Fukushima - Selling Out the Next Generation

Japan has restarted its first nuclear reactor to generate power since 2013. And that's really bad news.

Remember what happened in 2013? Why Japan closed all of its reactors abruptly and why we're still tracing the spread of radioactive material across our Pacific Coast and into the atmosphere?

First there was an earthquake that did significant damage to that island country - and then a tsunami quickly followed. And what happened next was the largest nuclear meltdown in the history of the world and the evacuation of 160,000 locals who lived in the area of the Fukushima power plant.

We know now that Tepco - the owner of the Fukushima plant - had been warned years earlier about the dangers of an earthquake and a tsunami hitting the plant.

No one did anything about it then - but even if they had - do we have any reason to believe it would have been enough? Because that's the gamble that the Japanese nuclear industry is making with all of our futures right now.

The simple fact about nuclear power generation - is that the risks and the costs dramatically outweigh any benefit.

We've seen some of the risks - in Chernobyl we saw how human error can cause a meltdown. In the Three Mile Island incident we saw how the private corporations aren't afraid to cut corners to pad their bottom line - even if that risks a partial nuclear meltdown.

And in Fukushima we saw what happens when corporate negligence meets a natural disaster.

Considering nuclear power's track record and the staggering risks involved - it's amazing that anyone will insure the projects - and the simple fact is that without government backing, like the Price-Anderson Act here in the US, nuclear power would be impossible, because no private insurance company will cover them.

And to add insult to injury, nuclear power is actually NOT an "alternative energy" source - it's an incredibly fossil fuel intensive process.

We can start with how much cement is required to contain and protect the reactors and other sensitive parts of the plants. Cement and concrete are hugely greenhouse gas intensive to produce - and the only way we know how to protect our power plants is to use more concrete.

Beyond that - the size of the projects require tons of truckloads of materials being hauled in and away - adding to the toll of carbon costs. Even if we just look at the material inputs used in nuclear power - it is carbon intensive to mine uranium - it is carbon intensive to enrich the uranium - and we still don't know what to do with the nuclear waste.

The reality is that there are economically viable and truly clean energy alternatives - geothermal - solar - wind - and tidal wave power are all options for Japan, for example. And they're options that have none of the risks and none of the costs associated with enriched radioactive material. And bringing those renewable options online isn't nearly as costly in terms of carbon as it is to bring a nuclear power plant online.

The reality is - the only reason anyone wants to bring these power plants back online is that when for-profit companies like TEPCO run nuclear power with massive government subsidies and insurance, it can be hugely profitable.

Nuclear is not a bridge fuel - it is not a clean alternative - and it can't be our future. In the 1940s scientists marveled at the idea of using fission to safely create large amounts of energy indefinitely - and they were wrong.

The only reason we're clinging to that fantasy today is that the for-profit nuclear owners - think Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons - don't care about the costs of nuclear power to society.

They'll happily sell the future of life on Earth - just to make a buck today. Which is why both Japan and the United States should "just say no" to nuclear power.


sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 7 years 32 weeks ago

I’m half way through today's podcast, I can’t help but notice that since Bernie got crashed on Sun., I’ve heard several callers all with the same message for Thom… He’s not treating Hillary fairly. To me, these callers sounded like trolls. The message was canned and cautious.

When alleged associates with Black Lives Matter crashed Bernie, even when given an unlimited opportunity to speak, all that was screamed over and over was "We will shut you down!" accompanied by frenzied angry body language. To me it was very intuitively obvious that the only goal was to to prevent Bernie from speaking and to damage Bernie’s credibility with the African American community. With Hillary, the alleged affiliates with BLM “announced” that they were going to “crash” her event and ended up in a meeting with her.

I am completely aware of the fact that we have to elect Hillary if she is the nominee. But it’s our civic duty to speak honest truth to power. Don’t take my word for it, ask Lee Fong or Amy Goodman or Salon. The fact is that African Americans and minorities need to know that thanks to policies put in place by the Bill Clinton Admin., they are making the private prison industry very rich. Private prison industry lobbyists are Hillary's biggest bundlers. The Banking cartel and the private prison cartel are all about the Clintons- both of them and we MUST have the courage to speak of these things. Democrats are running AGAINST each other for the nomination. Until after a nominee is elected, it’s all about..firing squad is too strong a word…the circular “boxing match”.

cccccttttt 7 years 32 weeks ago

My wife is Japanese and yearly visits relatives 200 km from Fukushima.

