Phil Mirzoev's blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fukushima mess: why does Japan need any government at all?

    Just cannot help but make some notes on the notorious Fukushima accident, which for me once more demonstrates that in the 21th century even in the developed countries - even in the best of the developed countries like Japan - absolutely uncontrolled self-protected governments not only don't do any good in the realm of their direct 'responsibilities' but actually do as much harm and damage to their own nations as one can imagine, quite knowingly so too. (governments in their present form within present semi- or quasi-democratic systems). Would the emergency at Fukushima have been treated better without government and its secrecy and its procedures? No doubt as ever. There are a lot of engineers and specialists in emergency treatment and institutions specializing therein around the world: they - a group of independent engineers and specialists, even institutes - would have handled the situation incomparably better, absolutely no doubt about it, if - and that's a big IF, they would have given full information access and a full mandate to assess and treat the situation. Was this simple idea evident to Japanese government? Yes beyond reasonable doubts, but their own interests, fears and the qualities of the system in terms of responsibility-apportioning wouldn't let the government to outsource the problem. Do I consider the manner of handling the emergency a crime in a moral sense against the Japanese people? Yes! Does the same old question 'why do nations need governments in the form they are if they mess more than help things?' still hold? Not a shadow of a doubt!
According to the preliminary governmental report on Fukushima nuclear accident, the next problems took place in handling the emergency:

