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Thu Dec 18 15:27:56 SAST 2014

Reactor makers must share nuclear accident costs: Greenpeace

Sapa-AFP | 19 February, 2013 11:31
Students walk near a geiger counter, measuring a radiation level of 0.12 microsievert per hour, at Omika Elementary School, located about 21 km (13 miles) from the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture.
Image by: Toru Hanai / REUTERS

Anti-nuclear activists kicked off a global campaign to urge governments to force makers of nuclear reactors to shoulder some of the cost of accidents.

Greenpeace said in many countries blame for nuclear disasters falls on operators, but laws often limit their liability, leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill for compensation.

Meanwhile, suppliers of nuclear reactors, including GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, companies involved in the design and building of units at Fukushima, are often legally shielded from sharing blame for accidents involving their products, they said.

There have been no suggestions that the meltdowns that started after a tsunami thumped the plant nearly two years ago were in any way the fault of those companies.

"The nuclear industry evades responsibility in... a big accident," said Aslihan Tumer of the pressure group.

"Every business around the world as well as all technologies have certain levels of risk when it comes to accidents.

"However, it's only the nuclear industry that can avoid this risk despite the large, long-term and trans-boundary impacts that these accidents cause."

The group's campaign aims to raise public awareness that the same companies that make TVs and refrigerators also produce nuclear reactors, said activists, who hope social pressure will force businesses to rethink their nuclear strategy.

Around 19,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless in March 2011 when a huge tsunami smashed into Japan, swamping reactors' cooling systems and sending radiation over a large area.

No one has officially been recorded as having died as a direct result of the nuclear accident at Fukushima, but many livelihoods were wrecked.

Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) bears legal responsibility under Japanese laws for compensating those affected by the accident.

The Japanese government has agreed to release 3.24-trillion yen ($34 billion) worth of public funds to help TEPCO with the payouts after bringing the utility under state control.

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