Posted on 15-3-11
Tokyo Electric's Nuclear Exposure
By Greg Palast, truthout.org, 14 March 2011
I speak not as a reporter but in my former capacity as lead investigator
in several government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering investigations.
The failure of emergency systems at Japan's nuclear plants comes as no
surprise to those of us who have worked in the field.
Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called "SQ" or
"Seismic Qualification." That is, the owners swear that all components are
designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an
earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from al-Qaeda.
The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry does it
all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988,
at the Shoreham plant in New York. Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham
would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests
from "failed" to "passed."
The company that put in the false safety report? Stone & Webster, now the
nuclear unit of Shaw Construction, which will work with TEPCO to build a
Last night, I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the
tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that
water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.
These safety backup systems are the "EDGs" in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel
Generators. That they didn't work in an emergency is like a fire
department telling us they couldn't save a building because "it was on
What dim bulbs designed this system? One of the reactors dancing with
death at Fukushima Station 1 was built by Toshiba. Toshiba was also an
architect of the emergency diesel system.
Now be afraid. Obama's $4 billion bailout in the making is called the
South Texas Project. It's been sold as a red-white-and-blue way to make
power domestically with a reactor from Westinghouse, a great American
brand. However, the reactor will be made substantially in Japan by the
company that bought the US brand name, Westinghouse - Toshiba.
TEPCO and Toshiba don't know what my son learned in eighth grade science
class: tsunamis follow Pacific Rim earthquakes. So, these companies are
stupid? Maybe. More likely is that the diesels and related systems
wouldn't have worked on a fine, dry afternoon.
Back in the day, when we checked the emergency backup diesels in America,
a mind-blowing number flunked. At the New York nuclear plant, for example,
the builders swore under oath that their three diesel engines were ready
for an emergency. They'd been tested. The tests were faked; the diesels
run for just a short time at low speed. When the diesels were put through
a real test under emergency-like conditions, the crankshaft on the first
one snapped in about an hour, then the second and third. We nicknamed the
diesels, "Snap, Crackle and Pop."
Two of three diesels failed at the Tokai Station as well.
In the US, we supposedly fixed our diesels after much complaining by the
industry. But in Japan, no one tells TEPCO to do anything the Emperor of
Electricity doesn't want to do.
I get lots of confidential notes from nuclear industry insiders. One
engineer, a big name in the field, is especially concerned that Obama
waved the come-hither check to Toshiba and TEPCO to lure them to America.
The US has a long history of whistleblowers willing to put themselves on
the line to save the public. In our racketeering case in New York, the
government only found out about the seismic test fraud because two
courageous engineers, Gordon Dick and John Daly, gave our team the
In Japan, it's simply not done. The culture does not allow the salary men,
who work all their lives for one company, to drop the dime.
Not that US law is a wondrous shield: both engineers in the New York case
were fired and blacklisted by the industry. Nevertheless, the government
(local, state, federal) brought civil racketeering charges against the
builders. The jury didn't buy the corporation's excuses and, in the end,
the plant was, thankfully, dismantled.
Am I on some kind of xenophobic anti-Nippon crusade? No. In fact, I'm far
more frightened by the American operators in the South Texas nuclear
project, especially Shaw. Stone & Webster, now the Shaw nuclear division,
was also the firm that conspired to fake the EDG tests in New York . (The
company's other exploits have been exposed by their former consultant,
John Perkins, in his book, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.") If the
planet wants to shiver, consider this: Toshiba and Shaw have recently
signed a deal to become worldwide partners in the construction of nuclear
The other characters involved at the South Texas Plant that Obama is
backing should also give you the willies. But as I'm in the middle of
investigating the American partners, I'll save that for another day.
So, if we turned to America's own nuclear contractors, would we be safe?
Well, two of the melting Japanese reactors, including the one whose
building blew sky high, were built by General Electric.
After Texas, you're next. The Obama administration is planning a total of
$56 billion in loans for nuclear reactors all over America.
CNN is only interested in body counts, how many workers burnt by
radiation, swept away or lost in the explosion. These plants are now
releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Be skeptical about the
statements that the "levels are not dangerous." These are the same people
who said these meltdowns could never happen. Over years, not days, there
may be a thousand people, two thousand, ten thousand who will suffer from
cancers induced by this radiation.
In my New York investigation, I had the unhappy job of totaling up
post-meltdown "morbidity" rates for the county government. It would be
irresponsible for me to estimate the number of cancer deaths that will
occur from these releases without further information; but it is just
plain criminal for the TEPCO shoguns to say that these releases are not
Indeed, the fact that residents near the Japanese nuclear plants were not
issued iodine pills to keep at the ready shows TEPCO doesn't care who
lives and who dies, whether in Japan or the USA. The carcinogenic isotopes
that are released at Fukushima are already floating to Seattle with
effects we simply cannot measure.