Images of what it feels like to not have money to spend to do anything substantial.
There was a discussion on Twitter last night between two level-headed people I follow on the cost of decommissioning Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, decontaminating areas in Fukushima Prefecture, and paying compensations to the people who have been displaced by the nuclear accident - namely the residents in the former evacuation zones around the plant.
While the Japanese national government puts the cost of decommissioning of the plant, decontamination and compensations at only a few trillion yen (tens of billions of US dollar), the two's tentative conclusion was that it would be at least 20 trillion yen, probably more because the government didn't spend enough on the get-go in 2011, and therefore it would cost more in the future.
In other words, penny wise pound foolish.
What's more, the national government under the DPJ administration (Messrs. Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda) didn't pay anything to deal with the problems at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, saying it was TEPCO's problem not theirs. (They didn't even offer emergency food for the workers who remained at the plant after March 11, 2011.)
Despite the promise by the LDP administration under Shinzo Abe that the government will be at the "forefront" in dealing with the accident, no money has gone to help TEPCO and workers trying to maintain the plant and contain the contaminated water. 21.5 billion yen has been pledged by the government to come up with a solution to the contaminated water, but it is just a pledge at this point.
So, when I saw this tweet and photographs from TEPCO, I was puzzled at first (I couldn't figure out what the workers were doing), and saddened when I realized what they were doing.
"Countermeasures for rainwater at Fukushima I NPP: The drainage channel that goes through the plant compound to the ocean. In order to prevent contaminated water from flowing into this drainage channel, we are waterproofing the channel and covering it. You can see the details here (link to Facebook page)."
The workers are manually cleaning out the open drainage channel that goes directly into the ocean where rainwater and contaminated water (high in beta-nuclides) have flown since the accident.
These photos are posted only on TEPCO's Facebook page (or else I couldn't find it at TEPCO's website). According to the Facebook entry by TEPCO:
This measure is to turn the drainage channel into a culvert. The drainage channel leads to the ocean. To prevent the contaminated water flowing into this channel, we are waterproofing the surface of the channel and putting the cover over the channel.
The lower-right photo shows the workers scooping the remaining water in the channel with buckets. Normally, we use a pump, but as the water level goes low, the pump does not work. So, in the end, it is the patient manual work by each worker that does the job.
After the water is completely drained, we clean the channel, and apply epoxy resin on the surface (Photos at the bottom)
The drainage channel is 1,300 meters long in total. We will gradually work upstream, and aim at turning the channel into a culvert within this year.
When the earthquake, tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear accident hit Japan in March 2011, I remember having read several financial analysts outside Japan who said, "This may be Japan's end game, as it has no other choice but to print money in enormous quantities to pay for the disaster recovery and reconstruction." I thought so too. I thought, "The government should properly panic and commandeer all available resources and spend literally tons of Bank of Japan notes to contain the disaster."
It was a make-or-break moment.
Well the DPJ government panicked the wrong way and put their collective head in the sand, like the mascot of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (ostrich); it resorted to the cheapest option of "talking" - everything is fine, there is no (short-term) health effect, only the baseless rumor of radiation harming the farmers in Fukushima, it's TEPCO's problem, etc., etc..
Sometime in middle of 2011, I think, I saw Mr. Taro Yamamoto, now an Upper House Councilman, in one of those mind-numbing Japanese TV talk-shows. The other guests were all saying that Japan has to spend money on economic growth, as if there had been no earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident. Yamamoto said, "We should spend whatever it takes to end the nuclear accident, decontaminate, test foods, whatever it takes. Even we go broke as a nation as the result, as long as people are here and are healthy, we will be able to recover some day."
Yamamoto was roundly ridiculed by the guests and the viewers.
I totally agreed with him. Now it's rather late. All the money that Abe is making Kuroda to print goes to financial institutions and accumulates at the central bank as "excess reserve" for the financial institutions to bet on risky assets.
Just like it's been happening in the US ever since Blackhawk Ben and Hank (Paulson) threatened the Congress with one sheet of paper and got $700 billion (70 trillion yen) in the fall of 2008 to save banks.