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Japan nuclear crisis may damage US image

Published time: March 17, 2011 08:17
Edited time: March 17, 2011 17:45

Japan's handling of the nuclear crisis appears to be failing while atomic experts point out that the Fukushima reactors were designed by America's General Electric Company and there are some built-in flaws.

­But if a deeper look into Japanese law is taken it would turn out that General Electric would not be liable for the accident or damage at Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. And this creephole would potentially save them tens of billions of dollars were they sued for the Fukushima disaster. So they are probably breathing a sigh of relief right now.

Almost undoubtedly, the scapegoat of the disaster will be the operator of Fukushima nuclear power plant TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc, which has already lost US$24 billion (57 per cent) of its worth in just three days – and all this against the background of being the power generating company with the world’s biggest debt obligations, of $88 billion.

Experts like Walt Patterson, Senior Research Fellow in the Energy and Environmental Programme, who told RT that nearly 40 years ago he wrote an article “describing an intense controversy in the US about the performance of the so-called “emergency cooling systems on water-cooled reactors,” are now openly saying that there were some flaws in the General Electric-designed reactors. TEPCO and the Japanese government will probably nevertheless try to sue the General Electric Company. But it remains to be seen as investigation into the catastrophe is yet to be conducted.

Military publicist from Russian newspaper Zavtra Vladislav Shurygin believes that “Today we are not dealing with a Japanese nuclear catastrophe, despite the whole world watching developments in Japan and everyone knowing about Fukushima. In fact, it's an American nuclear disaster. All four reactors hit by explosions were built by the American General Electric Company. Moreover, the plant was constructed and designed mainly by American experts.”

“Japan itself doesn't produce any reactors and the country is forbidden to engage in any nuclear power research. So, we are witnessing a drama of the American energy industry despite it happening on Japanese territory,” Shurygin concludes.

There are many countries now soul-searching on their commitment to nuclear energy. This means that the US – one of the leading manufacturers of nuclear technology equipment – faces fewer contracts with promising clients, particularly in the $150 billion Indian market. The country has already announced further inspections of nuclear power plant construction before anything continues.

General Electric’s Chairman Jeffrey R. Emmelt visited India earlier this week to lead for the first time in GE’s history, outside the US, the Council of Corporate Executives. He had to answer some tough questions from Indian journalists about what is happening at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. He seemed to be dodging those questions. Instead he re-expressed commitment to invest in India and voiced plans to invest $200 million in the next five years, but many Indians are rather skeptical and feel worried about whether there could be a potential disaster at nuclear power plants designed by GE.

Back in November, when President Barack Obama was making his Asian trip, GE’s chairman Jeffrey R. Emmelt was accompanying him. The US president was hoping to ease up on liability laws in Asia that would make American companies not responsible for possible accidents – exactly like the one that occurred in Japan. But it looks like India has not given in and as of today, Indian law would hold an American company like GE liable if anything like the Fukushima disaster occurs on Indian territory. This puts America’s further massive investment into India under question.

India has announced plans to boost its nuclear power generating by 13 times by 2030, while General Electric produces one third of all power generating equipment in the world and their partnerships seems only natural. But the column of smoke from Fukushima’s burning reactors casts a dark shadow on such a perspective.

On top of that, a huge scandal has been rocking India since WikiLeaks released thousands of cables  showing that Americans bribed Indian politicians to make them sign the US-Indo nuclear deal back in 2008. These revelations are clearly not helping the US image on the subcontinent and make the prospects for its companies there even more uncertain.

­Investigative journalist and RT contributor Wayne Madsen says it is not stopping the US nuclear energy lobby from launching into its own PR damage-limitation mode “to make sure that nothing happens to affect the growth of nuclear power plants in this country”.

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