Tuesday, September 10

Is TEPCO really to blame?

TEPCO, doing what they do best (source)

I imagine you're staring at your computer screen thinking nothing more needs to be said about TEPCO (if you are up-to-date on Japanese events). You might want to read this article, though.

In a similar by-line, I never thought I would post more about TEPCO (or want to) given my prior post: The Beast that is TEPCO. However, here I am.

It is true: TEPCO is a corrupt company, and even after a complete firing of their upper management, corruption is still in the Japanese news. And if it's in the Japanese news that means it was likely OK'ed by the government. (Is it safe to say that?)

The article I recently read was a simple one declaring that the recent indictment charges against TEPCO were dropped because TEPCO could not be held legally responsible as they "could not [have] predict[ed] the real dangers of such a massive earthquake and tsunami." The article goes on to say that the company's "failure to carry out countermeasure construction after it projected in 2008 a scenario of a huge tsunami of more than 15 meters, cannot be considered socially irresponsible behavior."

申し訳ございません. How many times can they apologize? (source)

Yes, the article was simple, but Alas! the implications were great.

The first large implication can be understood through a few analogies. Five earthquakes have occurred equal to or greater than the Tohoku earthquake in the last century (source). I know the the US plans watersheds, zoning, and planning based on at least 100 year flood plains. And that is just for a flood! A nuclear plant, in earthquake-ridden Japan, on an unprotected coast...wouldn't you think they would have to prepare for a bit more? In that situation, the plant owners should have been thricely as cautious and prepared. "Preparedness for a large-scale complex disaster was insufficient; and they were unprepared for the release of a large amount of radioactive materials into the environment" (source). What are (or were) the current standards for the protection wall (which was flooded by a long-shot)? 

In 1964, Alaskan Good Friday earthquake had a magnitude around 8.4 and spawned a 201-foot (67-meter) tsunami in the Valdez Inlet (source). Of course this was a rogue wave with the perfect circumstances, but that happened in the last 50 years. Furthermore, that wasn't the biggest tsunami by a long-shot.

Japan even birthed the word Tsunami! - 津波 (source)

The other great implication is that it is likely TEPCO was only admitted it's negligence when the government forced themand sometimes the apologies were decades late. Why would a company apologize out of the blue if they had thought their misbehavior went undetected? That's just it. I'm sure the government knew a lot more about the TEPCO follies (essentially having them by the balls). So, when TEPCO didn't cooperate with the government (maybe even in terms of bribes), the government tells TEPCO to admit to past incidents. (Is it safe to guess that?) Also, there are countless other times that TEPCO has hidden illegal incidents. Look for yourself...I'm not even going to try to cover it here.

So who really is to blame? Sure, TEPCO is a backwards company. Even after the mandated upper-level restructuring (to put it politely) TEPCO continued to be the naughty little boy it always was. Covering radiation-reading equipment with lead? Come on. But there are scumbag companies in every country. America is not one to point fingers. The real question is: Who watches TEPCO? Might I suggest: the Japanese government?

I'm afraid this 1987 epic comic by Alan Moore beat me to the punch.

Yeah, definitely the government. And the Japanese citizens, the 大人しい bunch that they are have mostly rebuilt their homes and livesmost without pointing fingers or theorizing the point of the chain-of-command that may have been a little negligent (to say the least). Besides the few local residents and activists that had filed the criminal complaint against Kan and his ministers (two years after the events) and a handful of other smaller organizations looking for justice, there isn't much Japanese activity surrounding the event that has had a devastating impact on the domestic agriculture, economy, food-supply, power-supply, and general health as well as global effects (some still unforeseen).

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