TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima reactors, ignored early warnings of risk, from both inside and outside the company, because the safeguards were too expensive. Thus, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s cooling systems and led to a core meltdown in all three reactors. Today, six years later, the reactor cores are melting down through the rock, and radiation levels are so intense that even robots can’t survive long enough to locate the burning fuel rods. Removal of the rods, originally scheduled for 2015, then delayed until 2017, has been delayed again, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, 300 tons of radioactive water floods into the Pacific Ocean every day. Cleanup cost estimates have risen to several billion Euros per year and decommissioning is now expected to take about 40 years. In December, 2016, the Japanese government announced that the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and storing radioactive waste, if they can achieve this at all, would reach over 21 trillion yen (€180 billion; US$ 200 billion). This scenario is based on no major earthquakes occurring before the 2050s. TEPCO will likely go bankrupt before it will pay these costs, so the government has stepped in, which means the citizens pay the costs, just as they bailed out the banks after the last economic collapse. This is a core policy for large, modern corporations: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs. The nuclear “solution” to growing energy demand – now a massive technical and financial black hole, with negative marginal returns, draining scarce resources from struggling communities – is what industrial collapse looks like in the real world. This is the face of industrial collapse, when alleged solutions become bigger problems. Nuclear power has now become a massive liability, draining resources from communities that need schools, hospitals, and the essentials of life. Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, and other researchers point out that some societies – Tikopia island, Byzantine society in the 1300s – avoided collapse, not by increasing complexity with better technology, but by down-sizing intentionally, learning to thrive on a lower level of complexity. This is now the challenge of industrial society. Can we, and especially the rich and powerful, change our habits of consumption and growth? Can we come back to Earth?
Greenpeace 5th May 2017 read more »