In late August, news started to come out of Japan that TEPCO (Japan’s largest nuclear utility and the second largest in the world) had been cheating on reactor inspections for years. This brings them in line with their colleagues in the USA, Europe, Russia, etc. - whose problems with honesty and openness are already well known.
Nuclear site in Takahama, Japan, under heavy guard for loading of rejected plutonium MOX fuel, which is being returned to the UK by ship.
By contrast, the nuclear industry in Japan enjoyed a modicum of
public trust (despite previous accidents and scandals), but it
looks like now their disreputable past is catching up to them.
As the recent scandals began to unfold, Japan's controversial
plutonium MOX programme quickly ran into trouble - when asked about
its future a TEPCO official replied, "Soredokoro ja nai" ["We have
far worse problems / crises than that"]. Facing strong opposition
by community activists, and trouble with their suppliers, plutonium
MOX programmes across the country are now in serious trouble.
The likely indefinite postponement of Japan's plutonium MOX
programme was a big victory for Greenpeace and other
environmentalists. More importantly, it signalled the severity of
the coming scandals, which quickly spread to the rest of Japan's
nuclear industry and, as the New York Times put it, become "an
Why has this situation come to pass? Maybe because Japan's
Ministry of Economy and Trade Industry (METI) both regulates
and promotes nuclear power in Japan - a basic conflict of interest.
Maybe because the nuclear industry is incompetent; maybe because it
is dangerously arrogant and just maybe because the industry worries
more about its bottom line than public safety (hey, here at
Greenpeace we call them as we see them).
The industry response: Public apologies and a few high profile
resignations while at the same time pushing for lower standards.
That's right lowered standards. Their selling point is that they'll
be able to be able to actually meet the more relaxed standards
(which the industry claims are still perfectly adequate) instead of
just covering up the problems.
The response from the Japanese government: They knew about the
problems, thanks to a whistleblower. But instead of acting, the
government first gave up the name of the whistleblower to TEPCO,
then sat on what they knew and let the reactors in question keep on
running. Only now, years later, is the government taking action -
mainly by caving to industry demands for lowered standards, and not
prosecuting anyone for the cover-ups. Way to put public safety
All this sounds to crazy to be true? Think we're exaggerating?
Here are some of the headlines and article excerpts of the
Excerpts from recent articles