Is GE financially liable for its part in the Fukushima No. 1 disaster? No one can answer that question until a thorough investigation of the relevant facts and applicable laws has been undertaken. Yet such an investigation has not been conducted either in Japan or anywhere else. Why not? What gives this question particular urgency are recent news reports that Japan is now preparing to sign a treaty known as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. This treaty assigns accident liability entirely to plant operators rather than equipment and technology vendors.
The evidence is clear:
This question was prompted in part by the existence of documents revealing that as early as November 1971, officials at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) expressed concern about design flaws in General Electric’s Mark I nuclear reactors. All of the reactors that experienced meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1 were of this type.
In fact, in a memo dated Sept. 25, 1972, the top safety official at the AEC, Joseph Hendrie, agreed that elements of the General Electric (GE) reactor design could contribute to a core meltdown in the event of an accident. However, he refused to take action because doing so “could well mean the end of nuclear power.”
Further, by 1976, three GE nuclear engineers became so concerned about the dangerous shortcomings of the GE design that they resigned their highly paid positions in protest and testified about the reasons they had done so before the U.S. Congress. Yet no substantive corrective action was taken.
In other industries, the manufacturers have been held liable for their products. Think of Manville and the asbestos industry, cigarettes, or of the Ford Pinto. The United States has already signed this treaty, and thus GE is relieved from liability for all the twenty some reactors in the United States. How is it that GE, with annual sales of In 2012, we grew our segment profits by 11% to $22.9 billion, is not held responsible for the disasters that it has created?
- Japan should shun treaty that will shield nuclear tech suppliers (japantimes.co.jp)
- GE Designed the Faulty Fukushima Nuclear Reactors… And Their Official Response May Surprise You (aworldchaos.wordpress.com)
- Public Pays for Fukushima Clean Up While Nuclear Industry Profits (stephenleahy.net)