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Why the Japanese Government Should Take Over the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the i'm-sure-politicians-would-jump-at-the-chance-to-shoulder-that-liability dept.

Japan 211

Lasrick writes "The Japan Times has an opinion piece about the seriousness of the situation at Fukushima and the incompetence of Tepco. The article makes the case that it's time for the Japanese government to step in and take control of the plant to facilitate clean-up. Quoting: 'Japan has been very lucky that nothing worse has occurred at the plant. But luck eventually runs out. The longer Tepco stays in charge of the decommissioning process, the worse the odds become. Without downplaying the seriousness of leaks and the other setbacks at the plant, it is important to recognize that things could very quickly get much worse. In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4. There are 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies in a pool above the reactor. They weigh a total of 400 tons, and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The spent-fuel pool, standing 18 meters above ground, was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami and is in a deteriorating condition. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task.'"

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More government! (0)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#44715883)

The solution is more government!

Re:More government! (5, Interesting)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#44715931)

It is when a corporate entity want the mess taken over.

Is Japan going to resist the drive to socialize the loss of corporations that can't keep their shit together?

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716163)

You are thinking backwards, sir.

Re:More government! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716641)

Unlike the bailouts to corporate entities in the US, radiation actually has real world consequences, not the collapse of some hair brained greedy economic system we pinned together and keep propping up (which I'm all for collapse and restructuring). If the Japanese government need intervene, Tepco should be forced to pay all of the expenses to the point of full asset liquidation if needed.

Re:More government! (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44716661)

Way too late for that. TEPCO is already virtually state owned. If the government hadn't bailed them out people wouldn't have been able to sue them for compensation. Plus the government has been paying benefits to those who lose their jobs and homes around the plant, and for extra healthcare costs, and a whole long list of other stuff.

Nuclear accident costs are always socialized, just like its development was in the first place. It isn't just Japan, in the US plants have $10bn of insurance by law but if you stuck an extra zero on that it would be a fraction of the cost of Fukushima.

Re:More government! (5, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | about a year ago | (#44715951)

Sometimes it is, actually.

Contrary to popular psychosis, the solution is not always "less government".

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716091)

Yup, just check out what happened in Quebec, Lac-Megantic...

Re:More government! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716127)

Quebec doesn't have a government. It has a large bureaucracy that exists only to collect as much as possible from its citizenry, and give as little as possible to its citizens. In Quebec we get steamed hot dogs but we get a filet mignon bill.

Re:More government! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44716593)

In Quebec we get steamed hot dogs but we get a filet mignon bill.

And you still complain? Then what will you do when Quebec runs out of steam?

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44717039)

Given Fukushima's current problems, we might have an entire Pacific Ocean's worth of steam before this is all over.

I, for one, will have hot dogs ready.

Re: More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716929)

considering how many people died when we privatized and deregulated a single fucking thing why should it be a surprise?

Re: More government! (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about a year ago | (#44717169)

The accident is not due to deregulation. The train driver didn't secure the brakes. You can regulate and over-regulate and do whatever you want, if the guy responsible to secure the brakes fails to do his job, you are screwed.

Re:More government! (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about a year ago | (#44717149)

Totally irrelevant comment. Regulation in rail transportation is a federal responsability. I hope you aren't Canadian, neither Quebecer, otherwise you are showing how ignorant you are.

Then, to make my comment about more or less government. I believe it is not to Japan's governement to take over TEPCO and clean the place. Japan's governement responsability is to monitor closely the process, make regulations, enforce them and make sure TEPCO is doing ITS job.

Re:More government! (4, Insightful)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#44716153)

The thing we need to ask ourselves is not a question of is more/less government the solution, but rather, is this a job that the government can do more effectively? With something such as crucial as this, we must make sure that the means chosen have a good (ideally, the best) likelihood of reaching the ends desired.

Re:More government! (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44716209)

With something such as crucial as this, we must make sure that the means chosen have a good (ideally, the best) likelihood of reaching the ends desired.

And, of a company worried about their own profits and which has been doing a lousy job of the cleanup, or a government which is strongly motivated to get it done -- which would you trust?

Corporations do a lousy job of cleaning up messes like this because they're more worried about spin than actually doing the work.

So the whole time BT was saying "oh, it's only a little oil" they knew it was a load of crap -- but they were more interested in laying blame to contractors and spinning the PR.

