Most Popular
1. It’s a New Macro, the Gold Market Knows It, But Dead Men Walking Do Not (yet)- Gary_Tanashian
2.Stock Market Presidential Election Cycle Seasonal Trend Analysis - Nadeem_Walayat
3. Bitcoin S&P Pattern - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Nvidia Blow Off Top - Flying High like the Phoenix too Close to the Sun - Nadeem_Walayat
4.U.S. financial market’s “Weimar phase” impact to your fiat and digital assets - Raymond_Matison
5. How to Profit from the Global Warming ClImate Change Mega Death Trend - Part1 - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Bitcoin Gravy Train Trend Forecast 2024 - - Nadeem_Walayat
8.The Bond Trade and Interest Rates - Nadeem_Walayat
9.It’s Easy to Scream Stocks Bubble! - Stephen_McBride
10.Fed’s Next Intertest Rate Move might not align with popular consensus - Richard_Mills
Last 7 days
Friday Stock Market CRASH Following Israel Attack on Iranian Nuclear Facilities - 19th Apr 24
All Measures to Combat Global Warming Are Smoke and Mirrors! - 18th Apr 24
Cisco Then vs. Nvidia Now - 18th Apr 24
Is the Biden Administration Trying To Destroy the Dollar? - 18th Apr 24
S&P Stock Market Trend Forecast to Dec 2024 - 16th Apr 24
No Deposit Bonuses: Boost Your Finances - 16th Apr 24
Global Warming ClImate Change Mega Death Trend - 8th Apr 24
Gold Is Rallying Again, But Silver Could Get REALLY Interesting - 8th Apr 24
Media Elite Belittle Inflation Struggles of Ordinary Americans - 8th Apr 24
Profit from the Roaring AI 2020's Tech Stocks Economic Boom - 8th Apr 24
Stock Market Election Year Five Nights at Freddy's - 7th Apr 24
It’s a New Macro, the Gold Market Knows It, But Dead Men Walking Do Not (yet)- 7th Apr 24
AI Revolution and NVDA: Why Tough Going May Be Ahead - 7th Apr 24
Hidden cost of US homeownership just saw its biggest spike in 5 years - 7th Apr 24
What Happens To Gold Price If The Fed Doesn’t Cut Rates? - 7th Apr 24
The Fed is becoming increasingly divided on interest rates - 7th Apr 24
The Evils of Paper Money Have no End - 7th Apr 24
Stock Market Presidential Election Cycle Seasonal Trend Analysis - 3rd Apr 24
Stock Market Presidential Election Cycle Seasonal Trend - 2nd Apr 24
Dow Stock Market Annual Percent Change Analysis 2024 - 2nd Apr 24
Bitcoin S&P Pattern - 31st Mar 24
S&P Stock Market Correlating Seasonal Swings - 31st Mar 24
Here's a Dirty Little Secret: Federal Reserve Monetary Policy Is Still Loose - 31st Mar 24
Tandem Chairman Paul Pester on Fintech, AI, and the Future of Banking in the UK - 31st Mar 24
Stock Market Volatility (VIX) - 25th Mar 24
Stock Market Investor Sentiment - 25th Mar 24
The Federal Reserve Didn't Do Anything But It Had Plenty to Say - 25th Mar 24

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Abenomics And The Fukushima Syndrome

Economics / Japan Economy Aug 13, 2013 - 04:00 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


News media reported August 8 that Japan's Shinzo Abe “....made an unlikely companion with environment protection campaigner Greenpeace as both indicated Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) isn’t up to the task of containing the Fukushima nuclear disaster”. As media has reported on an extensive scale, Tepco's crippled nuclear plan is gushing about 300 tons-a-day of highly radioactive groundwater into the Pacific – while holidaymakers and fishermen enjoy a day out by the seaside in view of the plant! As some media also reported, the Fukushima plant has an increasing risk of simply exploding from pent-up heat released by hard-to-access molten radioactive fuel and equipment.

Abenomics as Shinzo Abe is happy to hear it called, supposedly seeks to restore Japan's economy while it rejuvenates the country’s diplomatic and military clout. Prime minister Abe is also engaged in other supposedly populist quests including a rewrite of the constitution, which will certainly brings howls of protest about “revisionism” on Japanese war crimes - but what he does or doesn't do with the Fukushima disaster will certainly judge this prime minister – even if he quits early.

Abe started on the wrong foot – by denying everything – but this was par for the course. The Father of Perestroika (or “Openness”) Mikhail Gorbachev did exactly the same thing after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. He denied it, stoically, openly lying day after day, and then panicked. The botched plant clean up programme was a disaster, with thousands of Russian lives needlessly sacrificed by forced working in extreme radiation conditions with almost no protective clothing. Fallout from Chernobyl spread all across Europe, north to south and a total exclusion zone of nearly 3000 sq kilometres was set around the plant – which since 2011 is a tourist destination despite Ukrainian officials estimating the area will not be safe for human life again for another 10 000 years.

After the March 2011 near-meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, Abe’s predecessors Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda did the same time-hallowed Gorbachev thing. At the end of the same year, when Abe became prime minister he started with regular hand-on-heart press conferences about how everything was going fine at Fukushima.

