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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/9/13

Fukushima 3X Worse Than Chernobyl-- Japanese Government Cleanup Takeover Implications

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With the amount of Cesium sitting in endangered storage tanks at three to four times what was in Chernobyl, and risk of leaks rising, the Japanese government has taken over the clean-up of the  Tokyo Electric Power Company  ( TEPCO) reactor site, at Fukushima.  
NRC Officials visit Fukushima Dai-ichi Complex
NRC Officials visit Fukushima Dai-ichi Complex
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NRC Officials visit Fukushima Dai-ichi Complex by NRCgov

NRC Officials visit Fukushima Dai-ichi Complex by NRCgov

Japanese  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has committed the equivalent of $460 million to address the toxic water crisis at the Fukushima reactor site. The awareness that there is a much bigger problem became clearer when Tepco announced that one of 1000 massive radioactive water tanks has leaked 300 tons of toxic water. This led Japan to  declare the situation a Level 3 serious incident, its gravest assessment since the meltdowns at the plant in 2011, according to CNN this morning.
The government takeover of the cleanup raises some significant questions. 
1) Will the government do a better job than Tepco has done, cleaning up the site and informing the public, indeed, the world, about the situation there? RT.com reports,
" TEPCO has a long record of covering up accidents, but giving more control to government agencies means the crisis will be managed by those who allowed TEPCO to operate Fukushima the way it did, Shaun Burnie, independent nuclear consultant, told RT."
This is a problem that is very likely the case all over the world, wherever there are risks of environmental danger. Heads of state elected with the help of and allegiance to corporate interests appoint agency heads who come from the industries they are supposed to be regulating and overseeing. It's a broken system that is designed by corporations to fail. 
2) Even with the questionable efficacy and intentions of government agency heads with corporate roots, we're still looking at a rescue of a corporation by government. There's the question of who will pay for the $460 million Prime Minister Abe has committed? Reuters reports that there's no clear answer yet:,
"I want the government to have a responsible framework - not just for checking what Tokyo Electric is doing to deal with Fukushima - but for the government to commit to dealing with the Fukushima problem itself and conduct this as a joint operation, including the water problem and decommissioning," said Tadamori Oshima, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's taskforce on post-disaster reconstruction.

"Concerning the question of what the government will pay for and what Tepco will pay for, I think we need to debate and redraw the line," Oshima told Reuters in an interview.

This problem, the failure to include risk costs in business plans and budgets is an endemic aspect of capitalism and the way corporations function. Noam Chomsky discussed this in an   interview I did with him in December 2012:
"We don't really have market systems, but we have partial market systems.  And, a market system has a built-in doomsday machine inside it.  In a market system, you don't pay attention to what are called externalities, for example, effects on others.  So, like, if you sell me a car, let's say: if we're paying attention we'll make a good deal for ourselves, you and I will both come out OK. But we don't bring into the calculation the effect of that sale on other people, and there is an effect.  
There's another car on the road, there's more pollution, there's more congestion, there's a greater chance of accidents, and so on.  And magnified over a lot of people, that can be a big effect.  Well, that's inherent in the nature of market systems, unless they somehow internalize externalities, in which case they're not really market systems.  
That's just an individual transaction.  But you think about it in terms of bigger institutions, like say banks and investment firms, say, Goldman Sachs, when they make a transaction, say, a risky loan or something like that, they take into account the effects on them; will the profits overcome the risk, and so on. But they don't take into account what's called systemic risk: that is, the chance that if the loan goes bad and they're in trouble, the whole system may crash.  They don't take that into account.  That's not part of the calculation.  Well, that's a significant part of what lies behind the regular financial crashes, increasingly severe ever since deregulation set in.  
Now if you go a step higher than that, and you're, say, the CEO of some Exxon Mobile or something, your job is to maximize profit and market share.  You don't take into account the fact that there's an externality: the fate of the species.  You don't calculate that in, and that's true for non-energy corporations too.  In trying to maximize profit, you don't take into account the impact on the fate of the species, and that's no joke now.  We're reaching a point in human existence where the fate of the species is indeed in danger, and one major reason for it is, just that it's not a calculation that is made within market systems - well, again, we don't really have qualified market systems - but to the extent that they function, this is a built-in doomsday machine."
It makes sense that corporations act as Chomsky describes. Corporations are supposed to operate in ways that maximize their self interests, with the minimum concern for others that they can get away with, without compassion. That's how human sociopaths and psychopaths are characterized. But for corporations, it's just the way business is done in today's capitalist environment. That could be changed. Laws could require that risk costs be built into major project or products. Regulations could be put in place that require corporations to act with consideration of others. It would be an artificially induced behavior, but it could be done.  That may make a number of products and industries un-profitable, like fracking, for example, or plastic grocery bags. That's a good thing. it will re-route "the market" in a more realistic way, to develop safer, better products. 
4- Let's face it, when the government steps in because a major corporation has failed to perform at acceptable levels, the right wing belief that government is bad and useless is refuted. Refuted! Given the caveats in item one, government is absolutely not a certain answer, but a big reason for the questionability of government is the extent that corporations have gained influence over government. The problems corporate intervention into government creates show how important it is that laws or policies be passed that build a separation between corporation and state. That said, the reality is that when corporations fail, when they produce disasters, when their lack of transparency endanger the public, it is unlikely that the solution is to be found within the corporate world. 
We live in a time when corporations, which operate, based on their mission, and in the capitalist model, as psychopaths, sometimes run by psychopaths. It is essential that we develop laws that protects government from undue corporate influence. I realize that it may be too late to reverse this "disease." Simply attempting to keep out corporate influence is greeted as socialism or worse by the shills elected with corporate advertising dollars. The Fukushima disaster shows us how badly this system is working. The whole world has been put at risk because of corporate malfeasance-- which is all that can be expected of corporations. It is time for a change. 
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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media.

Check out his platform at RobKall.com

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, (more...)

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