Me, I'd put far more faith in the Japanese government than the company who operated the plant and has been doing such a bad job of cleaning it up.

Re:More government! (1)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#44716453)

I don't disagree with your claims about corporations doing a lousy job. In fact, just a few posts down I mentioned how the limited liability nature of corporations is one of the real problems. However, this is not a matter of who we trust, but in fact a question of what means reaches the desired ends best. Governments are notoriously inefficient in most areas. They may in fact generally do a better job of cleaning up such messes than corporations, in which case I think that may be a viable option. I do not know the answer, I am just raising the question. One thing to remember, though, is the incentive that we create for corporations by cleaning up their messes for them. If we continue to remove the risk (or some of the risk) from the corporation, we should expect them to partake in increasingly risky behavior.

Re:More government! (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year ago | (#44716599)

Then clean it up, charge them for the work and jail the heads of the corporations that failed in such a dangerous area.

Re:More government! (1)

The Grassy Knoll (112931) | about a year ago | (#44716803)

So the whole time BT was saying "oh, it's only a little oil" they knew it was a load of crap

BP, I think!

British Telecom may be a rubbish company, but they've never polluted the Gulf Of Mexico (as far as I know)

Re:More government! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44716879)

LOL. You are right, of course ... apparently my fingers decided to do something else.

Re:More government! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716985)

The real question is does the government have the expertise to carry out this task better than the company which operates the plant? The answer might very well be yes, but it could just as easily be no. Perhaps the real answer is that they don't, but the company cannot be trusted either. To me that would point to a solution requiring increased oversight with perhaps the government bring in technical experts to assist in that oversight.
Should the government take over I would suspect all that does is transfer the cost to the taxpayer and replace the corporation with government as the entity that all of the contractors report too. As well as allowing said contractors to increase their price, since in my experience it always cost more for the government to do anything.
So I think more government might be the answer, but only more government oversight, not them stepping in to let the company bail.

Re:More government! (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44717057)

The interesting thing here is that BP and TEPCO are the only groups who actually have a clue how to clean their own messes up. Despite the drama of a "level 3 serious incident", I don't see evidence that TEPCO should be removed from the clean up of the Fukushima site or the surroundings.

Your choice to compare the Fukushima clean up to the Deepwater Horizon spill is telling. While there was considerable incompetence and criminal actions going into the causes, that oil spill was competently handled after the fact. The US government wouldn't have done any better.

Re:More government! (1)

Danathar (267989) | about a year ago | (#44716525)

Sigh..the government does VERY little. Corporations do things FOR the government with government oversight often by people who used to work in the same corporations they have oversight for.

Giving it to the "Government" to do is not taking corporations out of the picture.

It's like having the discussion concerning the "private" sector launching manned space if NASA did it without the private sector to begin with.

Re:More government! (1)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about a year ago | (#44716801)

You're right. Of course, without the government, we wouldn't have roads or the internet but I'm sure those things don't matter to you.

Just as much as the government is dependent on the private sector, the private sector is dependent on the government. It goes both ways, skippy.

Re:More government! (0)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44717121)

Of course, without the government, we wouldn't have roads or the internet but I'm sure those things don't matter to you.

Without government we wouldn't even have the concept of Godwin's law. You kill six million Jews this one time and they never let you forget it!

Re:More government! (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44716653)

Government is great at doing things that aren't profitable (or that no one wants to do). Other than that, Government has no reason to be in that market. Good example; the USPS. Every year the price of first-class mail goes up, but the service goes down. They talking about pulling weekend services accross the board. First class price changes almost weekly, so they came out with the "forever" stamp, a stamp with no price, and they're already talking about doing away with that becuase they're talking about raising the rate again; its too much of a moving target and they lose too much money with a priceless stamp. Finally the USPS lost billions lat year. Meanwhile UPS, FedEx, etc run circles around the USPS, are highly efficient, and highly profitable. But only the Fed can deliver first class door-to-door, they have a monopoly on that.

Re:More government! (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#44716813)

Commercial business can never be and has never been trustworthy when it comes to public safety. Everything from coal mining, gas/oil drilling, "fracking" all the way to nuclear energy requires safety and EVERY industry, when left to their own, has shown they will favor cost cutting/profit increasing over safety. EVERY time. We've seen coal miners killed. We've seen the "strange earthquakes" around areas where fracking has been going on. We've seen the whole BP oil spill issue. We saw Chernobyl (a name which literally means "nuclear disaster" to most people now) and now we are experiencing Fukushima.

