Energy & Transparency

I have earlier blogged on troubling practices of secrecy among US energy giants. But it appears that what is going on in Japan may be worse:

In a newly released diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks, politician Taro Kono, a high-profile member of Japan’s lower house, tells US diplomats that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry – the Japanese government department responsible for nuclear energy – has been “covering up nuclear accidents and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry”.

In 2008, Kono told them: “The ministries were trapped in their policies, as officials inherited policies from people more senior to them, which they could then not challenge.” He mentioned the dangers of natural disasters in the context of nuclear waste disposal, citing Japan’s “extensive seismic activity, and abundant groundwater, and [he] questioned if there really was a safe place to store nuclear waste in the ‘land of volcanoes’.”

There are conflicting reports about the level of danger involved, especially given the MOX fuel.

In terms of “lessons learned,” I have little to say about the relative danger of nuclear vs. other forms of fuel, other than the usual points about the necessity of conservation. But the story of Kono means we should newly value both whistleblowers and dissenting voices in government. Unfortunately, official Washington is abandoning both in important ways.

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