I have to think this is in our future, too. (After all, we’re giving a loan guarantee to TEPCO to build a nuclear plant in Texas.) And it’s pretty clear that when it comes to these corporate disasters, the financial needs of the corporations are always going to override the public’s health:
TOKYO — Japan’s response to the nuclear crisis that followed the March 11 tsunami was confused and riddled with problems, including an erroneous assumption an emergency cooling system was working and a delay in disclosing dangerous radiation leaks, a report revealed Monday.
The disturbing picture of harried and bumbling workers and government officials scrambling to respond to the problems at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was depicted in the report detailing a government investigation.
The 507-page interim report, compiled by interviewing more than 400 people, including utility workers and government officials, found authorities had grossly underestimated tsunami risks, assuming the highest wave would be 6 meters (20 feet). The tsunami hit at more than double those levels.
The report criticized the use of the term “soteigai,” meaning “outside our imagination,” which it said implied authorities were shirking responsibility for what had happened. It said by labeling the events as beyond what could have been expected, officials had invited public distrust.
“This accident has taught us an important lesson on how we must be ready for soteigai,” it said.
The report, set to be finished by mid-2012, found workers at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that ran Fukushima Dai-ichi, were untrained to handle emergencies like the power shutdown that struck when the tsunami destroyed backup generators – setting off the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
There was no clear manual to follow, and the workers failed to communicate, not only with the government but also among themselves, it said.
But wait, there’s more! Health experts are also extremely critical:
International authorities have urged Japan to expand the exclusion zone around the plant to 80 kilometres but the government has instead opted to “define the problem out of existence” by raising the permissible level of radiation exposure for members of the public to 20 millisieverts per year, considerably higher than the international standard of one millisievert per year, Gould adds.
This “arbitrary increase” in the maximum permissible dose of radiation is an “unconscionable” failure of government, contends Ruff. “Subject a class of 30 children to 20 millisieverts of radiation for five years and you’re talking an increased risk of cancer to the order of about 1 in 30, which is completely unacceptable. I’m not aware of any other government in recent decades that’s been willing to accept such a high level of radiation-related risk for its population.”
Following the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, “clear targets were set so that anybody anticipated to receive more than five millisieverts in a year were evacuated, no question,” Ruff explains. In areas with levels between one and five millisieverts, measures were taken to mitigate the risk of ingesting radioactive materials, including bans on local food consumption, and residents were offered the option of relocating. Exposures below one millisievert were still considered worth monitoring.
In comparison, the Japanese government has implemented a campaign to encourage the public to buy produce from the Fukushima area, Ruff added. “That response [in Chernobyl] 25 years ago in that much less technically sophisticated, much less open or democratic context, was, from a public health point of view, much more responsible than what’s being done in modern Japan this year.”