It's all safety related and it's all because people didn't want to spend enough money on safety. Keep in mind that there is ANOTHER nuclear plant no too far from Fukushima which survived the same tsunami specifically because the wall was higher and stronger. It wasn't because they never expected a tsunami so large. They were advised to build as large in Fukushima as well. They didn't... or so I'm told.

Nuclear safety. There is NOTHING more important. Nothing.

Re:More government! (1)

Vaphell (1489021) | about a year ago | (#44717157)

dude, did you really give Chernobyl as an example of corporate screwup? I mean really? And do you really think that in state owned coal mines in the Soviet block there were no accidents ever? By that logic deadly accidents in military are unheard of and I am pretty sure that's not the case.

Re:More government! (3, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44716247)

Sometimes it is, actually.

Sometimes. But probably not in this case. The government of Japan does not have an elite team of nuclear cleanup ninjas waiting in the wings. In fact, they have no expertise in this area. TEPCO's initial response was incompetent, but the government's response wasn't so good either. And the government was responsible for the regulatory system that allowed the accident to happen. TEPCO's constant underplaying of the severity, and withholding of information, is a Japanese cultural thing, and the government would have done the same if not worse. These statements were misleading to westerners, who are used to officials that normally exaggerate problems, but it was not misleading to the Japanese public, who just assume that whatever officials say, the reality is ten times worse.

Re:More government! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44716309)

No, but they can hire those folks and have motivation to do so.

At this point the Fukushima site is a total write off. TEPCO has no reason to spend any money on it. What should happen is the government should bring in the right folks to fix it, and TEPCO should be forced to pay for it.

Re:More government! (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44717009)

No, but they can hire those folks and have motivation to do so.

There are no "folks" to hire. Government is not magic. They do not have a team of super-smart 007 agents ready to pounce on every problem. If they did, they would have used them fix the Japanese economy, which has been mismanaged so badly that it makes the Italians look competent. The half-life of tritium is not going to change by government decree, and there is no secret government issued super glue that is going to fix the leaking water tanks.

The severity of the problems at Fukushima are being publicized slowly, but the decisions that caused those problems were made either before the accident, or immediately after it. The government was either responsible or complicit in most of those decisions.

Re:More government! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44717053)

There are no engineers who would accept a higher salary for this project? What universe do you live in?

Sure you can't change what has happened but you can stop making stupid decisions.

Re:More government! (1)

rmstar (114746) | about a year ago | (#44716385)

TEPCO's constant underplaying of the severity, and withholding of information, is a nuclear industry cultural thing

Fixed that for you. It's like that everywhere.

The argument in favor of gov. takeover is that a government can spend money in a different way and plan in a different way than a company that has to look for profit. That is especially so in a situation like this that is just a costly mess.

Re:More government! (3, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#44716257)

Yea, pretty much it is. What do you think is going to happen if the government takes over the plant? Does the government have nuclear workers? Any expertise at all in this area? No? So they are going to hire whomever has the best knowledge of the facility... oh, Tepco. So now, not only is Tepco still in charge of the cleanup, they're now getting paid to do it and the responsibility for the result is now off their shoulders and there's endless layers of red tape they have to get through to actually do anything.

A more appropriate solution would be to send in government inspectors, have them on-site 24/7 and reporting back to government officials. Make Tepco pay their wages as well.

Re:More government! (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44716321)

Or they could hire the best and brightest to oversee the engineers at TEPCO.

Do you think it was the engineers or the bean counters that fucked this up?

Of course TEPCO should pay the full cost of this, in addition to fines and possible criminal penalties.

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716695)

Well, the popular "less government" argument is more about optimizing government involvement for "my" personal interests and little to do with the size of government. "Screw the rest of the society, I want government to set my interests above all" except the figure in this picture is not the bulk of the population but small subset of wealthy members.

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44717111)

Not at all. I want the government to limit itself to doing the things that it is directed to do in the Constitution. I am not wealthy, I do alright and would do better if the government would stop spending my money to do things it is not mandated to do. If wanting that is the government "setting my interest over all", so be it.

Re:More government! (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44716033)

TEPCO were just as responsible, if not more so. So "more corporations" apparently isn't the answer either. What do you propose to do?

