By Mike Head:
Japanese government delayed nuclear emergency measures to protect TEPCO profits
21 March 2011
It is now clear that Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which owns the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, delayed essential measures to tackle the emergency at the facility in order to protect TEPCO’s investments. There is also mounting evidence that joint government-TEPCO cover-ups have continued throughout the unfolding crisis.
More than a week after the earthquake and tsunami that hit the country, the situation at the facility remains on a knife edge despite days of desperate fire-hosing, water-bombing and other activities that have exposed the plant workers and fire fighters to extreme radioactivity levels.
Nuclear experts warned that the restoration of power to some Fukushima units on Sunday and the reported placing of two other reactors into “cold shutdown” did not necessarily end the dangers. “Overall, the situation remains very serious,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said at a media conference yesterday.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the weekend that TEPCO had considered using sea water to cool one of the plant’s six reactors as early as the morning of March 12, the day after the quake struck, but delayed until that evening and did not use seawater at other reactors for another day. The company’s concern was to protect its long-term investment in the Fukushima complex, because seawater can corrode a nuclear reactor, rendering it permanently inoperable.
TEPCO “hesitated because it tried to protect its assets,” Akira Omoto, a former TEPCO executive and member of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, told the financial newspaper. A government official stated: “This disaster is 60 percent man-made. They failed in their initial response. It’s like TEPCO dropped and lost a 100 yen coin while trying to pick up a 10 yen coin.”
A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists documents in chilling detail 14 instances of “near-misses” at US nuclear power plants in 2010. Published in the midst of the Japanese nuclear emergency following the earthquake and tsunami, the report exposes the danger posed to the population and the planet by the for-profit US energy companies overseen in an often slipshod manner by US government regulators: here.
Nuclear crisis: How safe is Japan’s food and water? Here.
Officials: Tokyo Water Unsafe for Infants: here.
Anger is mounting among ordinary people in Japan over the Democratic Party government’s inadequate response to the earthquake and tsunami disaster, and particularly its failure to provide basic services to the nearly half a million people rendered homeless: here.
On Monday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) delivered a letter to energy firm Entergy stating that it may keep running its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant through March, 21, 2032. The reactor in the aged plant, which is known to have released radiation into groundwater, is virtually identical to that of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, whose flaws some scientists claim have contributed to the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl meltdown: here.
Spaniards call for reactor closures
SPAIN: Protesters demonstrated in Madrid on Sunday against the use of atomic power.
Organised by Ecologists in Action, they unfurled a large nuclear symbol and banners reading “No to Nuclear Power” outside the Reina Sofia Museum, a landmark tourist attraction.
The organisers said most people want the government to close its nuclear plants.
Privateer skipped vital safety checks
JAPAN: The country’s nuclear watchdog said today that the firm that operates the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant repeatedly failed to make crucial inspections in the weeks before the devastating quake and tsunami.
In a report released nine days before the disasters, the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organisation criticised Tokyo Electric Power Co for not inspecting 33 pieces of equipment.
Among the machinery missed were back-up generators, pumps and other parts of cooling systems that the tsunami swamped, leading to the plant’s current crisis.
TRUTHOUT’S BUZZFLASH DAILY HEADLINES
A few days ago, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow said what many wealthy Wall Street investors were probably thinking, and it was shocking.
Kudlow, a cable news financial “pundit,” reassured the business world about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami: “The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”
On Twitter, Kudlow apologized, but his words represented the heartlessness at the center of today’s casino economy: everything is reduced to a financial win or loss.
There is something ethically debased when the financial impact of a disaster is of more concern than the human toll. What happens to a society when money is valued more than life?
Since Kudlow’s remark, at least 150 workers in Japan (in teams of 50 at a time) have been exposing themselves to high levels of radiation in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. They are the heroes.
Next to them, Kudlow looks extremely small and selfish.
Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout
Kaieda sorry for reportedly ‘forcing’ firefighters to carry out water-spraying mission
Tuesday 22nd March, 01:10 PM JST
Industry minister Banri Kaieda apologized Tuesday over reports that he threatened to ‘‘punish’’ firefighters if they did not carry out an operation to spray water toward a quake-hit nuclear reactor building in Fukushima Prefecture.
He refrained from admitting whether he actually made such remarks, but told a press conference, ‘‘If my remarks offended firefighters…I would like to apologize on that point.’‘
The move came after Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara on Monday lodged a protest with Prime Minister Naoto Kan over the ‘‘forcing’’ of Tokyo Fire Department members dispatched to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to engage in an hours-long water-spraying mission and referring to ‘‘punishment’’ if they refused the task.
According to Ishihara, Kan apologized over the matter. Ishihara said that he did not know who actually said so, but sources close to the metropolitan government said Kaieda made the remarks.
Ishihara also said that equipment broke down because of the continuous mission, which involved spraying water toward the troubled No. 3 reactor building for 13 hours at a time.
Kaieda serves as a deputy head of the nuclear disaster task force jointly set up by the government and the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co and headed by Kan. He said that a liaison staffer mediated the communication between him and the firefighters.
The dousing mission can now be carried out for lengthy periods basically unattended by using vehicles capable of shooting a large amount of water toward the reactor from a 22-meter height.
The mission at the highly radiation-contaminated plant area is considered essential to cooling down a pool storing spent nuclear fuel, feared to have been boiling. The pool is located inside the building, but water can be shot from outside because the building has suffered damage in what is believed to have been a hydrogen explosion.
If fuel is no longer fully covered by water, which reduces by boiling, it can create the risk of radioactive release.
Hit by a magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing massive tsunami on March 11, most of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station lost cooling functions, and those reactors and the spent fuel pools located close to their containment vessels are believed to be overheating.
© 2011 Kyodo News.
Baby dolphin saved after dumped in rice field by tsunami
23 Mar 2011 09:51
TOKYO, March 23 (Reuters Life!) – A baby dolphin has been rescued in Japan after being dumped in a rice field by a giant tsunami that hit the coast on March 11.
The dolphin was spotted in the flooded field, about 2 km (a mile) from the coast, said Ryo Taira, a pet-shop owner who has been rescuing animals abandoned after the 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami left 23,000 people dead or missing.
“A man passing by said he had found the dolphin in the rice paddy and that we had to do something to save it,” the 32-year-old Taira told Reuters.
Taira found the dolphin struggling in the shallow seawater on Tuesday and after failing to net it, waded in to the field, which had yet to be sown with rice, to cradle the 1.2-metre (four foot) animal in his arms.
“It was pretty weak by then, which was probably the only reason we could catch it,” he said.
Taira and some friends wrapped the dolphin in wet towels and drove it back to the sea, where they set it free. The dolphin appeared to perk up when it was back in the Pacific, he said.
“I don’t know if it will live, but it’s certainly a lot better than dying in a rice paddy,” Taira told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel and Sanjeev Miglani)
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