17 iii 11, 1:45 PM GMT—The general headline this Thursday is: “Cracks are Appearing.” Cracks are appearing in one or two of the containment vessels at the Fukushima reactors (reports are unclear). Cracks are appearing in the bottom of the pool that holds spent fuel rods at Unit 4, possibly explaining why water is draining from the pool. Cracks are appearing in the US-Japan relationship as Japan officially disputed the congressional testimony of an NRC Commissioner on whether the spent fuel rods are now exposed. Japan would prefer to keep blame on the reactor design, which was American.
Cracks are certainly appearing between the nuclear industry and the investment community, as the latter’s capital is liquid and so Wall Street wants to abandon the sinking ship. Analysts who portray the interests of “Capital” as monolithic are failing to realize that this is a clear case of intra-class fragmentation. As days and weeks roll by, nobody will want the bodies of Fukushima on their roll card. And nobody can afford it. The price tags will exceed any anticipation.
Cracks are also appearing between the US-based nuclear industry and its world customer base, exacerbated by the WikiLeaks revelation that India’s ruling party used bribes to secure its nuclear cooperation agreement with the USA: India Government Hit by WikiLeaks Allegations – WSJ.com. Note that the report comes from an anti-nuke propaganda sheet, the Wall Street Journal.
The inside story there is that, for some time, French companies have been leveraging to take control of the worldwide nuclear industry from US competitors. Thus, the French company AREVA is now the largest nuclear player in the world, by far, and it is building a centrifuge enrichment plant in Idaho. France is mostly immune from the market pressures that beset the US industry, because France lacks both coal and democracy. In a slip of the tongue the other day, US congressman Ed Markey compared the nuclear industry to “communist countries like China and France”. What he meant was that the French nuclear industry does wield the hegemony of a Politburo.
So, from a French perspective, Fukushima represents opportunity to gain even more competitive advantage over the USA. The reactors were not designed in Paris, merci beaucoup.
The dreaded word “entombment” has now been uttered in the halls of Washington and New York, if not yet in Tokyo. It is now clear that Fukushima will be entombed, because there isn’t enough money in the world, even China, to pay for anything else. Thankfully no PR hacks got to the word earlier or they would have concocted some euphemism like “Christmas boxing”. Entombment means encasing the whole place in concrete or sand.
Chernobyl was entombed, and that probably accounts for why the word was not massaged. Entombment was just fine for the Russians, even deserved. A phenomenally larger nuclear tomb on the coast of Japan will have quite a different signification, however. It will, of course, become a monument. A monument to what will be the matter contested.
— Geoffrey Sea
Geoffrey Sea holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Science from Harvard. He did graduate work in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and in radiological health physics at San Jose State University. He is co-founder of Southern Ohio Neighbors Group, which successfully defeated plans for the centralized storage of spent nuclear fuel at Piketon, Ohio. He has published in the American Scholar, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and many newspapers. He can be contacted via email at SargentsPigeon@aol.com