Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will stand trial over their criminal responsibility for the 2011 disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
For the second time, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution has rejected an earlier decision by prosecutors not to indict the three, setting the stage for the forced prosecution of these three individuals.
They will be accused of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of people who were in hospitals when the disaster happened and other tragedies.
A report issued by the Diet’s Fukushima nuclear accident investigation committee states, “It is clear that the accident was a man-made disaster.”
But no government officials or TEPCO employees have been punished, either politically or administratively. In other words, no one has been held accountable for the nation’s worst nuclear accident.
Many Japanese citizens still feel that justice has not been meted out with regard to that harrowing disaster. Many are also concerned that a similar accident may occur again if nobody is held responsible for what happened in 2011.
A second decision by the independent judicial panel of citizens to demand the criminal prosecution of the three former TEPCO executives should be viewed as indicative of the disturbing and disquieting feelings among many citizens.
The system of forced indictment through the judgment of citizens was introduced in 2009, along with the “saiban-in” citizen judge system. Until that time, public prosecutors monopolized the power to decide whether to indict a suspect. The new system is intended to ensure that public opinion is reflected in the process of criminal prosecution, at least to a certain degree.
In reversing public prosecutors’ decision not to indict the suspects on grounds that there is no compelling case for holding them liable for negligence, the panel of citizens made a grave decision to force trials of the three individuals.
The court should, of course, consider carefully and fairly whether the former TEPCO executives should be held liable for the misfortunes of disaster victims from the viewpoint of evidence submitted.
At the same time, one question that needs to be asked is how TEPCO implemented measures to protect the nuclear plant from a possible tsunami and ensure the plant’s safety.
Collectively, the trials will offer a great opportunity to take a fresh look into the accident from a perspective that is different from those of the investigation committees set up by the government and the Diet.
There have not been many opportunities for people to talk about the disaster in public. But the three former TEPCO executives will probably be given opportunities to speak in the courtroom. The court can also order submission of specific pieces of evidence.
Future public debate on issues concerning nuclear power generation will benefit greatly if the trials uncover unknown facts in the process, such as chronological changes in the utility’s decisions concerning safety measures for its nuclear power plants and the ways the government and other public organizations influenced the company’s policy.
The nation’s judiciary has a long history of handing down rulings related to nuclear power generation. But in most of the past cases concerning the construction and operations of nuclear power plants, the courts ruled against opposing local residents.
The question is whether all these court rulings in favor of nuclear power were influenced in any way by the perception that there is no way to stop the expansion of electricity production with atomic energy based on the government’s energy policy.
The judiciary’s attitude to nuclear power generation has also been called into question by the accident.
In considering the criminal liabilities related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has caused an unprecedented scale of damage, are the traditional criteria, like “specific predictability,” sufficiently effective?
The trials should prompt the judicial community to have more in-depth debate on this question.
We strongly hope the trials will be conducted in a way that lives up to people’s confidence in the judicial system.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
Japan’s atomic bomb survivors continue in fight against nuclear weapons
As Japan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack, survivors ponder how to continue warning of the horrors of nuclear war, Guardian, Justin McCurry 31 July It is not as if Sunao Tsuboi needs another reminder of his violent encounter, as a 20-year-old university student, with a “living hell on earth”. The facial scars he has carried for seven decades are proof enough. But, as if to remind himself of the day he became a witness to the horrors of nuclear warfare, he removes a a black-and-white photograph and points to the shaved head of a young man looking away from the lens.
“That’s me,” he says. “We were hoping we would find some sort of medical help, but there was no treatment available, and no food or water. I thought I had reached the end.”
The location is Miyuki Bridge, Hiroshima, three hours after the Enola Gay, a US B-29 bomber, dropped a 15-kiloton nuclear bomb on the city on the morning of 6 August 1945. Between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly; in the months that followed the death toll rose to 140,000.
In the photo, one of only a handful of surviving images taken in Hiroshima that day, Tsuboi is sitting on the road with several other people, their gaze directed at the gutted buildings around them. To one side, police officers douse schoolchildren with cooking oil to help soothe the pain of their burns.
