What Ed Morrissey forgot to tell you about the Japanese tsunami and capitalism
Ed Morrissey of HotAir uses the recent tragic earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan as a launching point to promote his idea of free market capitalism. Except, he forgot to mention free market capitalism's possible role in the current nuclear issues associated with the tragedy (link):
Well, the question here is whether wealth allows for adaptation - or whether an economic system’s openness to adaptation leads to the wealth necessary to recover from disasters. The wealth of Western democracies based on capitalism owes its existence to economic and political environments where capital could flow freely to innovation and adaptation. Centrally-planned economies do not have that allowance for innovation and adaptation, even the so-called “enlightened” environment in China, where the reins have been loosened on central control but are far from removed.
Now, see this:
Critics of nuclear energy have long questioned the viability of nuclear power in earthquake-prone regions like Japan. Reactors have been designed with such concerns in mind, but preliminary assessments of the Fukushima Daiichi accidents suggested that too little attention was paid to the threat of tsunami. It appeared that the reactors withstood the powerful earthquake, but the ocean waves damaged generators and backup systems, harming the ability to cool the reactors.
That reactor is owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), a public company. It appears that they skimped on safety mechanisms, taking a chance that such a large earthquake wouldn't happen. And, all of that is consistent with the brand of "free market capitalism" that those in the Morrissey, tea parties, libertarians, Koch family, and Profits at Any Price school promote.
And, those in that school also tend to forget social issues, which will also play a very major role in Japan's recovery. They're a more cohesive, stratified society than the U.S. and one will note that there have been no food riots or the like as there might have been in the U.S. and there haven't even been any reported looting incidents (link).
UPDATE: From this:
Although the exact sequence of events at the Fukushima plant is still unclear, early assessments suggested that the containment structures weathered last week’s earthquake, but that power from the electric grid was cut off.
Nearly all nuclear facilities use backup diesel generators in such situations to maintain control over a reactor, prevent it from overheating by circulating a cooling agent and begin shutting it down.
But in this case, the subsequent tsunami may have damaged those generators and other components, forcing the use of another layer of backup, battery power.
However, batteries are designed to last only four to eight hours in most cases, just long enough to allow technicians to restore grid or generator power. If there is trouble restoring those power sources, as appears to be the case in Japan, the strategies for cooling the reactor become much more difficult.
All nuclear facilities in the United States deploy similar backup strategies...
And, those backup strategies failed in practice and that should have been foreseen. I'm not at all knowledgeable about nuclear power, but I do know about backups, and I can tell that all contingencies weren't planned for. It's part of the "backup culture", such as having three light sources when going caving or knowing how to make fire and distill water. It was also expressed by Hank Hill having a small can of WD-40 to open the stuck cap on the larger can of WD-40. Obviously no one can be prepared for every extremely slight contingency, but when dealing with extremely dangerous things like radiation it's vital to have multiple layers of backups.
3/15/11 UPDATE: AllahPundit offers yet another example of "capitalism" at work: "Terrific: Containment vessels used at Japanese plant have long been questioned by nuclear experts; Update: Reactor roof cracked?"
questioned-by-nuclear-experts which links to a New York Times story with:
In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended in a memo that the sort of “pressure-suppression” system used in G.E.’s Mark 1 plants presented unacceptable safety risks and that it should be discontinued. Among his concerns were that the smaller containment design was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant…
A written response came later that same year from Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the N.R.C. He called the idea of a ban on such systems “attractive” because alternative containment systems have the “notable advantage of brute simplicity in dealing with a primary blowdown.”
But he added that the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.”