The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Earthquakes and nuclear power plants

Jul 23, 2007

The world’s largest nuclear power plant was forced to shut down because of damage from a powerful earthquake. Japan’s Kashiwazaki power plant, with seven nuclear reactors, is located about 160 miles from Tokyo. Three of its reactors had already been out of service when a powerful earthquake struck on July 16, causing a fire, radioactive leaks, and the shutdown of the rest of the plant.

Officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) at first claimed that there was little damage to the plant. But in the days that followed they were forced to admit that radioactive water had been released into the sea, that containers holding radioactive waste had tipped over and ruptured, and that radioactive material had been vented to the air outside the plant at least twice, one time for nearly three days before it was stopped. Four days after the quake, company officials admitted there were at least 63 places the plant needed repair. How much there is and what the risk is, the Japanese public certainly doesn’t know. But they have every reason to be distrustful.

In 2005, the Tokyo High Court dismissed a suit brought by residents of Kashiwazaki against the construction of yet another reactor at the plant. The judges declared that a survey by a government institute proved that cracks under the plant “did not amount to a fault and could not cause a quake.” The recent quake proved otherwise.

Another nuclear plant near Tokyo is also located near a fault line. Many earthquake experts are now calling for the immediate closure of this plant and a review of the safety of Japan’s 55 nuclear power plants, none of which were built to withstand an earthquake as powerful as the one at Kashiwazaki.

The irresponsibility of Japanese businesses and government officials is similar to what happened during the nuclear “accident” at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979. The moratorium that was placed on the construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. following this incident is about to end. The U.S. government is about to issue licences for the construction of several new nuclear plants in this country for the first time since Three Mile Island.

Will these new plants be safer? Hardly!

Along with licenses, the government will also give the companies reduced liability in case of a nuclear “accident.”

Japan or the U.S. – governments are the same, working in the interests of big business.