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Japan’s nuclear disaster ‘made in USA’

Published Apr 5, 2011 9:16 PM

It’s beyond time to stop the ruling class in both the U.S. and Japan from dumping human and financial costs onto the backs of the workers and poor of the world.

The U.S. subjected Japan to a nuclear holocaust in 1945 when its Air Force dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 65 years later, another nuclear disaster has the “Made in the U.S.A.” label on it, this time with the full participation and cooperation of the Japanese capitalist government and ruling class.

Japanese nuclear workers have made heroic efforts — some workers have been subjected to doses of radiation 10,000 times greater than is normally found near nuclear plants — but the struggle to limit the damages and avert a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant 120 miles north of Tokyo continues with no end in sight. Radioactivity in the ocean near the plant was reported to be 1,800 times the normal “safe” level.

There are dreadful human costs caused by the catastrophe: disease from radiation, genetic damage to future generations and death. But the Japanese people are also undergoing a gigantic economic disaster. Japanese taxpayers may be forced to pay as much as 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) to compensate businesses and individuals for damages from the nuclear accident. Japanese law limits the maximum cost for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the plant, to one-eighth of that amount.

The U.S. corporate giant General Electric built the Fukushima plant four decades ago. But GE will pay nothing, protected by the “channeling law.” This agreement among the U.S., Japan and other countries ensures that liability for nuclear accidents and damages is channeled exclusively to the plant operators and the government.

GE is used to this kind of preferential treatment. The company’s current CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, is one of President Barack Obama’s close advisors. Although GE had over $14 billion in profits last year, it will pay zero corporate taxes to the U.S. this year. Instead, it will receive a $3.2 billion tax benefit! The General Electric Financial Division also received a whopping $140 billion in federal-taxpayer-funded bailout money in 2008.

Around the world various energy companies are trumpeting the safety of nuclear power and urging the construction of even more plants. Left unsaid is the fact that no private nuclear company would consider building a nuclear plant unless a government agrees to pay for any damages caused by a future disaster.

Poor and working people in Japan, the U.S. and around the world are the ones paying for these nuclear plants, paying the costs of disaster and also guaranteeing the profits of the relatively small handful of people who own them. The workers at the plant, the community around them and the people in general should be the ones to make the decisions to shut down plants at immediate risk and demand protection from GE and other nuclear power giants, as well as accountability and reparations for the damages these corporations have already caused.