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Fukushima heralds the end of capitalism

Reactor Containment & Fuel Storage from UCS

Well, okay, probably not. But look at the news from today and tell me there won’t eventually be a really big swing of the regulatory pendulum.

From Kyodo News:

Yukinobu Okamura [is] head of the Active Fault and Earthquake Research Center at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

Okamura … warned in 2009 of massive tsunami based on his study since around 2004 of the traces of a major tsunami believed to have swept away about a thousand people in the year 869 after a magnitude 8.3 quake off northeastern Japan.

[Records show that] he had warned two years ago about the possible risk of a massive tsunami hitting a nuclear power plant in Japan, but Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crippled by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, had brushed off the warning.

He had found in his research that tsunami from the ancient quake had hit a wide range of the coastal regions of northeastern Japan, at least as far north as Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture and as far south as the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture — close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant — penetrating as much as 3 to 4 kilometers inland.

TEPCO asserted that there was flexibility in the quake resistance design of its plants and expressed reluctance to raise the assumption of possible quake damage citing a lack of sufficient information.

And the money quote from Okamura: “There should be ample flexibility in the safety of a nuclear power plant. It is odd to have an attitude of not taking into consideration indeterminate aspects.”

So the head of the Earthquake Lab says you need to have better plans in place in case of a large earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and the company says “not my problem” — and there was no regulatory apparatus strong enough to move TEPCO.

That is the central problem with capitalism. Efficiency concentrates power in the hands of a few. In other words, efficiency concentrates risk, and the risks are borne by all. Without rules — without government regulation, and lots of it — the wolves will eat everything and everyone.

Another incriminating report from Kyodo News:

TEPCO’s Fukushima office acknowledged Saturday that it had known earlier that the radiation in the underground level of the turbine building of one of the reactors was extremely high, but had not made the information available to pertinent parties.

Labor? Not my problem, says management.
Facts? Nothing to worry about, either. They’re Master of the Universe, doncha know. Look how rich they are! Markets don’t lie!


Capitalism is essentially a system for putting the lives of the many into the hands of a few. And far too often, those few don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.

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