Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fukushima radiation -- free at your doorstep from TEPCO

                                     Cartoon  of "Our Friend the Atom" from the 1950s  
                                           Disneyland television show

I don't know if anyone has ever done the math, but it's an interesting question whether or not nuclear power would ever have paid its way as a domestic energy source if one had counted all of the costs involved in its creation including research & development, construction, liability insurance, accident clean ups, radioactive waste disposal, decommissioning aged reactors, etc.  And as Helen Caldicott has argued over the years, one also needs to count the enormous burden of human costs in illness, disability and death, along with the economic burdens of caring for people stricken with diseases caused by radioactivity emitted by the plants and their malfunctions.  

Of course the genius of modern capitalism is to avoid all costs of this kind.  Privatize the profits, pass the bills on to someone else, "externalities" as those amusing economists call these things.  In the wake of the ongoing calamities of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) now argues that radioactive isotopes released from plant are no longer its property.  Evidently, they're giving away the deadly particles, free of charge, to anyone (mis)fortunate enough to have them arrive on their property or in their bodies.  In the spirit of the holidays, think of them as gifts that keep on giving.  

One of the earliest victims of this insidious policy is a Japanese golf course.  Here's a report from The Australian newspaper.

In defending a lawsuit from a Fukushima Prefecture golf club, lawyers said the radioactive cesium that had blighted the Sunfield Nihonmatsu golf course's fairways and greens was the club's problem. The utility has taken a similarly hard line defending claims from ryokan (inn) and onsen (spa) owners.

TEPCO's lawyers used the arcane legal principle of res nullius to argue the emissions that escaped after the tsunami and earthquake triggered a meltdown were no longer its responsibility. "Radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant belong to individual landowners, not TEPCO," the utility told Tokyo District Court.
The chief operating officer of the prestigious golf course, Tsutomo Yamane, told The Australian that he and his staff were stunned: "I couldn't believe my ears. I told my employees, 'TEPCO is saying the radiation doesn't belong to them', and they said 'I beg your pardon'."

The court rejected TEPCO's argument, but ruled it was the responsibility of local, prefectural and national governments to clean it up.

The case - and the club's bid for $160 million in clean-up costs - has proceeded to the High Court amid fears the ruling could result in some local governments being bankrupted.

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By the way, I'm wondering who will pay for the damages to the world's seafood industry from the radioactive debris now floating away from the shores of Fukushima and into the Pacific Ocean.  Certainly, it won't be TEPCO.  Will shoppers and restaurants need to take geiger counters to seafood markets?   How much do those things cost?
                                                               
                                                                  
                                                                                            
 

2 comments:

  1. Incredible. This seems the perfect embodiment of corporate/technical ethics.

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