As Japan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear attack in history, Tsuboi and tens of thousands of other hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) are again confronting their own mortality.
“People like me are losing the strength to talk about their experiences and continue the campaign against nuclear weapons,” says Tsuboi, a retired school principal who has travelled the world to warn of the horrors of nuclear warfare.
The average age of the 183,000 registered survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks rose just above 80 for the first time last month.
While each has a unique recollection of the morning of 6 August and its aftermath, near disbelief at the scale of destruction is a theme that runs through hibakusha testimony…..
“If the hibakusha continue to speak out against nuclear weapons, then other people will follow suit. That’s why we have to continue our campaign for as long as we are physically able.”….http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/31/japan-atomic-bomb-survivors-nuclear-weapons-hiroshima-70th-anniversary
After reading that article, I believe that this kid will be a tool for the the Japanese Government, which will be using that kid testimony to minimize the desperate extent of the situation in Fukushima, to justify its non evacuation of many people, the financially forced return of the previoulsly evacuees to go back to live in contaminated villages and to promote an illusory criminal reconstruction in the eyes of the world at the UN….She has been coached to that effect…..At least that is the impression this article gives me….
I must add that to use a victim, a youth, as agent for their propaganda, is pretty slick, sly and devious, on the Japanese government part…
Poor kid, she is being manipulated without even be aware of it….Sad, disgusting…
“… it is not the entire area of Fukushima Prefecture, but only some regions that people cannot live in. Most of Fukushima is safe to live in.”
1. The wind blows
2. It rains
3. You eat the food
4. You breathe
“…there is a lot of good news about Fukushima too.” Do tell!!!
Then, come back in 20 years and let us know which cancer(s) you have faced, if you have had a child with birth defects…at 16, it is so very easy to manipulate you. You want to go ‘home’…it just isn’t there anymore.
Ayumi Kikuchi, left, practices the speech she will give at a United Nations event with her English teacher, Fumi Arimura, in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 23. She attends the relocated Futaba High School, now operating in the city of Iwaki.
Fukushima high school evacuee to share experiences at United Nations
IWAKI, Fukushima Prefecture–A high school student who thought she was only temporarily fleeing her home during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and remains an evacuee to this day, will address an event at the United Nations headquarters this month.
Ayumi Kikuchi, 16, a former resident of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, located near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that suffered a triple meltdown, was asked by school officials to give the speech in New York City.
A nonprofit organization that deals with the issues of human rights, health and the environment contacted the prefectural Futaba High School, which now operates out of the nearby city of Iwaki. It invited a student from the prefecture to come and share their experiences of having lived through those trying events and the aftermath.
“At that time, I was a sixth-grader in my elementary school, and we were going to graduate in a few days,” Kikuchi says in her speech. “My home was 4 kilometers from the plant. At that time, I didn’t understand why we had to leave our home, and I thought we could come back home soon.”
However, she has been forced to live in various shelters over the years, including the Saitama Super Arena and one set up at the former Kisai High School in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture.
“I wondered what’s going to happen to us (at the time),” she said. She remembered watching the events unfold on the news.
“I went back to my home only once after the accident,” she wrote. “There were many houses left collapsed and roads still had cracks. Nothing seemed to have changed since the disaster. However, the inside of my house was totally different from what I remembered because of animal excreta and rain leaking in.”
The high school student said she hopes to one day work for the local government to help restore her town to what it once was.
Her school, which has a history of more than 90 years, will close after her class graduates. Four other relocated high schools are also scheduled to close.
“Many graduates are feeling very sorry and regretting that their old school is forced to close even though the school or the students have done nothing wrong themselves,” Kikuchi says in her speech.
In her message, Kikuchi will call on people to help one another in times of disaster. She also plans to ask people to share and pass on the memories that result from such devastating events.
“I want people to know about Fukushima’s situation accurately,” she wrote. “People in other countries may think that Fukushima is uninhabitable and may wonder why people don’t flee from Fukushima. In fact, however, it is not the entire area of Fukushima Prefecture, but only some regions that people cannot live in. Most of Fukushima is safe to live in. Also, various movements toward reconstruction have been made, and there is a lot of good news about Fukushima too.”
