Public Pays for Fukushima Clean Up While Nuclear Industry Profits

Japan Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant March 31 2011

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 12 2013 (IPS)

Two years after Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the country faces 100 to 250 billion dollars in cleanup and compensation costs, tens of thousands of displaced people and widespread impacts of radiation.

The nuclear industry and its suppliers made billions from building and operating Fukushima’s six reactors, but it is the Japanese government and its citizens who are stuck with all the costly “fallout” of the disaster.

“People’s lives were destroyed and we will be paying trillions of yen in tax money because of the Fukushima disaster,” said Hisayo Takada, an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

“The nuclear industry, other than Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Co), has paid nothing as they are specially protected by the law,” Takada told IPS.

On Mar. 11, 2011, Japan experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that badly damaged Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Three of six reactors suffered a meltdown, and reactor unit four was damaged. The Fukushima accident has been rated at the highest level (7) of the International Atomic Energy Agency scale, the same as the Chernobyl accident.

A year after the disaster, Tepco was taken over by the Japanese government because it couldn’t afford the costs to get the damaged reactors under control. By June of 2012, Tepco had received nearly 50 billion dollars from the government.

The six reactors were designed by the U.S. company General Electric (GE). GE supplied the actual reactors for units one, two and six, while two Japanese companies Toshiba provided units three and five, and Hitachi unit four. These companies as well as other suppliers are exempted from liability or costs under Japanese law.

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Nuclear Energy and the ‘Mother of all Subsidies’

[The two year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster  is March 11. Little has changed from this 2011 article (except cleanup costs may be higher at $250 billion). Generations of Japanese taxpayers will have to cover those costs. Other countries also have liability caps which means the public provides ‘free insurance’ to the industry. As this article shows it’d be cheaper to give interest-free loans to solar or wind industry. — Stephen.]

“…it is basically insanity to shoulder the public with risk to get relatively small amount of electricity…”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 6, 2011 (IPS)

The nuclear energy industry only exists thanks to what insurance experts call the “mother of all subsidies”, and the public is largely unaware that every nuclear power plant in the world has a strict cap on how much the industry might have to pay out in case of an accident.

In Canada, this liability cap is an astonishingly low 75 million dollars. In India, it is 110 million dollars and in Britain 220 million dollars. If there is an accident, governments – i.e. the public – are on the hook for all costs exceeding those caps.

Japan has a higher liability cap of 1.2 billion dollars, but that is not nearly enough for the estimated 25 to 150 billion dollars in decommissioning and liability costs for what is still an ongoing disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Seven weeks after the tsunami caused the disaster, radiation levels continued to spike higher.

No one knows when the reactors will finally be in cold shutdown, or when the costs of the Fukushima disaster will stop piling up. One report suggests decommissioning will take 30 years.

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Japan’s credit rating was downgraded because of the accident, noted Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy and nuclear policy analyst who has worked in Japan. “The Japanese know it’s just a matter of time before another large earthquake occurs,” Schneider told IPS.

“Japan will never build another nuclear plant.
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