… In law, Fukushima plant operator Tepco should pay the full costs of the accident. But there is a loophole: Tepco can’t pay. So the government stepped in and nationalised the company, meaning Japanese taxpayers will pay for this disaster.
What’s worse, is that this protection system works even better for the companies that supply reactors and other equipment to nuclear operators: they don’t pay any of the costs of a disaster.
Big energy giants, such as General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi, pay nothing if one of their reactors causes a disaster. At Fukushima, all three built reactors based on GE’s flawed Mark I reactor design. Concerns that the reactor containment would fail during a major accident proved correct – this is exactly what happened.
The flaw was revealed decades earlier, but the problem wasn’t fixed.
But the protection system means that GE, Hitachi and Toshiba and other big companies with enormous wealth are not held liable when their equipment contributes to a disaster.
Greenpeace is calling for the creation of a real nuclear liability system, one that makes both nuclear operators and their suppliers pay all the costs of their failures, not taxpayers.
If reactor suppliers knew they would be held liable in a disaster they would place more attention on the risks. They might even keep their flawed and unsafe products off the market.
India has a law that makes suppliers liable. And it frightens GE. John Flannery, chief executive, said on the 21st February that GE won’t pursue the reactor business in India if the law isn’t changed. “We are a private enterprise and we just can’t take that kind of risk profiles,” he said….
The point for me is that there are better designs, safer reactor designs that automatically safely shut down if there is ever a failure.
Transatomic Power, an MIT spinoff, is developing a nuclear reactor that it estimates will cut the overall cost of a nuclear power plant in half. It’s an updated molten-salt reactor, a type that’s highly resistant to meltdowns. Molten-salt reactors were demonstrated in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Lab, where one test reactor ran for six years, but the technology hasn’t been used commercially.