As first reported on April 1 “Japan: from bad to worse“, the question of nationalizing TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company is growing day by day. With the nuclear crisis dragging on and with public confidence dropping off the map, shares in the company are spiralling downward. The Guardian is reporting those shares have hit a 60 year low and the company is delaying publication of its annual earnings report due to the crisis. As losses mount and investors brace themselves for compensation claims running into billions, TEPCO’s only recourse may turn out to be the government.
Tepco faces huge costs for replacement power, the construction of new generation capacity to replace its damaged plants and the decommissioning of at least four and possibly all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. Factor in unquantified damages to local residents and businesses affected by radiation leaks, not to mention the possibility of lawsuits rumbling in the background, no wonder investors are dumping the shares.
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill debacle seems like a similar crisis, however financially, BP was in a much stronger position. The oil giant earns around $20 billion in a good year and had a portfolio of valuable businesses to sell in order to meet its obligations of $30bn. Tepco, on the other hand only earned $1 billion last year of £1bn and has few assets to put on the auction block.
Radioactivity found in fish
Newspapers are reporting that fish caught off Japan’s east coast have traces of radioactive caesium. Radioactive With a half life of 30 years, this is an extremely toxic substance. Authorities have said the substance was found in a species of fish called young lance, a tiny fish which is eaten dried or cooked. The contaminated catch was found about 80 kilometres south of the Fukushima plant in Ibaraki prefecture. The government is still allowing catches of young lance, but has banned fishing cooperatives near the affected area from harvesting the fish.
It is thought that radioactive water has been accidentally leaking from the Fukushima plant.
On Saturday, April 2, TEPCO workers observed contaminated water from reactor number two leaking into the sea. They discovered a crack in the maintenance pit underneath the reactor permitting water to escape. Since then, workers have attempted to seal the crack to stop the water from getting out but so far have failed.
More dumping of contaminated water
If the threat of radioactivity leaking into the ocean has been enough of a concern, rising levels of contaminated water in the basement of reactor #2 have left TEPCO in an impasse as to how to dispose of it. Consequently, the electric power company is proposing to dump over eleven thousand tons – yes, tons – of low-level contaminated water into the sea to make room for the storage of more highly contaminated water. – This is where you, the reader, say, “What!?!”
This latest report of contaminated fish follows reports of tainted produce including spinach and broccoli, as well as raw milk in Fukushima prefecture and other areas close to the reactors.
The international community is keeping a close eye on all these developments and reacting sometimes unfavourably to them. Kyodo reports that India has suspended food imports from Japan for three months out of concerns about contaminated food entering the country. India’s health ministry said the import suspension will last until it can obtain reliable data proving that the levels of leaked radioactive substances are safe.
Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
In the above video you can see detailed pictures of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant which has been destroyed by the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
Kyodo news writes that Japan’s government has announced a 3 trillion yen ($35 billion USD) recontruction budget to finance measures to help reconstruct Japan following last month’s deadly earthquake and tsunami. This is a first step which is due out in mid-April however putting this together will be difficult. Some current government programs may be cut back if not cancelled and opposition parties have voiced concerns.
Despite the magnitude of the nuclear problems and the on-going dangers, authorities keep hammering home the message that things are not as bad as they seem. Evacuation of surrounding areas, tainted produce, and fish with high levels of radioactivity are not as bad as they seem? Just what indicator is necessary in the eyes of officials that yes indeed things are bad?
In the article “The ‘fallout’ of Japan’s nuclear problem” dated Mar 18/2011, we reported that Ontario’s Pickering leaked radioactive water.
The CBC has reported that on Monday, March 14, 2011, a pump seal failed and the Pickering Plant dumped 73,000 litres of what is being called “demineralized water” into Lake Ontario.
Andrew Nichols of CBC News reported about the leak on Wednesday afternoon and said he spoke to an Ontario Power Generation spokesperson who told him the risk is minimal but that such leaks are not supposed to occur.
Nichols reports speaking with Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition of Nuclear Responsibility who apparently was outraged at the public statement issued about the leak. He pointed out that Lake Ontario is the source of drinking water for millions of people and the industry says that leak is of a negligible risk.
Excuse me, but this is right beside my hometown of Toronto. If I turn out the lights, am I going to glow in the dark?
In the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, a negligent big corporation has let toxic waste get into the water supply of a small town causing sickness, cancer, and death. The townspeople have an uphill battle trying to get any restitution for their pain and suffering. In a telling and funny scene in the movie, Julia Robert as Brockovich and Albert Finney and Edward Masry, the two lawyers representing the townsfolk, meet with the high-priced, fancy-pants lawyers who are trying to steamroller them into settling by saying that the damages caused by the toxic waste is not so bad. One of the big shot lawyers goes to take a sip of water when the Brockovich character tells her that the water had come from the same town the corporation dumped its waste. The big shot lawyer hesitates, looks at the glass of water then decides to put the glass down without drinking any of it. Morale: Yes, when you’re standing 10 kilometres from the epicentre, no disaster looks that bad. But tell me, if the water isn’t bad, why don’t you just go ahead and take a drink of it yourself?
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