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power”. That’s exactly what you’ve got at Fukushima, and it’s why there hasn’t been an international effort on the disaster, because many governments around the world have the same cosy arrangements with large corporations. The psychos and socios who head these corporations would fuck-over their grandma for a buck. Wrecking the planet and killing millions of people means nothing to them.