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.