• Nuclear follies: ignoring radiation ownership and ignoring earthquake risks

    Blogpost by Justin McKeating - November 29, 2011 at 15:23 Add comment

    It never ceases to amaze us how far the nuclear industry will go to ignore its responsibilities, or to avoid protecting the public from the risks of radiation. Two new entries in the nuclear follies scrapbook demonstrate.

    Folly one: Last week two leading geologists, Roger Bilham from the department of geological sciences at the University of Colorado and Vinod Gaur from the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation, published a new study in a prestigious Indian science journal which says that Jaitapur is in the same earthquake zone where quakes in 1967 killed more than 20,000 people, injured 32,000 more and left thousands homeless. This geological warning makes plans in India to build the world’s largest nuclear power plant in an earthquake zone at Jaitapur on India’s west coast look reckless and irresponsible in the extreme.

    Will the Indian government listen to these experts? The historical precedents aren’t good. Japanese seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi was dismissed as an “amateur” and a “nobody” when in 1997 he said the country’s nuclear reactor were vulnerable to earthquakes. Now, in 2011, he says, “If Japan had faced up to the dangers earlier, we could have prevented Fukushima.” He goes on to say that the nuclear industry still doesn’t understand the danger it is putting us all in.

    India’s Nuclear Power Corporation, which is building the Jaitapur reactors in partnership with French nuclear giant AREVA, says the plant does not face a seismic risk. That’s what they said in Japan as well. In 1997, Haruki Madarame, now head of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, said: “In the field of nuclear engineering, Mr. Ishibashi is a nobody.” But he is certainly asomebody in the field of geology,  as are the authors of the new warning of earthquake risks at Jaitapur, Mr Bilham and Mr Gaur from the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation.

    Greenpeace gets accused of being “anti-science” and “anti-human” by its critics all the time. That’s despite us working all over the world in the name of saving lives, pioneering new technologies like Greenfreeze and SolarChill, and promoting the Energy Revolution that could lead the planet into a long-term sustainable future of renewable energy and energy efficiency. When we see the nuclear industry and a government ignoring serious scientific advice - and the catastrophic consequences than can lead from that ignorance - and we have to ask just who is “anti-science” and “anti-human” here?

    Folly two: In Japan the owner of the Fukushima disaster, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), has tried to wriggle out of a lawsuit by claiming in court that  ‘radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not TEPCO’. It is making this amazing claim so it can dodge the cleanup costs. The company is dumping the responsibility and expense for its disastrous incompetence on the victims. How very honourable. The court rejected that bad idea, but also amazingly said the responsibility for the cleanup rested with government, not TEPCO.

    Who would own the radiation escaping from Jaitapur in the event of a devastating earthquake? Who would shoulder the liability? It looks very much like Nuclear Power Corporation and AREVA would make a lovely gift of it to the Indian people. As has been the case ever since the nuclear industry was born, the public suffers the health consequences and the taxpayer pays for the nuclear industry’s mistakes. Without the public’s forced generosity, nuclear power would have never escaped the 1950s.

    Jaitapur is also an example of another folly, of grandiose ambitions. The Indian government wants to create the biggest nuclear site in the world to make itself a big player on the world stage. It should remember that no country gains prestige by putting its people and the wider world in danger. There are signs that India is ‘reviewing’ its nuclear power plans. Good. It should abandon the Jaitapur project immediately.