March 20 Update

Well, it looks like things have improved a bit on the “nuclear incident.” It looks like power is being restored to the reactors and the somewhat comical measures of spraying the reactors with crowd control hoses and dumping water with helicopters have worked, at least to the point that the fuel rods aren’t overheating. Allegedly. I’m sure Fox News will be disappointed that the entire nation of Japan isn’t glowing green. Sorry, Fox. Go find something else to over-exaggerate.

The ‘crisis’ is not over yet but it looks like we’re moving to a more stable situation. I just hope the foreign media stays around just in case something else happens. TEPCO will most definitely try to cover any further accidents/malfunctions up, so it’s good if there are other news agencies around.

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power) has been in trouble for safety cover-ups long before this one, including not reporting criticality events and “minor” radiation leaks at their other plants.  At Fukushima, they delayed getting help, failed to  report the seriousness of the situation to the government, and basically tried to pretend everything was all right.  They didn’t want to cool their machinery with seawater because they knew it would render them permanently inoperable. So….they just let the fuel rods get hotter, and hotter. For two days or so. I guess they thought they would magically cool by themselves? By the time they stated the truth about the problem and got outside help, their lack of action and transparency had placed hundreds of thousands of people in jeopardy.  These TEPCO executives were pretty much trying to save their own bacon. And then, 50 technical workers have to stay behind and clean up the disaster they let happen.  I am quite sure that none of those 50 workers who risked their lives in the plant are TEPCO executives, though they should be. It’s only fair.

The TEPCO spokespeople and executives are just looking worse with every passing news conference. Their stance is, “Well, we did our best to prevent disaster, and we did, so what are you still complaining about?” These are the same people who turned down assistance from the US and Japanese military until things almost went into full-blown disaster. They’re still grumbling about the US exclusion zone of 50 miles, rather that the mere 12 miles they say is safe.  The way they’re downplaying it in such a self-serving manner has caused major bad feelings even amongst the usually apathetic Japanese.  TEPCO is saying “It’s becoming stable and safe,” to which the whole nation is saying, “No thanks to you, jerks!”

This is how I visualize the whole situation:  Some hot ashes fell on TEPCO’s house. They quickly shovelled the ash onto their neighbor’s porch. When the neighbor’s house caught on fire, they stood and watched for awhile, then stood near the neighbor’s front door and then poured a cup on water on their neighbor’s burned body as they fled the flames. Then TEPCO announced to the world that they had bravely risked their lives to save their neighbor.

It’s true the tsunami was just an act of nature. But the bungling thereafter was all human error and greed on the part of the folks who didn’t want to destroy their own power plant, out of greed, ignorance or denial. Or probably all three. I think if this was the US, the executives would be facing criminal charges. We’ll have to see what will goes on from now. At least things appear to be getting better rather than worse.

I think everyone has breathed a sigh of relief that there wasn’t a breeder reactor at the Fukushima plant. Breeder reactors are capable of producing more plutonium than they use (up to 30% more) and only three nations use them: Japan, India and France. The big advantage is that the fuel can be recycled and you can make more with every cycle, hence the term “breeder.” It was actually at the Monju breeder reactor reprocessing facility that the infamous “bucket reaction” took place in 1999, where the workers were mixing uranium salts by HAND in buckets, which set off an controlled “nuclear event.” Good thing we have capable folks overseeing the nuclear industry here.

I still have the heebie-jeebies over everything that has happened, and I’m keeping an eye on the events, but I think I can stop holding my breath.

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About nevertoomuchglitter

Nail artist. Wanderer. I'm a color-holic, in fact, it was my love of color that brought me to the nail art world. Well, that, and the fact I was too cheap to pay crazy Japanese prices for nail polish while living in Tokyo, so I had to start mixing my own. That's how NTMG began.
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10 Responses to March 20 Update

  1. mon says:

    God, and to believe I felt sorry for the president of TEPCO when the nightly news showed a clip of him apologizing and crying. The media here didn’t tell of their insane, greedy actions.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Well, it could be that the president wasn’t involved in the decision making process. People in Japan- espeically the older ones- have all been promoted mostly on basis of seniority. He could be just a figurehead. But at the very least, he didn’t direct them to start pumping sea water into the reactors. The Japanese prime minister actually had to order them to do it after they hesitated because they didn’t want to wreck their investment.

  2. Libby says:

    Good grief. It’s damn frustrating & sad when those that should be held accountable & responsible wash their hands of the blame, like the BP execs during the Gulf oil disaster last year. (Which, if I’m correct, BP wasn’t criminally charged by the US government.) I hope these people get their comeuppance b/c I don’t think they’re truly apologetic for their actions. >:-(

    And screw Fox News. I hate any extremely politically slanted news network that just contributes or creates mass hysteria. They just had Jim Berkland (the geologist that predicted the 1989 World Series earthquake in the Bay Area) on a few days ago & a few weeks ago, and supposedly, the west coast of the US is due for a “big earthquake” because of the perigee last night (19th) among a few other “signs”. The earthquake window is from 19th until the 26th & Berkland estimates that it’ll be anywhere from a 3.5 to a 7.0! Now, the logical side of me says there’s no way to predict an earthquake and the whole “Pacific Ring of Fire” theory could just be coincidental, and Fox just thrives on creating higher ratings & mass hysteria for their viewers, but I do admit, I am slightly on edge tonight/early this morning because the last few times the perigee happened was in 2005 & that was the year with the natural disasters across the world. I’m hoping they’re just overexaggering it because I haven’t seen Jim Berkland on any other news network making his predictions.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Yeah, somehow the executives always manage to dodge punishment. They made a calculated risk to endanger the people of Japan (and beyond) in order to save their own investment.

