At 2:46pm, 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit north east Japan, triggering three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since then, an unthinkable amount of radioactive contamination has been discharged to our sea, our air, our land, and onto ourselves. It has changed the lives of millions of people, destroyed local farmlands and fisheries that were carefully protected for generations.
The most contaminated areas of Fukushima nuclear disaster remain inhabitable, and will for decades. This leaves the 160,000 ordered to evacuate stuck in limbo, unable to go home, and unable to build new lives elsewhere because they lack proper compensation and support.
Meanwhile, companies deeply involved in the design, construction and running of the reactors involved in the triple meltdown are not being held accountable. Shockingly in some cases, they are making more profits out of the disaster recovery. These companies, namely GE, Hitachi, and Toshiba who designed and built reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, have special rights under the Nuclear Damage Liability Law that protect them from product liability should there be a nuclear disaster. Essentially this means they can profit without worrying about the risks of a meltdown, since the public pays the damage should an accident happen.
The estimated cost of the nuclear disaster is $250 billion US, an impossible figure for any single company - even TEPCO, one of the largest power companies in the world. It is why compensation and life support for the people affected is not what it should be, and why 3.2 trillion yen ($43.7 bn) of Japanese taxpayers money has been injected into the company.
We have been talking with GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, however, when it comes to a question of their responsibility, they simply point to their existing Corporate Social Responsibility webpage or report, where they present their charitable activities in response to the earthquake and tsunami. They have avoided explaining their responsibility in the Fukushima nuclear disaster as a supplier of critical equipment.
Unlike their other products, mentions of their nuclear products are few on the companies’ websites. So Greenpeace Japan asked them to publish their official views about:
- their responsibility in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster
- their responsibility and potential liability in the event of a nuclear accident at a nuclear reactor manufactured by them
- their reasons for their ongoing involvement in and promotion of the nuclear business
When it comes to nuclear power and the vast damage it can cause, some charitable work does not make up for the risk created in the first place.
If being accountable for your products can mean total bankruptcy for your company, there is a problem with your product. Yet nuclear suppliers are not accountable for the risk their products create, or for the moral issues that arise. Instead, if there is a problem, companies hide behind laws that give them unfair protection.
As former Babcock-Hitachi engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka said in a Greenpeace video about a flawed reactor vessel Hitachi made for Fukushima: “when the stakes are raised to such a height, a company will not choose what is safe and legal. Even if it is dangerous they will choose to save the company from destruction.”
Corporate social responsibility does not ensure timely and just compensation for the people who are suffering, and it does not protect taxpayers from footing the bill for the negligence of the nuclear industry. Laws must change.
If these companies whose products created such severe damage can walk away while the people are forced to pay the cost, the Fukushima disaster will be repeated.
Please help us hold nuclear suppliers responsible: the polluter must pay. Sign our petition today.
Hisayo Takada is an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan
Image: Greenpeace nuclear campaigners Hisayo Takada, right, and Aslihan Tumer, hold banners reading ‘They Profit, You Pay’ at an anti-nuclear rally outside the Japanese Parliament, Tokyo on February 22nd 2013.