  • delays in relaying information to the public
  • managers' lack of knowledge of procedures to deal with emergencies
  • poor communications - between the workers and the government, among the workers themselves, and between government bodies.
Also the investigation found that... just wait for it... 'Tepco staff at the plant were not trained to handle emergencies like the power shutdown..'. My God, it's just like a large group of surgeons conducting a serious operation in hospital, NONE of them knowing what to do in case of a cardiac arrest! But in the same report the authors recognize that all those cases of negligence and 'mistakes' were not prevented and foreseen by the relevant regulatory bodies, which are governmental agencies. It is the responsibility of the state to guarantee the proper standards and public safety in engineering and industrial operations, let alone NUCLEAR POWER FACILITIES AND OPERATIONS (!!). One cannot come even close to putting on an equal footing the responsibility of a commercial company that produces planes that drop from the sky and the STATE which makes the laws and by-laws allowing for such planes to be produced. HOW COME that Japan nuclear regulators - very large and expensive vehicle - hadn't enforced any procedure and standard prescribing the practice of dealing with emergency black-outs (don't forget, flooding and stoppage of pumps and generators is one of the most commonplace well known emergency problems for a huge number of production facilities)?
I am myself an engineer by education and profession, and for an engineer it sounds like Ministry of Transportation not including in the traffic code the rules regulating intersections without traffic lights. Of course, it is not that the people in those governmental agencies don't know all this stuff and its importance - of course they know all this better than I do - but just because they have no accountability, transparency and control, which just allows them sit on their asses, eat taxpayer's money and do NOTHING, they do either nothing (in the best case scenario) or they try to save their posts at the expense of the lives of thousands of people. STATE SECRECY and outsourcing of the power station operation to a commercial - that is private - operator, gives even more confidence to the government in that NO ONE among the ministers or officials would be imprisoned for life for any accident even of the scale of the Fukushima meltdown.
But of course, what struck me even more, and, I think, many other engineers around the globe, who followed the situation at the Fukushima plant back in March 2011, are these two things:
1. Some absolutely freakish, cosmically stupid actions by the company-operator (Tepco), like sprinkling the reactors with sea water (to accelerate the dissolution of the rods etc) or, even worse, making their personnel walk knee-deep in usual rubber boots on the flooded floor of the leaking power block (!!) (you don't have to be even an engineer - a good 1th year college student can understand what it means with the reported levels of radiation inside and outside the building)
 2. Absolute non-transparency, huge lack of information for public, general blabbering by officials meant to say as little as possible and as late as possible - all this was also mentioned and recognized in that report.
Of course, this next-to-zero accountability of the government during the crisis at the Fukushima plant had nothing to do with the lack of information coming from the facility and operator to the agencies. Neither did it have anything to do with the 'parental concern' of the Government with the public panic element, though they tried to play this card (for the total lack of any other excuses): at that time, after the number of dead and missing was more than 15000 and the number of homeless was six-digit, there was nothing to add to or take away from the stoic spirit of the Japanese people, though, obviously, the lack of information conveyed to the public along with the visible effort on the part of the Government to withhold as much as info and truth possible, could somewhat enhance already existing fears. The only thing that can explain the whole mess happening at Fukushima is the same old reason: the Government and the operator were worried much more about their own skins than about the best possible solution to the problem and about people, they themselves as ever were paralyzed by fear - fear of the possible responsibility. And what they did, or to be more precise, what they DID NOT DO, was motivated not by their desire to channel as much professionalism and expertise in resolving the emergency, but by their desire to understand who was risking what and to which degree and work out the best compromise route to cover up the tracks and their asses, and cloud the distribution of responsibility; to be as much on the safe side as possible from the bureaucratic point of view and laws (even if the real actions of those guys were not the best to achieve this purpose after all - here I am talking about the motivations and blockages of the system as such).
The long and the short of it: the government as ever was concerned not with the lives of the people, but with their own skin, and used to the full all the levers and the self-imposed right to lie and play secrecy and not share with anyone independent the access to and control over the situation. The government and the company-operator instead of solving the problem were playing 'Ping-Pong' of responsibility, trying to figure out how to confuse things to the maximum degree and find a reasonable 'draw' solution in this game with minimal responsibility. The problem is not that it is some unique situation, the problem is that on the contrary this is absolutely the usual way how almost everything, for which government is responsible, works under condition of secrecy. In this respect this crime - and I prefer calling a spade a spade - is not unlike the zero preparedness of New Zealand government for the recent earthquake, where about 150 people died (about the high probability of which every technical student knew and every national channel had talked), not unlike the zero preparedness of Italian government for the recent earthquake, not unlike the recent shoot-out in Norway where police couldn't reach the island during a time period of almost one hour (!!) (see about Norway, not unlike Japan government again criminally neglecting the supply of water and food to those thousands of people stranded after tsunami (the third largest world economy - Japan, even if not having enough helicopters or planes, could quite easily pay and invite the US military based nearby, let alone all the Asian neighbors' aircraft resources available for money, but people were STARVED and on the brink of death from dehydration - Japan in the 21th century, I can't believe it!).
In the world - in Japan itself, in Germany and France, in the USA, in Britain, Finland - there are thousands of EXCELLENT, world class atomic engineers and specialists in elimination of emergencies, who, if given the access and INFORMATION TRANSPARENCY, could provide the necessary help and expertise, who could solve this task orders of magnitude better that those governmental and government-appointed  'custodians', without 'heroes' walking on the flooded floor around the leaking reactor to the amazement of the shocked public around the world.
It's not that government understand all these things any worse than I do, but it's just intrinsically, structurally motivated by other things - their self-justification and saving their face (no matter how successful or unsuccessful they happen to be in the end in achieving those aims); of course, it is a kind of shameful to use external specialists and resort to the aid from other countries, and it could be dangerous for the government if professionals and institutions from other countries will find out incidentally all the drawbacks, lapses and criminal omissions at a Japanese nuclear station. So saving its face and its skin (at least political) is the first priority - for the government it's worth MUCH more than millions of Japanese lives, or any nation's lives for that matter. That is what I mean when I say that governments usually are not only useless, but they are HARMFUL and VERY MUCH HARMFUL too. They inflict damage directly or indirectly on their own people in a situation where there's every physical possibility to avoid the damage and the actual people in government KNOW this.
This is just one more example to add to the unending succession of the same sort of crimes done by governments in the developed 'semi-democratic' countries, where there has accumulated a huge deficit of effective mechanisms of public democratic control over the governments, huge lack of information transparency and accountability of the state. Other examples include (but are not limited to) wars started just at the click of fingers where thousands of citizens are killed (thousands of American boys and girls in Iraq and Afghan war for example); or the endless governmental fight with drugs which is based on the endless supply and illegal production of drugs and creating good conditions for the mafia-supported shadow drug economy (of course governments are interested in supporting the endless fight and the endless drug use and illegal trade); creating purposely conditions whereby terrorists or just lunatics can easily make their own explosives and blow them up (Norway example or buy and carry grenades (Belgium recent example); or subsidizing an artificial external enemy just to support an artificial cold war to make the state look more needed and protecting (South Korea and North Korea example, the US war on terrorism); creating special anti-human prison conditions not to reduce crime rates and the number of criminals but to support them in order to make governmental policing agencies and functions seem more important and needed and get the proper funding; laws legalizing the private possession and carrying of fire arms by anyone who is just of age and have a driving license (or even without it) - this list can be continued.
All this adds up to the same burning question WHY do the developed 'semi-democratic' countries NEED GOVERNMENTS in their present form?! Why indeed, if the governments are the main TRAITORS of the national interests - the interests of the PEOPLE - and the main TERRORISTS who, using secrecy laws to eliminate any democratic control, TERRORIZE their own population to meet their own disgusting ends (which they have the impertinence to call national interests)?
It's not that this problem doesn't have a solution in theory: the developed countries need to switch from being SEMI-DEMOCRACIES (or quasi-democracies) to the full-fledged democracies, with a new understanding of the responsibility of the state, fundamentally new standards and conceptions of TRANSPARENCY, PUBLIC CONTROL and PARTICIPATION. New conception of criminal law and responsibility would be important too, if the governments are to be left in their present form, because the PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE cannot and should not be applied to them as in the case of usual citizens.

See also:
How to avoid ridiculously 'freak' wars like in Iraq and Afghanistan in future?!
Yes, Bradley Manning and Assange deserve the Nobel prize possibly more than Obama does! 
'A letter to a friend: don't have illusions, there are no good governments'
Some extra about the moral political crisis in the Western semi-democracies  

Why the US doesn't apologize for its recent killing of Pakistani troops

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