Corporate malfeasance that harms the planet is not exclusively American
It’s been two and a half years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex in Japan began spewing radioactive material into the air, land, and sea after it was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami. Since that time, much of the world has turned its attention elsewhere with most of us assuming that, since it’s not on the front pages of our newspapers any longer, everything is under control.
That is far from being the case.
Embattled Fukushima operator Tepco has been accused of a “weak sense of crisis”, as its failing battle to prevent radioactive water from seeping into the seawater near the plant has become an “emergency”, according to the country’s nuclear watchdog.
“You can’t just leave it [disposing of radioactive waste at the plant] up to Tepco,” Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) told Reuters. “Right now, we have an emergency.”
Daily, 400 tons of groundwater percolates into the basements of the plant, which was decimated by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The seepage mixes with water used to cool down the damaged reactors, before accumulating, and escaping out into the Pacific Ocean.
For the past two years, Tepco claimed that it managed to siphon off the excess water into specially built storage tanks, but late last month admitted that toxic water was not contained.
To give you an idea of the scope of this, that’s nearly 96,000 gallons of water “seeping” into the plant every day and becoming radioactive.
Tepco has been pumping the water into their special makeshift tanks but they are now 85% full and the company has made no plans to build more or to make them permanent. What’s worse, the water level is rising inside containment walls on the site because they can’t pump it out as fast as it’s coming in. Within the next month, it will breach the containment walls and, when that happens, the water will pour into the ocean and “will flow extremely fast”.
This is a classic case of a corporate entity causing catastrophic environmental damage and not being held accountable for it. If the libertarian tea party types in America had their way, we would remove regulations and allow industry to regulate itself and to fix any problems that arise. The magic hands of self-interest and capitalism, they tell us, compel industrialists to do the right thing. Ayn Rand’s industrial utopia where we rely on the so-called wealth “[producers” (vs. parasitic “looters”) to resolve the world’s problems because in their selfish self-interest to do so collapses in the face of emergencies like the one in Japan.
The next time some tea partier tells you our industrialist heroes need to be unshackled from regulation, point west to Japan and show them the proof that they are living in a fallacious, Randian dream world that does not exist on Planet Earth.
[Public domain photo credit: Voice of America | Wikimedia Commons]