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Engineer dismantles facade of Japan's nuclear
industry By Koide
I don't know how many people are
responsible for the Monju with the government -
the Atomic Energy Commission, the Nuclear Safety
Commission, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry, then the Ministry of International Trade
and Industry, and so forth. But suppose 100 people
responsible, each should be sentenced to 100 years
in prison. This fraud is enormous, but no one has
taken any responsibility for it so far. That's the
reality. It seems to me that the nuclear energy
business is extremely abnormal.
would like to talk about the ongoing accident in
The supposedly invincible
'five barriers' that failed Though I think
most of you are already familiar with this matter,
nuclear power generation is a technology that
deals with huge amounts of radioactivity. Please
look at the small square at the
lower left corner here. This
is the amount of uranium that burned when the
Hiroshima atomic bomb exploded: 800 grams. That
amount, which you can easily lift by hand, burned
and annihilated the city of Hiroshima.
Now, how much uranium is
necessary for nuclear power generation? It
requires one ton of uranium to run one nuclear
power plant for one year. This gives you an idea
of the enormity of the highly radioactive fission
byproducts generated as a nuclear power plant
A nuclear plant is a machine. It
is expected that machines go wrong and cause
accidents. It is we humans who operate the
machine. Humans are not God. It is only natural
that humans make mistakes. No matter how we wish
that no accidents occur, there is always the
possibility of a catastrophe. So what measures did
the nuclear policymakers take to deal with the
possibility of accidents? They just assumed
catastrophic accidents would seldom occur. So they
decided to ignore the possibility by labelling it
as an "inappropriate assumption".
Here's how they denied the
possibility of catastrophic accidents. I took this
illustration from the website of Chubu Electric
Power. They claim that there are multiple barriers
to keep radioactivity from leaking out. The most
important barrier of them all is the fourth one,
the reactor containment vessel. This is a huge
vessel made of steel, and they adopted the idea
that this vessel can always contain radioactivity,
regardless of what happens.
They claim that,
according to the Guidelines in Reactor Site
Evaluation, they have serious accidents, or
"virtual accidents of a fairly serious kind" in
mind. According to their claim, even if such an
accident occurs, there is absolutely no
possibility of the containment vessel, the final
barrier to contain radioactivity, being breached.
A radioactive leak would be impossible. Therefore,
nuclear power plants are safe under any
circumstance whatsoever, and any other assumption
is an "inappropriate assumption".
catastrophic accident has actually occurred, and
is still going on. Tragic events are underway in
Fukushima, as you all know. And the government's
responses to the ongoing accident have, in my
view, been highly inappropriate. The government
hid information and delayed evacuation.
The principle of disaster prevention
should be about taking preemptive measures on the
basis of a reasonable overestimation of risks in
order to protect people. If it turns out to really
be an overestimation so that such measures are not
necessary, that is okay too, because people will
not have been harmed.
However, what the
Japanese government has actually been doing is the
opposite: it has underestimated the risks and
acted on optimistic assumptions. First, they said
it was a Level 4 event on the International
Nuclear Event Scale and stuck to that for a long
time. Then they raised it to Level 5, but it was
not until the last moment that they admitted that
it was a Level 7 accident. Their response was way
The government also delayed
decisions in evacuation directives. First, they
evacuated those within a three-kilometer radius,
saying it was a precautionary order for the worst
case scenario. Then soon after, they evacuated
those within a 10 km radius, again saying this was
a "just in case" measure. Then they expanded the
evacuation zone to the 20 km radius, again saying
that this was preparing for the worst. In fact,
they were all belated, reactive measures, instead
of being precautionary.
disclosing accurate information is the only way to
avoid panic. That way people would trust the
administration and the government. However, the
Japanese government acted in the opposite way.
They consistently hid information, repeatedly
saying that the situation was not critical.
The government spent more than 10 billion
yen in the last 25 years to develop the radiation
dispersion simulation system called SPEEDI (the
System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency
Dose Information), but they hid the simulation
results from the public and did not let local
residents know the risks.
Government officials listen
to Koide's presentation.
government has also been forcing plant workers and
local residents to sacrifice without making clear
who is responsible. They have raised the radiation
dose limit for the workers at Fukushima Daiichi.
They have also raised radiation dose limits for
local residents in deciding on compulsory
evacuation. Are they really allowed to do such
things? I find myself at a loss when I think about
the true scale of the damage caused by the
Fukushima Daiichi accidents.
If we apply
the current Japanese law strictly, we would have
to abandon an area that would be as large as the
whole prefecture of Fukushima. The only way to
avoid this is to raise the radiation dose limit
for residents, and that would mean forcing
increased radiation exposure on residents.
I think that primary industry will suffer
tremendously. Agriculture and fishery among others
will have difficulty selling their produce and
their catch. Residents will be forced out of their
homeland and their lives will be shattered.
Some say we should make TEPCO [Tokyo
Electric Power Company, which ran the Fukushima
plant] pay proper compensation. But no matter what
they pay, or even if they pay to the extent that
they go bankrupt, it will not be sufficient. Even
if TEPCO goes bankrupt multiple times, it will not
be enough. The damage from the accident will be so
enormous that even the whole country of Japan
going bankrupt might not pay for it. This of
course is if they are really going to pay for the
The seven sins of nuclear
power In closing, I would like to quote the
"seven social sins" that Mahatma Gandhi warned
against, and which are inscribed on his tombstone.
The first is "Politics without Principle".
To those who gathered here today, I would like you
to take these words deeply to heart. Gandhi's
other sins, such as "Wealth without Work,"
"Pleasure without Conscience," "Knowledge without
Character," "Commerce without Morality," all apply
to electric power companies, including TEPCO.
And with "Science without Humanity", I
would challenge academia and its all-out
involvement with the nation's nuclear power
policy, and that includes myself.
one is "Worship without Sacrifice." To those who
have faith, please take these words to heart, too.
Thank you very much.
translation by Sakai Yasuyuki and Norimatsu
Notes 1 See
Japan, nuclear bestsellers reflect new
debate," The Washington Post with Foreign
Policy, July 19, 2011. 2 See "Information
sources in languages other than Japanese on the
issue of Fukushima’s children and allowable
radiation dosage," Peace Philosophy Centre, May
29, 2011. 3. Part
I and Part
II of the YouTube links of his 15-minute
Koide Hiroaki is Assistant
Professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor
Institute. He is the author of Genpatsu wa
iranai (We don't need nuclear power plants),
Gentosha Runessansu Shinsho, July 2011),
Genpatsu no uso (The Lie of Nuclear Power),
Fusosha Shinsho, June 2011, and Kakusareru
genshiryoku - kaku no shinjitsu (Hidden truths of
nuclear power), Soshisha, January 2011).
Sakai Yasuyuki is an engineer
based in Aichi prefecture, working for one of the
largest automotive parts suppliers. He studied
Ecological Economics, Values & Policy at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Norimatsu Satoko, a Japan Focus
Coordinator, is Director of Peace Philosophy
Centre. She leads youth and community members in
learning issues such as historical reconciliation
in Asia, nuclear disarmament, and US military
bases in Okinawa.