As I write, all six of the nuclear power reactors at Tokyo Edison’s Fukushima – Daiichi plant have sustained serious damage. We have chosen to intervene against Ghadafi but not the royal family of Bahrain. So we’re bombing Libya. While filming for Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” is finally underway.
Considering the pervasive violence of the Lord of the Rings – albeit we watched the wholesale slaughter of specially-effected beings and not living, breathing New Zealand extras – I’m not feeling the love these days.
Reactors 1, 2, and 3 have all suffered damage to their nuclear core, and gas explosions have damaged the building structures. Reactors 2 and 3 are believed to have suffered some damage to their containment structures. And Reactors 3, 4, 5 and 6 have suffered damage to their spent fuel ponds.
Which brings me to Wikileaks. Governments and their governors continue to rail against Wikileaks but now might be a good time to start re-reading them.
Like, for example, the Wikileaked cables about nuclear safety, or lack thereof, in Japan. A 2008 cable reveals how the International Atomic Energy Agency “has officials in Japan to learn from Japan’s recent experience dealing with earthquakes and described several areas of IAEA focus. First, he explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now reexamining them. Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this a serious problem …”
According to an article in the UK Telegraph by Steven Swinford and Christopher Hope, other Wikileaked cables continue the sad story: the Japanese government opposed a court order to shut down another nuclear power plant in western Japan because of concerns it could not withstand powerful earthquakes.
The court was concerned that the plant, built to outdated specifications, might be able only to withstand a “6.5 magnitude” earthquake and in the event of an accident, local people might be exposed to radiation. A March 2006 Wikileaked cable reported: “Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency believes the reactor is safe and that all safety analyses were appropriately conducted.” The Japanese Government successfully overturned the court ruling in 2009.
A 2008 cable tells how Taro Kono, a prominent member of Japan’s lower house, accused the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry “of covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry.” Kono noted that Japan’s “extensive seismic” activity raised safety concerns about storing nuclear material.
So what sayeth Wikileaks about Libya? From Wikileaks we learn that Ghadafi blackmailed the British into releasing the Lockerbee bomber by threatening to revoke multi-million dollar contracts with British firms like BP.
Leaked cables by U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz reveals some titillating stuff about Ghadafi’s fear of flying, his attachment to his “voluptuous blond” Ukrainian nurse, and unwillingness to climb more than 35 steps at a time. They also reveal how once Ghadafi agreed to dismantle his nuclear weapons program, he was given millions of US dollars in aid. Which, according to a Wikileaked cable, he tried to use to purchase 130,000 Kalashnikov rifles from a British arms company that acted “as an intermediary” for an unnamed Ukrainian manufacturer.
The cable noted a problem: current estimates put Libya’s entire number of ground-force soldiers around 60,000, less than half the number of rifles the country had ordered. The British stopped that deal but Libya kept looking elsewhere. Later, Italian police arrested arms dealers who were allegedly brokering an agreement between Libya and Chinese manufacturers for 500,000 automatic rifles, the first half of a million-rifle deal. Which brings us to why we might need to bomb Libya. Or should I say “no-fly-them!”
Bahrain, which we’re not no-flying, hosts our Fifth Fleet, produces oil and is a banking center. Bahrain recently borrowed 2,000 troops from the Saudis, declared martial law and arrested protest leaders of the Shiite majority. Confused about why they’re protesting in Bahrain? Try Wikileaks.
A confidential cable details Human Rights Watch allegations about torture: “the former detainees alleged that they had been suspended in painful positions, beaten on the soles of their feet, subjected to electrical shocks, and punched and slapped.”
Sometimes life is too much with us. It’s hard to keep up with the natural disasters Mother Earth throws at us: hurricanes and droughts, volcanoes and tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Then you’ve got your large-scale mind-bending human stupidities. Psychopathic world leaders: your Mubareks and Ghadafis. Your uninspected or mis-inspected deepwater oil rigs. Nuclear power plants built on fault lines or in tsunami zones.
I know it’s asking a lot to keep up. To stay smart. For me, it’s at times like these, when I’m not feeling the love, that I most appreciate the possibly treasonous but always illuminating Wikileaks.
The Berkshire Record, March 24, 2011. © Mickey Friedman