When corporations are left to their own devices …

From Japanese television, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Finally, a week after the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi began, people are starting to question the information coming from officials at Tokyo Electric, which operates the plant. Might they be hedging just a little on the extent of the disaster?

Well, duh-huh, as my kids used to say. From today’s New York Times:

“The United States, with Japanese permission, began to put the intelligence-collection aircraft over the site, in hopes of gaining a view for Washington as well as its allies in Tokyo that did not rely on the announcements of officials from Tokyo Electric, which operates Fukushima Daiichi.

American officials say they suspect that the company has consistently underestimated the risk and moved too slowly to contain the damage.”

This is another instance where government can protect people from corporate power. If it were up to the corporations, and in this country it too often is, word of danger would never leak out, and if it were too obvious to keep secret, it always would be minimized.

A few days ago, Japan was advising people within a 10-mile radius to evacuate, and those within 20 miles of the plant to stay indoors, while US offiicials were telling people to move beyond 50 miles. The Japanese government was listening to the “experts” at Tokyo Electric; US officials were somewhat wary of the company’s assessment. Obviously, no one at Tokyo Electric had paid off US officials yet.

An article in yesterday’s San Fransisco Chronicle revealed decades of faked reports and ignorance of current science and standards.

The six rectors at Daiichi were made by three different companies: General Electric, which made reactors 1, 2 and 6; Toshiba, which made reactors 3 and 5; and Hitachi, which made reactor 4.

A spokesperson for GE said all six reactors passed inspection.

According to the article in the Chronicle, Mitsuhiko Tanaka was an engineer who worked on the $250 million steel pressure vessel that now houses the number 4 reactor. Tanaka knew about it because he helped to cover it up. Having to pay for a new container would have bankrupted the company, so documents were falsified and the faulty vessel was installed.

A decade later, Tanaka went to the government to tell them about the faulty vessel and he was ignored. 

Tokyo Electric knew about this and other problems at its plants, but covered them up.

Anti-nuclear activists say the government has routinely rubber-stamped the reports of power companies without doing its own inspections.

Sound familiar?

Last summer it was BP’s oil spill in the Gulf; this week it’s a nuclear meltdown in Japan.

Isn’t it time we stopped believing the corporations’ own assessments of the danger their operations pose and the extent of damages when the inevitable disaster happens?

a world of progress site | woven by WEBterranean