Re:More government! (1)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#44716229)

Well ideally, corporations should not exist at all. The trouble is that the corporations have very little true incentive to do "what's right" because of the limited liability nature of them. Furthermore, just because we have issues created by corporations does *not* mean that the solution is government. They are not opposites (and even if they were does not mean the opposite of a bad decision is a good decision). In fact, corporations cannot exist without government (it is government that defines a corporation and grants it its liability immunities).

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44717161)

Quite true. Initially corporations were set up for very limited purposes, and they are the creature of government. Their purpose was specifically to limit liability, initially so that debtors could not go after the private property of investors, a common practice before the creation of corporations. Unfortunately the limits on corporate activity was dropped in favor of incorporating lots of corporations so that the government could collect more funds in taxes and incorporating fees. Then corporations figures out they could engage in regulatory capture and the whole system has gone to hell.

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716035)

Nope, only laissez-faire free-market capitalism is the solution. Some great industrialist will think of some way to turn a profit cleaning up this and every other ecological mess an cake, puppies, and a fat pay check will be had by all the hard working folk.

Re:More government! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716049)

The solution is more competance, government or otherwise, just fix it and don't make any more mistakes in the process.

Ah, so "the market" is supposed to fix this? (2)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#44716101)

Yeah, free enterprise can solve any problem. I am sure there are plenty of entities out there that would love to have a bunch of radioactive waste to play with. I bet they would pay top dollar for it. Only....I think we may not want them to have it. But hey! After they spread it all over Tokyo or NYC, maybe thats actually a business opportunity! Think of the manufacturing revenues we could accrue in coffins.

Re:More government! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716299)

The solution is more government!

Yeah, because greedy douchebag corporations do such a vastly superior job of running the world -- lets' hand it all over to them.

You are a fucking idiot if you believe the solution to everything is less government and that we should trust corporations with anything other than looking out for their own interests. Certainly not for anything in the public interest like cleaning something like this up.

Corporations aren't accountable to anybody but their shareholders, which means for a very large number of things, a corporation is the last fucking entity you want in control of something.

But, really, you should go suck Rand Paul's dick some more. The US may be happy with corporations running everything, but the rest of the world thinks you're idiots.

Re:More government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716479)

You are so right! The solution to fixing a nuclear disaster caused by a corporation is to ensure the government stays away!

Re:More government! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44716539)

The solution is more government!

No, the solution is complete deregulation. If achieved, the free market fairy will grant the commercial operators the wish of taking as much profit as efficiently as possible and, if something wrong happens, just do nothing ('cause that would go against their duty to shareholders).
You see, in spite of still existing regulation, Tepco is already heralding the new age.

Re:More government! (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#44716649)

Having some direct experience with both the culture and government of Japan and of the nuclear industry, I can say [opine] that the Japanese government is completely incapable of handling the task.

If you ask me, I say send the US NRC over to Japan to take the situation over and train Japan's NRC to operate in the same way as the US NRC.

The US NRC is a royal pain in the ass. But they are that for a very good reason. And believe me when I tell you, they aren't just up in the utilities' faces, they are up in EVERYONE connected faces. The Japanese regulatory agency will ONLY communicate with the Japanese utilities and not the manufacturers of equipment, not the people who did construction or planning or any of it. So for the Japanese regulatory agency to ignore those other factors? It convinces me they aren't prepared to see a much larger picture when it comes to nuclear safety.

I am told this aspect of the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency is changing, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, the Japanese habit of never saying more than they should and always holding back information leads me to believe it's actually worse than the mainstream media will say and likely MUCH worse.

Nuclear safety isn't just local. It's not just national. It's a global concern. And if some group of people internationally were to say "hey, this is a global concern. Let's make a global nuclear regulatory agency" I would actually agree to the idea simply because the danger knows no borders. And believe me when I say it's not easy for me to be in favor of -- I am against global government in general. Completely.

But . . . (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715901)

But this goes against two oh-so-fashionable Slashdot hipster propaganda points:

1) The government is always more incompetent than private business!!1

2) Nuclear power cannot harm people!!1

Posting anonymously because the hipster libertarians have a lot of mod points.

Re:But . . . (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44716201)

Hipster libertarians? I get that that both groups are unlikable, but in what way does the "freedom solves everything" crowd reflect the slightest bit of hipster qualities?

