The Fukushima nuclear disaster may now reasonably be considered one of the world’s worst man-made industrial accidents. How could those responsible with the political power to prevent or treat the situation pretend it didn’t happen and continue to roll merrily along?
In my last article I offered a few ideas about how Japan’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) reclaimed ruling control in the 2012 election (1). Just when the country needed rationality and courage of vision, instead we now have the same old tired and failed remedies. That is what is incorrectly called, “conservatism.” Is this a case of the blind leading the stupid, or the true definition of insanity: Repeating the same exercise over and over again expecting a different result.
Let’s recall the political situation during the March, 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis that broadsided Japan. One can rightly criticize former prime minister Naoto Kan, especially given his scientific and technical expertise, which separates him from most other politicians whose backgrounds are in law, for not having acted aggressively enough to prevent the nuclear disaster. There was ample evidence to suggest a nuclear disaster on the horizon but his party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has never consistently pushed for a program of renewable energy.
However, Kan, along with many other courageous workers involved, deserves credit for preventing the worst case outcome of full blown multiple and uncontrolled nuclear meltdowns from occurring. It was Kan’s bold actions to prevent the dithering and ill-prepared cowards of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) from abandoning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station during the peak hours of the meltdowns. This is verified not only by Kan’s own account but by sources in mainstream media. Had Kan’s government allowed Tepco to abandon the plant, “50 million people would have to be evacuated within a few weeks.... The very announcement to evacuate would result in mass panic” (2).
Some argue that even if Tokyo need not have been evacuated (given the worst was avoided), the Fukushima region should have been. Since most of the region was not may be seen as a failing or blatant cover-up on the part of the Kan administration.
Putting that issue aside, what happened then?
For months after the accident the nuclear establishment and their bloodhounds in the media attacked Kan’s increasingly pronounced, anti-nuclear political stance. Like a crane that maneuvers to remove fragile spent fuel rods from a damaged fuel pool, Kan was hoisted by his shirt collar with pincers and tossed aside into the nuclear rubble. As if according to a script written by the nuclear establishment, Kan was first replaced by the more malleable Mr. Noda, who has now been replaced by the hardline pro-nuclear (and pro-war) prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
New revelations may help to explain this wrongheaded course driven by a political regime whose economic and energy policies are more akin to a demolition derby than a modern democracy.
A survey conducted by the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, just before the [December, 2012] elections ... showed that more than 60 per cent wanted to phase out nuclear energy completely…. By promising to pour resources into promoting alternative energy development and to develop an optimal energy mix over the next decade ‘the LDP kept their position on nuclear energy ambiguous before the elections’, says Norimichi Hattori of the Tokyo-based Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes. But ‘since the Abe administration was formed, their rhetoric on nuclear power has changed quite rapidly’, says Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. ‘It now looks like the LDP feels it is their duty to promote nuclear energy,’ Mr Nakano says (3).This helps to explain why the gullible public voted LDP: LDP lied to them. People should have known better given LDP history of involvement with the nuclear industry. Even though he was always financially tied to the nuclear industry, ex-mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, blamed the 3-11 disaster on the Japanese people as a punishment from God! Incredibly, voters reelected him just after 3-11 despite his blaming of them for the tsunami.
Duncan Baker, who is a professor and expert on global politics, recently remarked to me that during last year’s election season, he witnessed the LDP giving speeches in his neighborhood of Tokyo. Most of the crowd was old folks and they were enthralled by the candidates, crowding around to shake their hands. The old folks did not possess sophisticated political views and believe that since it was under the LDP that Japan’s economic miracle occurred, we can forget about how they squandered all that capital, and all their other blunders and broken promises, not to mention their crucial role in developing Japan’s nuclear power industry which led to the Fukushima catastrophe.
Chairs and dogs both have four legs, but a chair is not a dog. Voting for the same old school boys did not help.
To give it the LDP that extra oomph, it may be they were helped not only by Voter Dementia Syndrome (VDS) but also election rigging (4).
