Einstein, Insanity, Nuclear Meltdowns and Tokyo Electric Power Company

fukushima-01-smFrom: Japan Subculture Research Center

“Would there have been a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant even without the tidal wave?”


The July 11, 2011 edition of the 週間エコノミスト (The Weekly Economist, a respected Japanese publication but not The Economist) has a long interview with Mitsuhiko Tanaka (田中三彦氏) a former nuclear reactor manufacturing technician, who in a very well-illustrated and annotated article makes a strong case that the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)  had little to do with the tsunami and that the problem was that the plant did not withstand the earthquake. He asserts that multiple factors, including broken pipes and water circulation pumps, led to an LOCA, Loss of Coolant Accident. It is worth picking up and reading if you can read Japanese. He also makes a point that many overlook: the 9.0 earthquake epicenter was in Miyagi Prefecture, not Fukushima Prefecture. The magnitude of the earthquake at Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant was well under the threshold of what the the plant is supposed to be able to withstand.


fukushima genpatsu-sm

Permit me, for a moment, to state my opinion on the nuclear fiasco that has taken place in Japan. It is my opinion and not that of my co-author or the JSRC.

Albert Einstein, the physicist who convinced the United States to begin developing an atomic bomb during the Second World War, once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Perhaps, this is true in normal human relations, but when it comes to nuclear power plants, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results.

When you keep running the same nuclear reactor for over forty years, ten years past the date it was supposed to be closed down—that’s insanity. Because any rational person would you tell you that the risk of a nuclear disaster taking place increases every year, with every unfixed problem, with every sloppy inspection, with the normal wear and tear on each part of a reactor that was never designed for an earthquake ridden Japan in the first place.

TEPCO has a history of falsifying data, corporate malfeasance, and labor violations that fill pages of a book. TEPCO has admitted to over 200 cases of falsifying data. They have had previous nuclear mishaps as a result of an earthquake, in 2007, which released nuclear radiation into the environment. The current chairman of the company, Tsunehisa Katsumata, was president of the firm at the time. He later resigned from the post to take responsibility and took his current position, where he has continued to be the de facto CEO. TEPCO has bullied and bribed the media for years not to criticize their activities; Katsumata admitted as much last month in a press conference. It has funded academics that tow the party line that nuclear energy is safe and efficient. According to the weekly magazine, Shukan Toyo Keizai, it may also have systematically circumvented political donation laws by having company executives and workers donate money to friendly politicians as individuals rather than as a corporation. It has allegedly paid money to organized crime to keep quiet about problems at the reactors. It has employed yakuza as workers.

The sane thing to do would be to stop letting this company keep doing the same thing over and over. It would be to dismantle the corporation, the failed system of government oversight that has allowed this monolithic entity to flout the law and ruin the lives of the Fukushima Prefecture citizens. But the sanest thing of all would be to consider the feasibility of continuing to operate antiquated nuclear power plants, who are only as strong as their pipes and probably can not stand another earthquake close to the scale that came this March. They should be re-checked and inspected diligently.

In a society where TEPCO, government agencies, the mass media, and certain politicians all put their interests before the public good, what is the sanest way to deal with this problem and still provide Japan with the energy it needs? That’s another question that the citizens of Japan and the world are waiting to be answered.