TEPCO well deserves this year’s discommendation award. TEPCO’s moral thoughtlessness and lack of responsibility led to the worst industrial nuclear catastrophe yet experienced. The roots are to be found in the decision to even build atomic power plants in a country riddled by earthquakes - albeit TEPCO certainly does not stand alone in that decision. Whether or not the 12th of March tsunami was the sole cause of the collapse of the Fukushima and Daichi nuclear power plants or if a better technology could possibly have prohibited the disastrous calamity we will probably never know.
TEPCO´s executive managers added arrogance to moral liability: during the first days following the initial disasters they played down the importance and the implications of the incurred problems in order to suggest to the world that they had everything under control. They thus deterred decisions to evacuate. Whether or not this can be attributed to lack of knowledge, incompetence or conscious misleading doesn’t really matter any more – one would certainly expect any company running 10 reactor plants - Fukushima I and II – and thus with the inherent responsibility for the safety of millions of people and the environment - to be in possession of state of the art scientific knowledge and technology and capable of working competently and with transparency.
I visited the prefect of Fukushima with a Japanese group in May of this year. The people still living there have, because of TEPCO, lost everything they had: their homes, their work and their social environment. Their impressions were that TEPCO plainly just didn’t really care. “You can’t expect anything from TEPCO” is how the mayor of one recently evacuated township phrased it.
The energy corporations in Japan are very powerful and use this power ruthlessly. For a large part the media companies belong to them; TEPCO has a strong influence on national politics and the government. As a corporation „to big to fail“ TEPCO relies on the Japanese government to bail them out. The Japanese government in turn allows itself to be blackmailed by Tepco’s presumption that Greater Tokyo would be left without electricity if TEPCO were allowed to go broke.
In the past Tepco made itself billions and a name by manipulating electricity prices. Now the Japanese government has pumped an estimated 4,54 Trillion Yen ( 45 Billion Euros) into TEPCO to prevent the corporation from going broke. Now they are cashing in on 9 Trillion Yen (9,9 Billion Euros) worth of state compensation measures in order to tear down the derelict power plants. These sums will however definitely not be enough and certainly don’t reflect the deep incision into the lives and health of both mankind and environment. The principle of private profits but subsidized losses seems to pose TEPCO no problems.
And to top it all off - TEPCO seems not to want to learn from the catastrophe of Fukushima. The corporation is serious considering to rekindling their third atomic powerplant. But this nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-kariwa was already damaged in a 2007 earthquake - it would be for the Japanese government to take severe consequences. TEPCO seems to have no other interest than that of business profits. TEPCO has indeed earned the discommendation award.
But I would like to add the following: TEPCO is as a corporation not alone when insinuating - even against all experience - that nuclear power is controllable. TEPCO does not stand out when transferring these risks and losses to society. It is such I feel that TEPCO is awarded the Black Planet Award in exemplification for all other nuclear power corporations in the world.