[T]here have been so many reports from the general public through twitter and blogs on allegations of election rigging in the last one month. Lots of voting places closed 1-4 hours earlier without any notice. Normally in Japan about 60% of the population goes to vote but this time so many people said there were very long queues outside the building. 85% of the nation doesn’t want nuclear energy, yet none of the political parties that support a nuclear free society did not do well.... [O]ne company called MUSASHI CO., LTD dealt with the whole election: from counting votes to publicity; there is speculation that this company has something to do with nuclear power.While lacking confirmation from another source, it appears that only one company “dealt with the whole election” and this is highly suspicious.
Centralized control of public elections by private entities flies in the face of transparency and good governance and opens up the Pandora’s box for political skullduggery.
As soon as Abe took office, the previously compromising stance on nuclear power quickly and decisively shifted.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated unequivocally for the first time that his government will endorse the construction of new nuclear power plants, while seeking to win over the public on this issue. ‘I will take a levelheaded look at what caused the nuclear crisis at [Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s] Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and other factors.... Any new nuclear plant would be completely different from the old Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was constructed 40 years ago.... We will build new nuclear power plants and seek to win the people's understanding (5).The LDP is confident about not only restarting existing nuclear reactors, but building new ones on an archipelago as wobbly as a plate of tofu. Does Abe have a level head or a bumpy brain? Abe stated at a press conference that “[c]oncerning the problem of the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, there is a necessity for the state/government to take responsibility to accelerate deliberations” (6). This is blatant, blame-shifting blather and ignores the profoundly difficult and so far conveniently unanswered question of nuclear waste, especially in Japan where deep ground burial is out of the question due to seismic volatility.
Another aspect of the LDP’s victory is the inadequate response of Japan’s anti-nuclear movement. While the summer of 2012 had a number of large and lively protests around the country, the movement did not have staying power and was probably infiltrated and eradicated by its detractors, which typically happens to popular Japanese reform movements.
A case in point, in an article about the anti-nuclear agenda, a panelist in a discussion group, “Ikuo Gonoi, associate professor of political science at Takachiho University in Tokyo, highlighted the need for the public to become involved in politics through means other than demonstrations. ‘In the future, they should also join hands with LDP lawmakers whom they can work with,’ Gonoi said of antinuclear activists” (7).
Gonoi then recommends that we “join hands with LDP lawmakers”? The professor makes a good point that people need to get involved in political decision making, but other than the laudable Mr. Taro Kono, Gonoi does not mention any progressive-minded LDP members (8). The system, just like voting, is rigged against substantive public participation. The gullible Japanese public are following in the footsteps of the American sheep, turning into the Japanese version of American Idiot rather than manifesting the courage and taking the risks associated with public protest even when it concerns their very survival. The biggest demonstration during the summer of 2012 was a huge crowd of older folks in Yoyogi park, but they did little other than sit in the hot sun and listen to speeches. Most young Japanese people today are addicted to the iPhone and pop culture, and do not care a whit about radiation in their fish dinner.
Additional reasons for the LDP victory include the simple fact that “The LDP Didn’t Win: Everyone Else Lost” (9). The DPJ were disgraced by lack of direction and other newer, smaller parties were not able to garner enough money and attention to make headway. Japan nuclear politics expert, Jeff Kingston recently posed an eyebrow raiser:
Given the unpopularity of the Noda government, and overwhelming public support for the zero option, it is revealing that the DPJ has not played the anti-nuclear card to woo voters. While the DPJ nominally takes an antinuclear stance, its actions have been quite supportive of nuclear energy and not consistent with its pledge to phase out nuclear energy. This signifies that political leaders are more willing to risk public ire than defy the nuclear village (10).Politicians know who butters their bread, and it is corporate campaign contributions and the nuclear industry that own them. The website “Simply Info” reports that voters are often confused by all the lies and “the standard corporate talking points of the nuclear power industry.
* Renewables can’t provide enough energy
* The world needs more energy than it currently consumes
* Dismisses the risks of nuclear power by comparing it to fossil fuel dangers
* Citing nuclear as ‘the solution’ to climate change” (11).
Kyodo News mentions that 9 industries in Japan want the nuclear plants turned back on. They specifically name 2 of them. ‘Nine industry bodies including the Japan Iron and Steel Federation and the Japan Mining Industry.’ It has been proven that Japan does not have an energy shortage after threats of blackouts failed to happen. The costs and consequences of nuclear power are shouldered by the people yet it has become apparent they are not the major consumers of energy. In most developed countries industry is the largest user of energy. Yet when energy policy is discussed it largely revolves around residential & commercial needs to conserve and rate hikes on those rate categories. The industries pushing the government to restart reactors are also the largest consumers of electricity yet shoulder little of the total risk posed by these reactors... (12).Consumers are simply being told they must support obsolete energy production in order to prolong the gigantic rip-off being perpetrated on them as energy prices continue to skyrocket in a transparent grab for the last yen before the curtain falls on this criminal activity, and fall it will.
