Fukushima – Kudankulam – Occupy Movement
While Japan is to nationalize Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the Indian central government is paying off Tamil Nadu State big-wigs for co-operation to reopen Kudankulam nuclear plant. In Europe the 15M movement is gathering forces while the Greek citizenry rethink the bailout. Such undercurrents indicate a groundswell of hitherto unrecognised forces at work – the human factor!
Japan is to nationalize the rich and powerful firm, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the operator of the near totalled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A bailout plan bringing into play just-under ¥1 trillion was approved in Tokyo yesterday, 9 May, 2012.
The Japanese government has been making unusually active efforts aimed at keeping the company from collapsing, in one part to make sure the company can meet the billions of dollars in compensation claims, and at the same time decommission the meltdown-stricken reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. Not to forget that the government must ensure the provision of the Tokyo metropolis with a stable electricity supply, which is going to be very costly.
That government is also eager to push through reforms to reclaim public trust in this company that has played a pivotal role in Japan’s energy policy but that has also admitted to safety lapses and cover-ups at its power plants. The $12.6 billion bailout comes at a time when the government itself is feeling the weight of a debt burden that has grown to more than twice the size of its economy.
Hiroko Tabuchi, reporting for the New York Times, (May 9, 2012) quotes Yukio Edano the Japanese trade minister: *“I ask that you rebuild the trust that has been lost,”* he told executives of the utility after his ministry approved a 10-year plan. *“We consider the plan a new start and are prepared to thoroughly carry it out,”* said Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric.
The government has separately committed ¥2.4 trillion – in taxpayer money – to meet compensation claims arising from the accident. Estimates of those payments have reached many tens of billions of dollars, making further government support likely, comments Ms Tabuchi.
It is notable that when outright capitalism fails and has to be rescued by a government, as can be witnessed in the monetary theatres of the USA and Europe, government’s have no option (apparently) but to revert to socialism and abandon the privatisation schemes that loom so rewarding for those destined to reap the profits. When it comes to accepting responsibilities for mistakes made, tax payers money is poured into the ‘petty cash’ box.
Ignoring that reality almost all governments are continuing to offload what is a government’s job onto the private sector, everything from security to health matters. But price-hikes are working against that as the general economies slope downward.
On the nuclear power front the decommissioning at least four of the Fukushima plant’s six reactors is turning into a very expensive process that could take decades – this is an expense never factored in when estimating and comparing nuclear power with other means of generating power.
Something else not factored in is local opposition to everything from dams to mines and to nuclear power plants. Tepco wants to reopen at least one of those damaged plants but is hampered by local opposition. Quite rightly so. That opposition does not make the news, but that is not surprising – the same is happening in Tamil Nadu, India, where an Idinthakarai SOS was issued on May 5, 2012:
*“The indefinite hunger strike has been going on for the past 5 days. Some 25 men have been on the fast since May 1 and 302 women and 10 more men have joined the strike on May 4, 2012. More and more women are eager to join the indefinite hunger strike but because of logistical issues such as space, bedding and toilet facilities, we are not in a position to accommodate them all,”* reported the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) spokesperson Victoria Pushparayan.
That Indian group of activists is putting itself at high risk and is really doing something going beyond its state and national borders. Yet, very little international attention has been given despite the high numbers of hunger strikers and the very high proportion of women among them – over 90%. For the western media India still does not really count, nor its women!
In Europe the Occupy Movement has the same ‘attention’ problem but there is something interesting behind the scenes, away from the limelight and press coverage.
Humanist Party member Nacho Martinez gives an update reminding members about the first anniversary of 15M in Spain. *“There will be demonstrations that we think are important and will be used to make assessments of the first year of this movement. As you remember, after concentrations in the Puerta del Sol, the movement went to different cities and also to the neighbourhoods. For example in Madrid we came to be about 120 assemblies in different neighbourhoods and towns. In my neighborhood we started with about 500 residents in just two months. The figure has dropped to around 30 or 40, yes, very true but we have continued working together throughout the year.”*
In Tamil Nadu there is a like mass dispersion of the protest and what is happening ‘on site’ Idinthakarai is but a sample of what’s going on in the surrounding area.
The nuclear industry is trying not to be influenced by the repercussions of Fukushima but people are not having it. As electricity rates increase public anger raises and the same people are becoming aware that it was the cheating style of the costs estimates of nuclear power that is at the heart of the problem and also they are getting to understand that the investors are continuing to reap their ill-got harvest. The worth of nuclear power is being questioned everywhere.
With the problems surfacing across our world the general discontent is bringing people alive to local situations as part of the global circumstance and that’s a worldwide phenomena from Timbukto – Tuareg rebellion in Mali’s north, to the Canadian North – against oil extraction from Tar Sands. We now wait to see what Greece does when the Greeks turn down the ‘kind offer’ from the Euro banks; will they leave the Eurozone and begin taking control into their own hands with all the pain-pleasure that entails. Let’s not forget Argentina’s recent buy-back of YPF either – another signal that nations are clawing back their sovereignly from corporations, another yet-to-do operation that is just waiting its moment.