Its considered rude to talk about the topic of radiation.

Its illegal to publish or broadcast any radiation articles that might upset the public.

Health statistics on cancer, thyroid, heart, and hormone disorders are hard to get.

The government sends Fukushima waste to every province to burn.

They feed the national soccer team Fukushima rice.

Anyone care to visit Tokyo for the coming Olympics?


dianhow 7 years 32 weeks ago

NO Japen visit for us China either . Corp Greed WINS once again Mankind will, at some point,destroy the planet !

dianhow 7 years 32 weeks ago

Its true Bill Clinton / Wall St 's Alan Greenspan policies like NAFTA & pushing UN regulated FREE Markets was a huge mistake . Also Reaganomics trickle down ( which GOP still preaches ) Reagans 'deal ' to sell Guns to Iran - after Iran agreed to release US hostages when Carter was out of office. 12 years of Bush 1-2 long wars based on lies, fear tactics, push to privatize public education, SS - Medicare . Reagan 'borrowed' from SS Trust fund to cover his massive DEBT, after he dropped top tax rate from 74 % to 28 % Anti middle class pro wealth policies pushed USA down the long path to global crash- depfression- TARP- loss of 700 K jobs a month under Bush .Cheney Long failed Iraq war made more enemies than ever . Caring for our maimed Vets will run in the trillions ( Vets deserve the best ) 2 long wars another 1-2 trillion. Bernie 2016 Single Payer Repeal Citizens United Bring back G lass Steagal Break up crooked fraudelant Wall St arrogant dangerous banks.... TOO Powerful to Exist !! Limit interest rate banks can charge NO 16 -25 % rates USURY Then watch US economy soar !!

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 32 weeks ago

"The only reason we're clinging to that fantasy today, is that the for-profit nuclear owners"....say no more. The entire energy sector should be non-profit, and controlled/owned by "we the people,".....if that were the case we wouldn't even be having this discussion. In addition the specter of global warming would be front and center regarding all energy decisions.

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 32 weeks ago

Thom you haven't even got the basics right. The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami occurred in 2011 not 2013. You can justifiably blame Tepco for incompetence, but also the Japanese gov't, which swore up and down such a large tsunami was impossible. And they failed to prepare for that tsunami and as a consequence 20 thousand good Japanese citizens were needlessly killed. An added extra was the zero death Fuku nuclear incident. And some hydro dam bursts that killed a dozen or so. And a massive refinery fire near Tokyo that released hundreds of tons of deadly carcinogens into the air and water. The MSM liked to show video of the giant refinery inferno but entitled it "Fukushima Nuclear Disaster".

The big question is why did the Japan gov't not prepare for the tsunami just as the Canadian and US gov't are not preparing for the even larger tsunami that will inevitably hit the west coast within the next hundred years. How many tens of thousands will die needlessly? Prepping nuclear power plants is trivial compared to that. All the Fuku plants needed at a minimum, was some diesel water pumps with a secure fuel supply, problem solved.

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 32 weeks ago

So the corrupt Japanese gov't shutdown all their perfectly good nuclear power plants and replaced them with oil, gas & coal, mostly imported, expensive, deadly LNG. And a lot of terrorist funding oil, including from Iran. Twenty giant LNG tankers every year to replace one of the 43 shutdown nuclear power plants. Each LNG tanker load is the equivalent of a dozen Hiroshima bombs in energy and quite capable of destroying a city. Just waiting for terrorists to hijack one of those.

As a result of stupidly and needlessly shutting down nuclear power in Japan for four years, their government has effectively murdered about 14 thousand people, by virtue of the increased mortality numbers of fossil fuel over Nuclear - WHO data. And released an additional 500 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere over those 4 years. Runaway global warming here we come.

All practical energy is dangerous. Deaths per TWh of electricity:

Coal: 161

Oil: 36

Biomass: 12

NG: 4

Hydro: 1.4

Wind: 0.15

Nuclear: 0.04


Thom believes in pixie power dreams. Like Solar and Wind can power the world. Actually that remains quite impossible. Both economically and physically because of the low EROEI of wind & solar.

Thom claims solar provides 74% of Germany's electricity.

