The prime minister of Japan has said that his government is "not in a position where we can be optimistic" about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Is there any logical conclusion to draw from that statement other than that a large chunk of Japan is going to be uninhabitable?
They’ve got four nuclear reactors right next to each other in various states of disaster and probably meltdown. Two more are damaged. The workers on site are exhausted, sick and dying. The ocean and air around the plant are highly radioactive. The surrounding farms are producing radioactive vegetables. The drinking water in Tokyo is radioactive. If the Fukushima reactors keep exploding and burning and blowing radiation into the reservoirs, how long before Tokyo becomes Jonestown with a population of 13,000,000?
Michio Kaku, the physicist and author, has suggested on CNN that the best option right now is entombment. There’s nothing to salvage, he said, so the Japanese government should get some shielded helicopters and dump sand, boric acid, dolomite and concrete on the reactors and bury them for eternity. This could be done in ten days, he said, if they just got the materials together, which they aren’t doing because the government is not facing the implications of its own declared lack of optimism.
I’m not a physicist, but entombment at Chernobyl was vastly more complicated than Kaku was able to discuss in the time limits of American television. The Chernobyl reactor had to be mostly neutralized before being permanently buried, which meant that 800,000 or so "liquidators" had to run into the plant, perform some menial task in the presence of boiling nuclear waste for a minute or two, and then run out. Most of them are now sick, dying or dead from radiation poisoning.
Perhaps burying Fukushima will be a simpler process, because of robots or other technological developments. Perhaps burying Fukushima will be a more complicated process, because it has a lot more waste lying around and four out-of-control reactors while Chernobyl had just one. I don’t know. Either way, there is a moral problem that needs to be discussed.
Who will be the liquidators?
Whether Japan needs a few hundred volunteers to shovel boric acid on burning plutonium, or whether Japan needs 800,000 draftees, as in the Soviet Union, somebody’s got to do it.
Michio Kaku suggested the Japanese military, presumably because they are available and can fly helicopters. One could also argue that soldiers are paid to risk their lives for their country, and Japan has never needed them more.
Lets think about this, I say. The Japanese military is constitutionally forbidden to make war on anyone, so they are probably the nicest military in the world. And like every other military, it is full of young men who aren’t paid much, who haven’t lived much, who haven’t even started their families yet. Most important, Japanese soldiers bear no moral responsibility at all for the problem. Why should they die to solve it?
If someone has to die an agonizing, terrifying, nauseating, blistering, stinking, metastasizing death, who should be first guy to run into the Fukushima reactors with a bucket of wet cement?
I nominate Jeffrey Immelt.
Immelt is chairman and CEO of General Electric. General Electric designed all six of the faulty Fukushima reactors. General Electric built three of them. General Electric claimed it was safe to build these reactors next to the ocean in an earthquake zone. General Electric built 23 reactors in the United States exactly like the ones melting down right now in Japan. General Electric has made colossal profits promoting nuclear power in Japan and around the world. Jeffrey Immelt made $15.2 million last year.
He makes the most money, it’s his company, and he tells everyone else what to do. At any time since taking over GE in 2000, he could have said, "Those plants are too dangerous. We sold them to Japan. We need to shut them down." He didn’t do that. Hence the nuclear waste in Tokyo’s drinking water belongs to Jeffrey Immelt.
This is what Immelt says on the GE website: "I’m out talking about this company seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with nothing to hide. We’re a 130-year-old company that has a great record of high-quality leadership and a culture of integrity."
That is the statement of a moral turd. A shameless, sociopathic, moral turd. GE ran the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the most polluted places on the planet. GE has paved parking lots with nuclear waste. GE has released vast clouds of radiation on innocent, unwarned people in United States just to see what would happen. GE has done radiation experiments on the testes of prisoners without properly warning them. GE dumped 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River, making it poisonous for generations. GE has refused to clean up the PCBs in the Hudson and elsewhere. GE has lied repeatedly about the PCBs. GE is a serial polluter of ground water. GE takes enormous pride in paying no corporate taxes in the United States. GE has been fined many times for defrauding the the Defense Department. GE has been fined many times for design flaws and safety violations at its nuclear plants in the United States. GE has shipped most of its operations overseas so it can pay workers less and get fined less. GE owns a big chunk of NBC and MSNBC, which has been covering Japan less and less as the meltdown gets worse and worse. GE sees to it that all those NBC Dateline true crime documentaries don’t inform anyone about GE crimes. And last, but far from least, GE launched the political career of Ronald Reagan.
For all that, GE has been named "America’s Most Admired Company" in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine.
For all that, Jeffrey Immelt has been named Chairman of Obama’s Economic Advisory Panel.
For all that, I say give Jeffrey Immelt a one-way ticket to Fukushima and a bucket of wet cement. While he’s pouring it on the burning fuel rods, he can throw in his MBA from Harvard.
Then give another one-way ticket and bucket of wet cement to Jack Welch, who was head of GE from 1981 to 2000. He can toss his #1 best-selling autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut, onto the fuel rods as well.
Then the Japanese get to pick between their prime minister and the head of the Tokyo Electric Power Company. But GE should go first. It’s the honorable way. Harakiri for the 21st century.
CHARLES M. YOUNG is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper.