Fukushima: An Unnatural Disaster That Must Never Be Repeated

A protester shouts slogans during an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo in 2012. (Credit: Franck Robichon/EPA)

Fukushima: An Unnatural Disaster That Must Never Be Repeated

The Fukushima catastrophe four years ago today was no natural disaster

Four years have passed since the March 11 tragic triple meltdowns began at Fukushima Daiichi. There is no end in sight.

Let's be clear, the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi was manmade. Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) and indeed the entire nuclear industry worldwide act as if they are the victims of a natural disaster, but in fact the nuclear industry is the perpetrator of this travesty.

When the American nuclear companies, General Electric and Ebasco, built Fukushima Daiichi for TEPCO, they knew that huge tsunamis were a real risk.

Instead of designing for the worst imaginable consequences, which would make nuclear power unaffordable, the industry chose instead to save money, allowing economics to trump safety. The continuing problems at Fukushima Daiichi during the past four years stem from those skewed priorities.

Tokyo Electric, the government regulators in Japan, and the worldwide nuclear industry grossly underestimated the initial radioactive releases, underestimated the magnitude of the disaster, and underestimated the consequences of not taking action. The Japanese people will pay the price for decades to come.

Protecting people? Or protecting the nuclear industry?

Is Tokyo Electric or the Japanese government incompetent? I don't think so. As I look back at the last four years, I think that TEPCO, Japanese regulators, and worldwide regulatory agencies wanted nuclear power to succeed so badly that they focused on saving Tokyo Electric and forgot about the people they were created to serve.

At each nuclear catastrophe: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and again at Fukushima Daiichi, the companies, governments, and agencies responding to these disasters were not working to protect people, but worked instead to protect the ongoing operation and potential future of nuclear power.

The mishandling of this disaster has shown us that emergency response must be directed by organizations that put people first, not agencies that have a vested interest in perpetuating nuclear power, banking, and industrial interests.

Why have the nuclear industry, its regulators, and governments worldwide attempted to minimize the devastation created by the obvious collapse of the myth of nuclear safety? The answer is money.

Throughout the world, banks and governments are heavily invested in the financial success of the ongoing operation of their nuclear power plants, no matter what health consequences and personal loss is forced upon the people of their nations.

Only nuclear power can destroy a country overnight

Following the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown, governments around the world have destroyed their social contracts with their citizens by pressing for costly and risky nuclear power without regard for the health and welfare of generations to come. The social contract between the people in Japan and the Japanese government has certainly been breached, perhaps for decades to come.

The same skewed decision-making process that lead to ignoring the tsunami risk at Fukushima Daiichi in 1965 is still being applied to new nuclear construction and old nuclear operation. The old paradigm has not and likely will not change, despite five meltdowns during the last 35 years disproving the myth of nuclear safety.

Of all the ways electricity is produced, nuclear technology is the only one that can destroy the fabric of a country overnight. In his memoirs Mikhail Gorbachev states that it was the Chernobyl accident that destroyed the Soviet Union not Perestroika.

Five former Japanese Prime Ministers: Kan, Koizumi, Nakazone, Noda, and Hatoyama, who span the spectrum of liberal to conservative, oppose nuclear power. And currently in Europe, former physicist and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is leading her country to be nuclear free by 2022.

Where there is a political will, nations can wean themselves from nuclear power without waiting for yet another nuclear disaster to occur.

And as Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister during the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy, said (Crisis Without End, From the Symposium at the New York Academy of Medicine 2011):

"Considering the risk of losing half our land and evacuating half our population, my conclusion is that not having nuclear power plants is the safest energy policy."

© 2023 The Ecologist