Indeed, nuclear power is “45 times more costly” than burning coal for energy, and gas is also cheaper than nukes (13).
Let us not forget the billions of dollars the nuclear industry has pumped into the public airways telling us nuclear power is safe-- in Japan alone spending 27.6 billion dollars over four decades on pro-nuke advertising (14).
And now they also pump trillions of becquerels of deadly radiation into the Pacific ocean from the melted-down and severely damaged Fukushima reactors (15).
I’ve heard many knuckleheaded nuclear excuses presented by college students, whom, when asked where they got their information, lamely reply “the Internet.” Information is now just one big glob, shreds of which are obtained from “wikipedia” or “the Internet” without any distinction as to the quality, reliability or bias of the source. One of the universities I work at is building the country’s largest university library, but students no longer read books, everything is digital these days.
With Abe now in the driver’s seat, my colleague Tony Boys wrote to me that “the LDP – the political wing of nuclear fascism in Japan – will be able to do whatever they want for the next four years. Nuclear power plant restarts; positive action on behalf of the nuclear cycle, including reprocessing, fast-breeder reactors; collusion with the power companies to hide inconvenient data; harassment of anti-nuclear organizations and activists, you name it” (16).
There is some hopeful news. Although Japan’s newly created Nuclear Regulation Authority is mainly made up of the same old bureaucrats that staffed previous nuke agencies, they may have learned some lessons and are proposing that science and safety, not politics, should dictate Japan’s nuclear future (17; 18; 19). Let’s hope they can force through tough reforms to the broken system.
Don’t worry folks, if you feel alienated by the fraudulent and meaningless morass of sewerage known as the political process, the Japanese government now has reassurances for your nuclear worries: We can all live in radiation fallout shelters, and smiling helps ward off radiation poisoning -- “Japan To Set Up Fallout Shelters For Residents Living Near Nuclear Power Plants” (20).
Since nuclear pollution travels around the globe, this means we are all downwinders and may have to get ready to live in fallout shelters for the sake of the profits of the nuclear magnates and their politician lapdogs.
* Special thanks to “Simply Info” for their excellent collection of data and analysis of the Fukushima nuclear issue; thanks to Tony Boys for his usual and helpful proof reading; and a special shout out to Robert S. Finnegan for his valuable editorial suggestions. OO-RAH!
Richard Wilcox has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from a social science, holistic perspective. He teaches at a number of universities in the Tokyo, Japan area. His articles on environmental topics including the Fukushima nuclear disaster are archived at http://richardwilcox99.blogspo
1. Environmental Armageddon
2. How Kan-do attitude averted the meltdown of Japan
3. Prime Minister Abe in a hurry to restart nuclear power, fearing that Japan might manage well without it
4. Allegations of General Election Fraud on Dec. 16, 2012 in Japan
5. Abe: New N-plants to be built
6. Tony Boys, personal communication, Jan. 5, 2013
7. Nuke foes ponder election meltdown
8. Taro Kono profile
9. The 2012 Japanese Election Paradox: How the LDP Lost Voters and Won the Election
10. Power Politics: Japan’s Resilient Nuclear Village
11. Pandora’s Propaganda
12. Who Really Needs Japan’s Nuclear Plants
13. Running nuclear power plant – 45 times more costly than coal, and gas is even cheaper
14. 9 utilities spent 2.4 trillion yen to sell public on nuke power
15. Tepco plans to discharge contaminated water into the environment, “Getting permission of related departments”
16. Tony Boys, personal communication, Dec. 26, 2012
17. Economy Minister Defers To NRA On Reactor Restarts
18. NRA Has More Bad News For Japan’s Nuclear Industry
19. Japan’s New Nuclear Safety Challenges Utilities & Municipalities
20. Japan To Set Up Fallout Shelters For Residents Living Near Nuclear Power Plants
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