Tuesday, July 17, 2007

KAKUEI TANAKA’S LEGACY, TEXAS, AND THE LOCATION OF THE REACTOR IN KASHIWAZAKI

Even though ex-prime minister and kingmaker of many other prime ministers in Japan, Kakuei Tanaka, passed away over a decade ago, his legacy still seems to be popping up—even in earthquakes. The Choetsu Earthquake of July 16, 2007 in Niigata Prefecture registered at least 6.8 on the Richter scale. There were numerous other shocks, with one nearly 5 on the Richter scale, in the area of the world’s largest nuclear reactor complex.

There were about ten deaths locally, much local destruction of hundreds of mostly wooden buildings, and nearly a thousand other individual injuries. However, the biggest concern for the whole planet is what occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s [TEPCO] Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station, where according to ENS [Environment News Service] four of seven reactors “were operating or set to begin operation when the earthquake struck. They automatically shut down when the earth began to shake, but an electric transformer outside one of the reactors caught fire and burned for about two hours.”

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, according to BBC Radio, suffered a series of some 50+ leaks and other disruptions. The plant was built under questionable conditions.

In the wake of the quake, drums of waste material were knocked over. The four reactors had to be scrammed. There were transformer fires, and power failures occurred in about 22,000 houses. The scariest report of all is that several times radioactive gasses were released into the atmosphere. Local officials did not tell the public of the leaks in a timely fashion.
Many people outside Japan are astounded that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station was not built to higher specifications to take earthquakes of that range on the reactor scale—as such quakes occur every decade on Japane’s earthquake racked islands. The choice of location for these plants were always controversial as the sands on which the plants were built were not appropriate to the task. Much of the plant had to be buried deeper under ground than originally planned.
Wikipedia states: “According to the Guiness Book of World Records, it [the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station] is the largest nuclear plant in the world, with a total electrical output of 8,212 MW. This is sufficient to provide electricity to about 16 million households. Since there are some 47 million households reported by the Japanese census…, this makes the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP an extremely important cornerstone in the electricity market of Japan.”
TEPCO, the Japanese company that has been constructing the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station over the past two decades, recently had been working with the South Texas Project [STP], owned by NRG Energy, helping to build similar reactors in the United States.

A history of various scandals have enveloped the TEPCO project at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant since the godfather of modern Japanese pork-barrel politics, Kakuei Tanaka, first called for the building of these plants in 1968.

Local residents in the area have been split on the plant for decades, with one community, Kariwa, voting soundly in 2002 to suspend the plant’s operations after more recent scandals related to transportation of nuclear materials and public exposure to released gasses at the plants.

Japan, which is only behind France in its dependence on nuclear power in the world today, has been planning to increase dependence on nuclear power in the decades to come.

The country has approximately 55 nuclear plants scattered around the adversely seismically affected islands of Japan. The paternalistic Japanese government appears to continue to be keeping the facts of what has occurred at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant from view of the local peoples and of concerned potential nuclear consumers in Texas and other parts of the globe.

In recent years, there have been many problems and dangers produces with nuclear power plants caused by earthquakes. One of the more recent cases was in Kanazawa, where a district court ruled against operation of one plant after an earthquake.

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