Re:But . . . (0)

Oh Gawwd Peak Oil (1000227) | about a year ago | (#44716281)

"Freedom solves everything" crowd?

Libertarians are the "Freedom for me solves everything" crowd.

The instant you start talking about other people's freedom you are branded a "bleeding-heart."

Re:But . . . (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44716393)

Please, while that may be true on some level, on the level of the positions they directly assert, they clearly believe in universal freedom. Now whether that premise actually leads to the conclusions they claim it does, and whether the actual policy positions they support reinforce that universal freedom are up for debate(and are debated all the time), but you really don't need to resort to "The people I disagree actually believe something less respectable than what they claim to. Look at how easy to dismantle that position is."

IAEA. Not Japan. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715909)

The Japanese govt. doesn't feel the necessity to take this on to date, evidenced by their unwillingness to even consider it.

They've already blown oversight, transparency, and emergency response planning. They're not going to suddenly become competent.

Get the IAEA in there, use the UN to pressure them to accept international oversight. There are over 12,000 fuel rods 100 feet in the air.

There's really no more time for trusting the Japanese government.

First post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715915)

Re:First post! (1)

Kiwikwi (2734467) | about a year ago | (#44715973)

Obligatory XKCD: []

There, FTFY.

Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) (2, Interesting)

zaax (637433) | about a year ago | (#44715921)

Just build a Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) next to the site, problem solved. []

Re:Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) (2)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44716041)

Russ Wilcox, Transatomicâ(TM)s new CEO estimates that it will take eight years to build a prototype reactor

Seems like the perfect solution to our current problem! :p

Re:Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) (1)

MiniMike (234881) | about a year ago | (#44716145)

If the Japanese government had started planning this immediately after the earthquake, by now it would only be 10 years from completion.

Re:Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716913)

Yeah, the waste is just converted to honeyed milk... except bombarding uranium with neutrons is just going to yield fissile material *more* radioactive than when it started. The material you link to has almost no technical details. I challange to show the nuclear equation where the uranium isotopes from a spent fuel rod are converted to harmless non-radioactive isotopes.

Re:Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44717167)

Three things.:

  1. The radioactive waste needs to be removed from the ruins. This for the spent fuel tanks is extremely dangerous operation in itself.
  2. The radioactive waste needs to be processed in this case into salt solution. This is possible but nor really done yet ever. I understand this is rather 'small' problem especially comparing with the first one.
  3. MSR is in itself as dangerous as anything else. We thought we knew it all and then during decommissioning there were surprises. It is also interesting to think about what happens when molten salt escapes.

Fix these and you get to become next emperor of Japan (and owner of TEPCO).

Hyperbole isn't necessary (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715927)

Really now, any time nuclear anything is mentioned in comparison with Hiroshima, you know that someone is trying to scare you. I believe the SI unit would be Becquerels, not "Hiroshimas".

Re:Hyperbole isn't necessary (2)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44716061)

With regards to this particular situation, Japan could do with a whole lot more scared, to pressure those in authority to get their arses in gear.

Unlikely (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44715933)

I don't think the government is very likely to take over from TEPCO. TEPCO itself is already practically nationalized due to the vast amounts of money the government has had to pump into it and pay out to those affected by the disaster. By keeping it independent there is someone external to blame for all the problems, which would otherwise be the direct responsibility of the government.

TFA is full of hype but one interesting point that is often missed is worth noting. The earthquake itself damage the plant, and even without the tsunami there would have been a serious accident.

Re:Unlikely (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year ago | (#44716103)

The Japanese government has been supervising the work TEPCO have been carrying out since the tsunami. Basically they can't spit without permission and anything and everything about the site is reported to the government on a daily basis via the newly-setup Nuclear Regulatory Authority. Exactly what the government could do that TEPCO isn't doing right now I don't know.

As for the earthquake the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi (and Daini ten km south) survived the ground shocks quite well, going into shutdown and maintaining their cooling operations on battery power even after the tsunami hit and knocked out the emergency generators. It was only after the batteries gave out that they overheated and gas explosions wrecked the reactor vessels and breached the containments.

The reactor complex at Onagawa about 100km further up the coast from Fukushima Daiichi was even closer to the site of the earthquake and it survived without incident -- being sited higher up from sea level it wasn't materially affected by the tsunami.