      Yeah, down with Fox! And take all their commentators with them! Maybe they can do a little community service as human Geiger counters in Fukushima.

      I hope things stay safe in your area! We’ve had enough shakiness to last a long time.

  3. Michael says:

    Excellent post.

    I had a similar rant a couple of days ago.

    It’s beyond comprehension that they waited so long before doing anything. They could have asked for help right away, brought in machinery, got linemen working on hooking up the power, or got a generator. If they had, they very well might have avoided the majority of the problems.

    Report-ably, they waited two hours trying to call the fire department. Had I been in charge I would have sent two or three teams of two or three people with orders to beg, borrow or steal a car, bike, scooter, anything to get them to the fire department. Then tell the fire department to get three or four pump trucks there.

    Some think the problem with the pools was… they just let them evaporate until the rods were exposed. That’s completely insane.
    I agree with you, the executives, manager in charge should be the ones on the front line right now.

    I wonder if the same thing would have happened in a US or Canadian plant if the managers/executives had just sat on their hands while things went to hell. I’m not sure they would. I think at least one or two employees would have gone to the media or called a politician.

    Is this part of the Japanese culture of obedience? Certainly, its an upside in many cases. A lot of people shoot each other in the states. But a lot of people are also willing to tell on their bosses when their bosses are doing something wrong. Or am I wrong? I’d like to hear your take on this.

    I try not to think about this, it makes me so mad that the execs allowed this to happen, may be responsible for deaths of a large number of people, and put millions of peoples health and safety at risk.

    I wonder if they are going to stick around, or if the executives who made the stupid decisions are going to try to take off somewhere to avoid prosecution, or mob scenes. Perhaps they will blame everything on one person.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      All the preliminary information coming out about TEPCO is not flattering. I have no idea what they thought would happen if they didn’t cool their nuclear material as they were supposed to. They didn’t seem terribly concerned with any of it until the foreign media showed up.

      I don’t know what will happen to the 50 workers who have been there through the whole crisis, but I bet they make less in a year than the TEPCO executives made in a week.

      Just to give you an idea of how great the TEPCO leadership is, during the crisis they raised the exposure limits for workers in the plant from 100 mSV per shift to 150. (US standard is 50). That way, the workers could work for longer, be exposed to higher doses, AND TEPCO could still say the radiation levels workers were exposed to were still below limits! I cannot express my disgust at this.

      You are right, the Japanese are so ingrained into group identity and respecting a chain of command that they would not have gone against their superiors or told any outsiders (media, politicians) because that would have been going against the group. They might have done it with a consensus in a desperate situation, but even that’s unlikely.

      The Japanese have a very high threshold for what they consider to be mutiny, to the point where even reporting an out of control nuclear situation would have been considered disloyal and wrong. It’s all about the group. It’s unlikely that they will blame one person, unless there happens to be a handy scapegoat (aka foreigner) around. I think they’ll plead ignorance and confusion in the wake of the natural disasters, but the fact that they waited to cool down their reactors until actually ordered to do so by the Prime Minister is going to be hard to explain away. There was no downside to cooling the reactors with seawater right away, except the financial loss for doing so. There is absolutely no other explanation for it and I don’t even think TEPCO can fabricate one.

      TEPCO executives and the company itself have survived loads of scandals and cover-ups thanks to an overly cozy relationship with the government. This incident got the world’s attention, so it may be harder to sweep under the rug, but it’s not clear what will happen to the executives. Probably a public apology and forced resignation. But I think giving them a nice healthy 150 mSV of their own radiation everyday for a week would be a good start. I mean, they saw fit to do that to their employees, Oh, and make them watch FOX news while they’re at it.

  4. Zara says:

    This is such a great post. I really hope the executives who made those bad decisions are made to leave the company somehow, but I have no confidence that that will happen. Even in the U.S., companies rarely reap serious consequences for doing something wrong – there’s usually a huge media hubbub and when it all blows over, the company’s doing pretty much the same thing they were before.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      I bet they’ll have to do the public apology and resign, but they’ll still get their public and private pensions. They’ve survived scandals and cover-ups before. This one was substantially worse and got the world’s attention, but I bet they skate.

  5. Lucy says:

    I’m so thoroughly disgusted with that mentality. It probably goes on in every damn country. There are always the executives that only want to save themselves. Greed is so evil. I don’t know how they could live with themselves after what they let happen. I don’t understand the group mentality. I’ve never been one to be a group player. I also hate rules. I pray nothing further happens. You’ve given so much good information. Lots of things I never knew before. Also good information by other people. Stay safe and in good spirits. (((hugs)))

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Thanks Lucy. It looks like TEPCO will be off the hook again as they’re getting a huge loan from the Japanese gvt. and banks to rebuild. I personally think we should hang them high, but I haven’t heard any talk of prosecution. It takes a LOT to change things here, and if a man-made “nuclear crisis” can’t do it, I don’t know what will.

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