Then there’s Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, who comes down somewhere near the same side after wisely calling for everyone to wait-and-see before the political analysis begins.
There’s so much we don’t know yet about the situation in Japan. And there’s so much yet to happen—we don’t know how bad this is all going to get. For that and many other reasons, I don’t want to try to say anything definitive. But as we watch this very frightening situation unfold in Japan, I think it’s worth keeping a few thoughts in mind.
We saw a catastrophic accident with fossil fuels in the Gulf last year. What seems more relevant to me is that the proper and planned use of fossil fuels—in other words, when everything goes just according to plan—is creating what appears to be catastrophic damage on a planetary scale. What’s more, setting aside global warming, there is a detailed scientific literature showing the number of deaths and chronic illnesses tied to the release of fossil fuel pollution into the air—lung diseases, asthma, cancer, etc. Again, when all goes just according to plan.
Of course, this “anti-anti-nuclear” left aren’t the only ones making noise. The Guardian cautions readers today against swallowing what Japanese officialdom is feeding reporters regarding the nuclear problems the country is facing, and suggests a nuclear cover-up that might give the lie to those claiming the anti-nuke contingent is overreacting. In a piece titled, “Japan radiation leaks feared as nuclear experts point to possible cover-up,” the paper reports that some engineers are skeptical of the Japanese government’s remaining mum about radiation leaks. (Though, as with many stories coming out of Japan, it’s hard to tell whether the government is remaining mum—this report, for just one of many, suggests they’re being more open than that.) The Guardian report goes back to WikiLeaks cables to back up its case.
In a newly released diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks, politician Taro Kono, a high-profile member of Japan’s lower house, tells US diplomats that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry—the Japanese government department responsible for nuclear energy—has been “covering up nuclear accidents and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry”.
In 2008, Kono told them: “The ministries were trapped in their policies, as officials inherited policies from people more senior to them, which they could then not challenge.” He mentioned the dangers of natural disasters in the context of nuclear waste disposal, citing Japan’s “extensive seismic activity, and abundant groundwater, and [he] questioned if there really was a safe place to store nuclear waste in the ‘land of volcanoes’.”
Interesting—but impossible to say that the same pattern (if indeed there is evidence to support Kono’s claims) is being repeated here until the story is completely told.
Another piece attracting attention in the nuclear/Japan debate today comes from Greg Palast at the progressive website Truthout, who describes himself as a lead investigator in government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering. Palast picks apart the implications of president Obama’s decision to ask congress for $4 billion for two new nuclear reactors to be built on the Gulf Coast in Texas. The reactors would be built by the Tokyo Electric Power Co and local partners. Palast, in a direct attack on the pro-nuclear op-eds we’ve been seeing, says we’re not getting the full story on nuclear in the mainstream news, and brings the story close to home.
Last night, I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.
These safety backup systems are the “EDGs” in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel Generators. That they didn’t work in an emergency is like a fire department telling us they couldn’t save a building because “it was on fire.”
What dim bulbs designed this system? One of the reactors dancing with death at Fukushima Station 1 was built by Toshiba. Toshiba was also an architect of the emergency diesel system.
Now be afraid. Obama’s $4 billion bailout in the making is called the South Texas Project. It’s been sold as a red-white-and-blue way to make power domestically with a reactor from Westinghouse, a great American brand. However, the reactor will be made substantially in Japan by the company that bought the US brand name, Westinghouse—Toshiba.
It’s an interesting investigation. But again, it’s hard to say the same mistakes would be repeated simply because the same companies are involved.