Re:Unlikely (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44716191)

For one, they could get rid of the people who keep lying to them about the extent of the problem.
two, They have access to more moeny and can get t solving the actual problem.

This is all about how tepco handle everything post tsunami.
And we are starting to see they weren't as unaffected as we were led to believe.
This is why we should build more new tech reactors and they should be run by the government and the electricity sold at cost.

Re:Unlikely (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44716581)

If they got rid of the people lying they would have to immediately admit it was far worse than previous government estimates, based on those lies, said. As well as embarrassment that would also mean paying out more compensation.

They don't want to pour more money into that giant sinkhole. It's going to cost in the hundreds of billions of dollars range by conservative estimates, and looks set to rocket as decontamination is failing and needs to be re-done in many areas. People are starting to get sick as well, something else that wasn't adequately budgeted for and which has an unknown future cost.

Due to the vast costs nuclear power will never ever approach being economical or affordable in Japan now, especially as they don't have a nuclear weapons program to share it with. The chances of any new reactors being approved anywhere in Japan are pretty much zero, especially now people have realized that the country can cope without any and all the fear-mongering was just that.

Re:Unlikely (1)

fritsd (924429) | about a year ago | (#44716873)

They *have* to pour more money in and clean it up. Japan is a very densely populated country. They can't all move out to "Japan 2.0" nextdoor, you know. If half of Honshu becomes uninhabitable for 300 years, where are they all going to live then?? Hokkaido?

Re:Unlikely (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year ago | (#44717069)

The area of Japan that's noticeably contaminated (i.e. significantly above background and maybe dangerous to live in for decades) by the Fukushima radiation releases is maybe a thousand square km in extent, or a quarter the size of Rhode Island to put it in terms of the US. A chunk of that is hills and mountains, quite lightly populated to start with. The larger towns in the area tend to be down near the coast for fishing and agriculture and most of those population centres missed the plumes of radioactive material from the explosions. They were evacuated anyway as a precaution -- some areas have now been reopened for the citizens to move back as testing and decontamination efforts have cleared them as being safe.

The one place that remained occupied which did in fact get hit somewhat by the fallout plume is Fukushima City about 60km NW of the plant. Background radiation there is still way higher than before the accident (about 0.75 microSv/h today, or about 6 milliSv per annum cumulative).

Re:Unlikely (1)

cyn1c77 (928549) | about a year ago | (#44716231)

TFA is full of hype but one interesting point that is often missed is worth noting. The earthquake itself damage the plant, and even without the tsunami there would have been a serious accident.


The official line from, well, everyone, is that the reactors would have been fine had the emergency generators been able to operate. They were unable to operate because they were flooded by the tsunami. Also note that the emergency generators did turn on after the earthquake, before they were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Even then, secondary backup batteries kept the cores cool for 8 hours until the batteries were depleted.

If the emergency generators were not flooded, they could have been operated as long as they could be kept fueled with diesel. Additionally, efforts to connect portable power generation equipment to the reactors were hindered by the flooding.

So there really would have been no problem from just the earthquake without the tsunami. The reactors were SCRAMed and would have been kept cool by the (redundant) backup generators for an indefinite length of time.

Re:Unlikely (1)

acoustix (123925) | about a year ago | (#44716313)

The reactors were SCRAMed and would have been kept cool by the (redundant) backup generators for an indefinite length of time.

Ideally, you would safely shut down the reactors when running on generator. Running the plant any longer than absolutely necessary on generator power isn't the safest.

Re:Unlikely (3, Interesting)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year ago | (#44716743)

The reactors were shut down, that is the fission "chain reaction" had been stopped. The problem is that reactors build up fission products in the fuel pellets, assorted isotopes like I-131 and Cs-137 that are radioactive and as they decay they give off energy = heat. Operating reactors like the ones at Fukushima Daiichi produce about 3000 MW of heat when running at 100% power. A few seconds after they were shut down the residual radioactivity was producing only 50 MW of heat. By the time the cooling systems failed a few hours later that was down to one or two MW of heat as the very short-lived isotopes with half-lifes of seconds or minutes decayed away. That heat energy was still enough to react steam with the fuel rod cladding jackets and evolve hydrogen which caused the explosions.

Reactors five and six at Daiichi, both with full fuel loads in place are being actively cooled to this day; they didn't suffer the hydrogen explosions the other four did but they weren't operating directly before the earthquake hit. There were some problems sustaining their cooling operations after the tsunami but they never failed totally.