Today, on occasions, he talks like Greenpeace about the disaster – and the disastrous Tepco cleanup.

Proving the subject is “political”, the Japanese government's official line, or lines on Fukushima feature what we could expect. Greenpeace International is staffed by trouble makers bent on scaring Japanese; and have through their Western connections linked with the World Health Organization to further scare Japanese who should take the brave holidaymakers and fishers at the seaside as their model. More simply, foreigners including Greenpeace should mind their own business; and the international news media should be muzzled.

Nuclear power is clean, safe and cheap – proven by the weakened yen, which Abe has obsessionally worked to bring about, driving up power bills by raising the price of imported fuels. Japan, before the disaster, imported 98% of its uranium and reprocessed uranium fuel, but that is only a detail.

Reality makes for a strange mix-and-mingle of “what actually happens”. Abe's reaction to international alarm about radioactive groundwater spilling into the Pacific ocean enabled him to play Greenpeace and say his government  “would make sure there is a swift and multifaceted approach in place” to stop the leak. His scientific team – which has so many different opinions and views it can't be called a team – claims one silver bullet would be to deep freeze the ground around the “hot spots” and then, perhaps, excavate the most dangerous material and “responsibly dispose of it”. At present, ground cleanup in the partly-enforced exclusion zone is through filling plastic bags with topsoil and storing it under tarpaulin sheets “for later disposal”.

Japan's nuclear regulators, if they can be called that, are openly critical of Abe's nuclear advisory team. Their main focus is restarting the country's near-totally shutdown power plants.

Tepco itself is sitting pretty, with literally too big debts to fail. Supposed public shaming sessions for its executives, some on national TV, have certainly not led to anyone going to jail or being forced to resign on the spot. Basically, its stupendous debts for loss and damage payments and cleanup operations stretching for decades – even 30 years – into the future have been nationalized, but nothing else. All its key executives who were there in March 2011 are still there.

More insidious, what was an apparent inability of Japan's political and corporate elite to come to grips with the nuclear disaster and do something about it, has become a real inability.  The event is now called 3/11 with the sometimes-stated meaning that it was an Act of God, certainly not a man-made disaster. There was no way to plan for it. Tepco was innocent of all blame because why would any nuclear plant operator not place all its backup generators underground, in the same place, not very far from a too-low tsunami barrier facing the Pacific? Has Japan ever experienced tsunamis?

Likewise, Tepco's approach to on-site used fuel rod storage was absolutely normal. What danger could the storage in one place of huge quantities of used rods, each producing large amounts of heat, create for the plant if there was a worst-case accident?

Fukushima was a preventable man-made disaster. When corporate men of the Japanese sort produced the disaster,  they walked away from it – metaphorically only. Tepco's crony corporate excesses are well-documented and well-known, today, but most important for Japanese – and others in reach of nuclear fallout -  its near-total disregard for safety issues was stunning. Only as it happened, because it had happened before during decades, Tepco's “cooking of the books” on radiation leakages, damaged monitoring equipment, missing monitoring equipment, recorded leaks that were “revised down”, had risen to a most-recent peak only in the 2 to 3 years before the disaster.

Tepco and Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party were and are basically the same outfit. The one has pretended to govern for nearly all of Japan's post-1945 history and the other pretended to produce clean, safe and cheap nuclear power. As we know, when it concerns the hunt for pretigious contracts abroard,Abe put on his LDP-Tepco basketball cap and swung over to Turkey where he swung a massive $22 billion nuclear power plant building deal in May. Tepco was of course on board.  Any criticism of Tepco by Shinzo Abe has to be treated as double-sided – or two-faced.

Above all at present, Abe's LDP is doing all it can to postpone and obfuscate the really expensive and really necessary decisions that should have been taken a long time ago. Fukushima must be completely “safestored” or decommissioned, after independent auditors with untouchable international reputations have fully assessed the real magnitude of the damage. The playact “exclusion zone” around Fukushima, which doesn't apply to seaside holidaymakers or fisherpersons who are never told they shouldn't eat the fish they catch, must be made real. Above all, the Japanese government has to come clean with the public about how much it will all cost – that is hundreds of billions of dollars.

Tepco, with its deeply entrenched LDP sympathizers, has created the image that Fukushima was an Act of God and is a growing embarrassment for Japan on the international stage, meaning an iron curtain must fall on the subject. Talking about the subject is unpatriotic. Paying for the damage is bad for crony capitalists and their crony government buddies.

If or when this stranglehold on any major progress will weaken is hard to judge from outside Japan – but the ultimate extreme risk of the plant is stunning. Leaving two melted-down reactors and a huge used fuel store open to the elements, slowly and gingerly exhuming and playing around with extremely radioactive debris using, on occasions, do-it-yourself technology and equipment is bizarre for a nation of Japan's technological prowess. Japan is also highly exposed to seismic, tectonic and volcanic activity, both terrestrial and oceanic – making the risk of a knock out blow or Act of God, and a further and even worse nuclear disaster always present. 

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

Andrew McKillop Archive

© 2005-2022 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in