Japanese disasters, social, not just natural


This video, recorded in Japan, is called TEPCO President Visits Angry Fukushima Evacuees.

By Peter Symonds:

Japan’s triple disaster: An indictment of capitalism

16 March 2012

One year after Japan’s triple disaster—the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown—the scenes of devastation remain. Reconstruction has barely begun in flattened coastal towns. Mountains of rubble and debris have not been cleared. The area for 20 kilometres around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is uninhabited and will remain so for years. Its damaged reactors will not be completely decommissioned and removed for 30 to 40 years.

The human tragedy is immense. More than 15,000 people died in the disaster and another 3,000 are still missing. Whole communities were destroyed, together with jobs, businesses and long established patterns of life. Over 300,000 people are still in temporary accommodation, attempting to rebuild their shattered lives. Many young people have been forced to leave the northern Tohoku region to look for employment elsewhere.

The natural forces unleashed on March 11, 2011 were uncontrollable, but the impact of the disaster was greatly magnified by the inadequacy of the safety and emergency procedures, the government’s chaotic response and the lack of money for relief and reconstruction. The terrible consequences are an indictment of capitalism, especially as Japan is a sophisticated industrial economy, the world’s third largest.

The subordination of the social needs of ordinary people to corporate profit was most graphically exposed in the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Despite the warnings of scientists, emergency planning by the Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) failed to take into account a massive tsunami. The wave swamped the plant and cut its electricity supplies, triggering a chain of events that led to a partial meltdown in three of the six reactors.

TEPCO downplayed the extent of the disaster to minimise the impact on its share prices and profits. Despite its record of safety breaches and cover-up, the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan left the corporation in charge. A recently released report revealed that Kan and his top officials were forced to consider a worst-case scenario that involved a “demonic chain reaction” of nuclear plant meltdowns, necessitating the evacuation of 30 million people from Greater Tokyo. Yet the public was deliberately kept in the dark.

At every stage, the government put the interests of TEPCO ahead of working people. Its regulatory agencies raised the annual legal radiation dose for nuclear employees from 100 to 250 millisieverts, endangering the health of hundreds of workers battling to bring the reactors under control. It was months before the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency publicly recognised that Fukushima was second only to the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe. The government has poured more than one trillion yen ($US12 billion) into bailing out TEPCO, one of the world’s largest energy corporations.

The nuclear crisis at Fukushima was symptomatic of broader processes. Despite Japan being prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, measures to protect lives proved totally inadequate. The media blamed public complacency, but many of the victims were lulled into a false sense of security. Former chief scientist at the US National Ocean Service, Bruce Parker, pointed out recently that 40 percent of Japan’s coastline is defended by sea walls, but most were not constructed to deal with a worst-case scenario. “How high to build those walls had been a financial decision,” he wrote.

“There is, however, very little cost associated with designating safe evacuation areas,” Parker noted. “Surprisingly, many of those supposedly safe evacuation areas were not located high enough and/or far enough inland, and many people who came to these evacuation areas died. Perhaps most important, many of the deaths were due to the fact that a large number of Japanese did not know what to do if a tsunami came.”

The triple disaster has compounded the impact of the global capitalist crisis on the Japanese economy, as a result of the breakdown of supply chains, the closure of plants and damage to agriculture, fishing and tourism.

Timothy S. George, The Asia-Pacific Journal: “The mercury discharged into the sea by the Chisso factory in Minamata, and the radiation released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are not entirely different ‘accidents,’ although one was the result of a ‘natural disaster’ and one not. Minamata offers hints of future developments as Japan attempts to respond to and recover from Fukushima”: here.

An overwhelming majority of Japanese people want to ditch nuclear power, according to a poll published today one year on from the massive nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station: here.

400 Chernobyls: Solar Flares, Electromagnetic Pulses and Nuclear Armageddon. Matthew Stein, Truthout: “There are nearly 450 nuclear reactors in the world, with hundreds more being planned or under construction. Imagine what havoc it would wreak on our civilization and the planet’s ecosystems if we were to suddenly witness not just one or two nuclear meltdowns, but 400 or more! How likely is it that our world might experience an event that could ultimately cause hundreds of reactors to fail and melt down at approximately the same time? … Unless we take significant protective measures, this apocalyptic scenario is not only possible, but probable”: here.

20 thoughts on “Japanese disasters, social, not just natural

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  19. > Da: Nova komunisticka partija Jugoslavije NKPJ
    > Oggetto: Urgent. APPEAL OF NKPJ
    > Data: 17 maggio 2014 20:21:18 GMT+01:00

    Urgent. APPEAL OF NKPJ

    Catastrophic floods affected specific areas of Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, which caused great material damage and took dozens of human lives.

    The cause of natural weather disasters, heavy rains which caused the floods, are primarily serious ecological problems caused by global warming, which is the result of non-existence of planned and ecologically sustainable economy, as well as exhaustion of natural resources beyond all measures, with the purpose of maximization of profit. The imperative of imperatives in capitalism, the profit of capitalists, shows its irresponsible, greedy and ecocidal side in the most brutal way, exhausting and destroying planet’s resources, ignoring the extreme natural disasters as inevitable side effects. Such brutality is currently most obviously felt by our citizens. However, it is necessary to mention that natural disasters would cause much less damage if the infrastructure of our country wasn’t in such desperate condition, which is the consequence of corruption and plundering by foreign and domestic capitalists and their bourgeoisie parties. The question that should be especially asked in this situation is why was an important part of heritage of the socialist development of our homeland – civil defense, destroyed? Civil defense was organized on the territorial principle, and in case of emergencies, it could always without any difficulty, mobilize great number of trained and which is perhaps even more important, well equipped citizens. On the local level, the civil defense possessed a storehouse and supplies which today are plundered, that contained all the necessary equipment, including boats, flash lamps, rubber boots…

    In these moments, we invite all to show solidarity and offer every possible necessary support and help to the threatened population in the affected areas. Primarily there is a need of blankets and mattresses, toiletries, dippers, powdered milk, water, canned food and packaged meals. We would like to ask you participate in providing aid which is necessary to couple hundred thousand citizens who are now left without their homes, through humanitarian organizations and an organization of Red Cross in your country, or in any other way.

    ________________________________________________________________________
    Nova komunisticka partija Jugoslavije * New Communist Party of Yugoslavia * NKPJ
    web http://www.nkpj.org.rs

    Like

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