Re:Unlikely (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44716383)

Have a look at some of NHK's documentaries on the subject. I don't know if you can watch them online, the go out in English on NHK World. Anyway, they point out that emergency cooling was in fact available but didn't work.

After the earthquake they lost power to their instrumentation. This prevented them from seeing that a valve that needed to be closed was in fact open. In addition some of the pipes carrying cooling water to the cores were damaged. Even though the backup generators were damaged by the tsunami they were still able to pump in cooling water with pump trucks. Unfortunately much of it ended up in storage tanks due to the valve being open, or simply leaked out before it got to the core.

Even with the tsunami the meltdowns and hydrogen explosions could have been avoided if this system had worked. Even without the tsunami the backup generators would not have prevented a meltdown or the explosions, unless the problem had been discovered (which it might have been, in all fairness).

Government? (2)

jclaer (306442) | about a year ago | (#44716647)

Does anybody think our government could have managed the BP oil blowout?

Please Japan, take over NSA/CIA budget as well (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715935)

Please Japan, take over NSA/CIA budget fiasco as well.

More like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715943)

"Why the Japanese Govt should have taken over from Day 1."

USA might help (3, Insightful)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#44715945)

How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes, and could use a chance to prove that we can still do something in the world besides violate international law. If we fuck it up, then you can blame external powers for it.

Re:USA might help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716137)

The Japanese government is just going to make this worse. Could the US help? Absolutely - and should have been brought in during the actual crisis, or failing that immediately after the crisis for containment and clean-up. Anyway, this is a distinctly Japanese problem. They can't ask for help, because they'll loose face. So they won't. And they'll continue putting millions of people at risk. I don't think international intervention is in the cards, until after people start dying - or until after this is a significant threat to the wider Asian interests.

Re:USA might help (1)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about a year ago | (#44716831)

What makes you think the US could help?

Major loss of face? (1)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#44716139)

There is no way they are going to ask for help.

Re:Major loss of face? (1)

lexx21 (1274802) | about a year ago | (#44716241)

With the world wide damage and loss of lfe that can be caused by this, I would not wait to be asked. Either we (the US) or the europeans should take it over and solve the issue. Other posters are correct... TEPCO has not shown that they are capable of fixing the issues at the power plant and thus they should be bypassed.

France might help too (1) (595837) | about a year ago | (#44716235)

France might help also. Areva has a lot of experience with nuclear reactors and wastes. They were willing to help during the meltdown, but at this moment Tepco seemed too proud to accept any help from the foreign countries.
They accepted later, as they bought some water filtering equipment to capture radionucleids.

Next time such a disaster occurs, I hope that the host country will not wait to aks help from the most competent companies in the world.

Re:USA might help (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year ago | (#44716253)

How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes

Yeah, let's send teams from the Hanford site. They've had a quarter century's worth of experience in failing to clean up a nuclear mess.

Re:USA might help (4, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#44716751)

How would attacking the plant with drones help?

Re:USA might help (3, Interesting)

fritsd (924429) | about a year ago | (#44716941)

If you're serious, then no, they're not going to take advice from people who have the Hanford site and don't want to open that waste repository in Nevada what was it called..

If you're making a funny joke (

How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes, (...)

), then you are a really sick bastard.

Next question (3, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44715957)

Who are they going to have do it? I don't know, let's call in the experts at Tepco.

Re:Next question (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44716197)

The could reach out to the global community, something Tepco doesn't want to do.

Re:Next question (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#44716289)

I think that the point is to change who makes the decisions, more than who handles the technical aspects.

Remember, after the original disaster, there are several examples of on-site plant managers and workers defying their corporate bosses to do things that weren't necessarily in TEPCO's interest, but were definitely necessary to attempt to stabilize the situation, like injecting seawater into the reactor when the distilled coolant level was falling.

If the workers and engineers know their business and TEPCO is fighting them with doing it, then the government should probably take over administration, with the ability to pay for all of the cleanup through TEPCO's budget, whether TEPCO likes it or not, as they've demonstrated on numerous occasions that their interest is in saving money and erring on the side of assuming the best, rather than the worst, when things are falling apart.

Re:Next question (1)

acoustix (123925) | about a year ago | (#44716319)

The could reach out to the global community, something Tepco doesn't want to do.