Wrong. After 25 yrs of all-out effort, Germany has managed a meagre 6.1% solar electricity (2014), and that comes with MAJOR caveats. Like the need to export much of it, or just wasted since they can't spin down or shutdown their coal power plants in the time period the solar is peaking. And that solar energy is only during ~8hrs on ~sunny days. An expensive fantasy. They are now building filthy coal power plants like there is no tomorrow. Why aren't they building solar or wind instead?

in 2013 Germany's electricity generation was 66% NG & Coal, mostly Coal with some chopped down forests mixed in to greenwash the filthy coal, 15% Nuclear, 4.3% Hydro and a whopping 14% combined Geothermal, Solar, Wind, Tidal. i.e. They still produced more from their "long abandoned" Nuclear than their massively subsidized Solar & Wind.

And they have the 2nd highest electricity prices in the EU & 2nd highest emissions in CO2/kwh generated. Indeed it has 9X the emissions per unit power of nuclear France and 5X the emissions of nuclear Ontario.

Electricity twice as expensive as France. And 800 thousand poor German citizens have had there electricity disconnected because they can't afford the high prices. They call that "energy efficiency" over there.

Much poorer France went from 0-70% clean nuclear electricity in 20 yrs with a mundane effort. And they are the world’s largest electricity exporter and EXPORTS as much green electricity as all of Germany’s hyped up Wind & Solar combined. And still managed a 4 day, max 35 hr work week, with minimum 5 weeks paid vacation. Most get 8 weeks, And the best social services in the EU, including free home doctor visits. Makes Germany look pathetic.

There is NO instance of renewable energy successfully replacing significant fossil fuels, outside of the practical conventional hydro, which is severely limited, and Iceland, the best geothermal location on the planet, has had success with supplying mostly low grade building heat and some electricity.

Vegasman56 7 years 32 weeks ago


Maybe you would like to check into this

Kristen powers the silencing how the left in killing free speech

She was on Washington Journal 8/13/2015

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 32 weeks ago

As for Thom's claim that nuclear power plants concrete usage makes it a high GHG producer, that is patently nonsense.


The analysis of Building emissions, including concrete & steel and plant decommissioning is a small part of total full lifecycle nuclear emissions, amounting to 4.1 PJ out of 43.4 PJ consumed over 40 yrs of operation, mostly enrichment energy inputs. Energy output over that same time period is 3226 PJ, so an energy gain of 74X. Moreso over full plant lifespan of 60-100 yrs.

A new AP1000 uses 69 cubic meters of concrete and 33 tonnes metal per MW electrical generated.

Onshore wind uses 870 cubic meters of concrete and 460 tonnes metal per MW electrical generated.


CANDU reactors, not needing enriched uranium, have the lowest emissions of ANY source of electricity, only 2 gms CO2 emitted per kwh generated. Wind with 5 to 29 gms CO2 per kwh generated not including the unavoidable, inefficient, smoke belching, shadowing fossil fuel power source. And 3-4X oversized long distance tranmission lines.

Solar PV at 50 to 95 gms CO2 per kwh generated, again not including its inevitable fossil fuel power partner.

Joe Friendly's picture
Joe Friendly 7 years 32 weeks ago

Entergy, the company that operates the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant 20 miles from New York City is arguably worse than Tepco when it comes to safety. Despite embrittlement of steel from prolonged exposure to radiation, Entergy has been allowed to continue operation of the plant beyond its expired license. They've asked for a postponement of 10 years to analyze the strength of the steel. The plant is near an earthquake fault. The spent fuel pool is dangerously overcrowded. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a captive of the nuclear power industry. Manhattan could become a ghost town, the buildings still standing, but no people, from a single accident at Indian Point. Clearly, Indian Point should be closed down.

bnappi's picture
bnappi 7 years 32 weeks ago

Thom? Are you reading these posts? Do you understand what they are telling you? You’re being misled by the superficial rhetoric of naïve green advocates who don’t know what they’re talking about. The PROBLEM here is NOT nuclear science. It’s the corrupt government – corporation – educational system that is putting profit above safety. I worked in that industry before Nader blew the whistle on them. Incompetence and corruption were the coin of the realm. If you want to bring wisdom to this issue, follow the money and power. It’s not a problem of the technology, if it is reasonably implemented.

And thank you, Instant Runoff, for bringing in your long background in energy analysis to challenge this misrepresentation.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 30 weeks ago

bnappi -- Are you saying that all nuclear power should be stopped immediately? The reason being that there is no way it can be "reasonably implemented" using the profit motive.

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