Citation needed.

Socialize the costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715959)

Privatize the profits (US Big Biz 101)

first pr0st (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44715979)

I do not quite understand what the problem is - this bit of nuclear waste in spent fuel ponds cannot be that dangerous - after all it is only radioactivity something stimulating and nothing to be afraid of?

Government or third party need to get involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716219)

TEPCO always seem to be downplaying any dangerous situation - later to be told by another party that, "Hey it's actually a lot worse than that!" I've lost trust in the PR that comes out of TEPCO.

I don't think it makes a difference. (1)

dietdew7 (1171613) | about a year ago | (#44716225)

The corporation is the government.

Nonsense! (2)

bravecanadian (638315) | about a year ago | (#44716243)

If the government would just stop interfering with the free markets the invisible hand and enlightened self interest would take over and do a much better job! We'd be living in a land of unicorns and rainbows in no time!

Also nuclear power is the only reasonable - and environmentally friendly! - solution to our energy problems. * /sarcasm

* - Excluding all those pesky externalities because we all know in the technologically advanced future we'll magically solve all those problems -- also using the power of the free markets! (some conditions and circular reasoning may apply, offer not valid in all states blah blah blah)

"It's just like a chem factory." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716331)

Read that a lot from pro-nuclear folks after the incident. If a tsunami destroyed a large chemical plant, there'd be a lot of poisoned land too.
So, dear pro-nuclear folks, riddle me that:
Name even one chemical catastrophe in a first-world country, that was still an ongoing crisis after two years with those in charge having absolutely no idea how to clean it up without triggering a huge release of even more poison?

TFA Might be Right, But... (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about a year ago | (#44716337)

The commentary is written by:
Andrew DeWit is a professor in the School of Policy Studies, Rikkyo University. Dr. Christopher Hobson is a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainability and Peace, United Nations University, Tokyo.

Not exactly credentials for someone who should be making the decision on who should do the clean up. Certainly, the government should be monitoring whatever action is taken, and if Tepco is screwing up give them the boot. But, I wouldn't be doing so on the recommendations of these gents.

Japanese government doesn't look good, either (3, Insightful)

swschrad (312009) | about a year ago | (#44716467)

the International Nuclear organization's crisis teams and resources should be brought in, given a drawer full of blank checks, and set after it without any more interference by the hacks that caused this catastrophe in the first place.

Articles from those with no technical knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716513)

Why should I care about opinions of people who obviously have no technical knowledge or worse have it and twist facts in the name of supporting their opinion.

  "contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb"

Of one particular constituent Cesum-137 not total radiation.

"Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task."

Of all the deadly radioactive shit in a spent fuel rod to single out "deadly plutonium" mostly an alpha emitter the intention seems to be invocation of irrational response from the public.

They argue scary things can happen therefore Tepco should not be trusted to handle the cleanup yet the opinion piece is silent on governments technical ability to manage this any better than Tepco.

To inject my own opinion where Japan has failed is in its failure to significantly embrace foreign technical help.

The real reason (1)

sunking2 (521698) | about a year ago | (#44716551)

TEPCO will go out of business and can't afford the cleanup. New age capitalism requires you to privatize your profits and socialize the losses.

Privatized profits, socialized losses (1)

Wansu (846) | about a year ago | (#44716595)

Yep, it's about time the Japanese gov't steps in and takes charge of this mess. TEPCO has demonstrated they don't know what they're doing. Matters can and will get much worse. There are experts worldwide who can be brought in to help. The Russians have some experience with a meltdown. There are probably some TMI era consultants still around. It's going to get very expensive.

We might ought to help them. It's not just their problem. If those fuel rods catch fire, that radioactivity will be drifting towards our Pacific coast.

SSDD @ slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44716683)

If the Japanese government cannot even maintain competence at providing oversight for TEPCO, why would a layman think that they could do their job entirely? Possible answer: his brain has the logical faculties of a bowl of grits.

Please sign the petition (1)

xenophrak (457095) | about a year ago | (#44716909)

Please sign the petition over at to get the US to act in getting the Japanese government to allow US/UN assistance in cleaning up the spent fuel pools. This is an urgent need. []

~ X

Maybe Something More Traditional? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#44716975)

Have those who made the decision to build this global minimum spec engineered nightmare to publicly remove a finger?
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