Fumi Arimura, an English teacher at Kikuchi’s school, helped her write her 10-minute speech. Kikuchi leaves for the United States on Aug. 2.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
Three former top executives at Tokyo Electric Power Co. are set to be hauled into court over their alleged responsibility for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution voted Friday that Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tepco at the time of the disaster, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, should be indicted for professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
The announcement by the panel of citizens came more than four years after the massive tsunami of March 11, 2011, knocked out the critical cooling functions at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, leading to three of the six reactors there melting down.
Prosecutors have twice previously decided not to seek such indictments, saying Tepco could not have expected such a massive tsunami to hit the nuclear plant and cripple its critical safety systems.
But on Friday the committee overrode the prosecutors’ decisions for a second time, which will lead to a compulsory indictment of the three Tepco executives. They were all responsible for major disaster prevention planning.
Holding a news conference at the Tokyo District Court, representatives of a group of Fukushima residents and others who have filed criminal complaints against the executives said they were elated.
“I want (the Tepco executives) to tell the truth” during the upcoming trials, said Ruiko Muto.
Muto said many elderly people who evacuated from the radiation-contaminated areas have since died in shelters away from their hometowns, while numerous people still living in Fukushima are being exposed to radiation via contaminated materials from the heavily damaged plant.
Muto said many people outside the prefecture have the impression that the nuclear crisis is over.
“If who should be held responsible is not made clear, (the dead) victims won’t rest in peace,” she added.
Before the catastrophe, Tepco had conducted simulations and concluded that critical facilities at Fukushima No. 1 would be flooded and critically damaged if a major earthquake struck off the Tohoku coast and tsunami of more than 10 meters in height hit the plant.
But prosecutors concluded that it was impossible for Tepco to predict such gigantic tsunami would actually hit the plant, as opinions from quake experts were not established regarding the possibility of such a powerful quake.
The judicial review committee said the Tepco executives were obliged to prepare for a worst-case scenario even if the possibility of such a disaster was considered very small.
The simulations provided a good indication that a major crisis was possible, but the three neglected their obligation to prepare for such an eventuality, the committee concluded in a 30-page document explaining its decision.
The panel pointed out that 44 patients who were forced to evacuate from a hospital located 4.5 km from Fukushima No. 1 died after their health conditions deteriorated because of the move. The committee alleged that their deaths were caused by the meltdown crisis.
Meanwhile, no health damage has so far been confirmed to have been caused by radiation from contaminated materials released from the plant.
The committee said one person who was exposed to radiation from contaminated materials has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but a causal link with the meltdown disaster has not been established.
The central government is preparing to allow the reactivation of some commercial reactors suspended in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.
Muto said she hopes the findings in the upcoming trials will prompt a change in the national nuclear policy and lead to the abolition of all nuclear power plants.
Source: Japan Times
Nuclear plant workers in Japan will be allowed to be exposed to more than twice the current level of radiation in emergency situations, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s Radiation Council.
The radiation exposure limit will be raised from the current 100 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts in emergencies, the radiation council announced in a report released July 30.
The higher level is still only half of the accepted international safety level of 500 millisieverts set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, an influential independent organization that provides guidelines on radiation protection, for rescue workers in emergency situations at nuclear facilities.
The new cap will be activated from April 2016 after revisions to the nuclear reactor regulatory law and the Industrial Safety and Health Law.
The limit was temporarily raised to 250 millisieverts by the radiation council following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The decision was quickly made by the council members through e-mail discussions as the 100 millisieverts limit could have caused a shortage of workers tackling the emergency at the plant. Later, the limit was returned to 100 millisieverts.
Under the revised law, the exposure limit for plant workers will be immediately raised to 250 millisieverts when certain conditions arise, including the risk of radioactive materials leaking from the facility into the surrounding area.
The workers affected will include employees of utility companies and their contractors, inspection officers from the Secretariat of the NRA and other on-field workers.
Of the 174 workers who were exposed to radiation doses more than 100 millisieverts following the Fukushima accident, six were exposed to 250 millisieverts or more.
The radiation council decided that workers are protected if they wear masks and other gear even when exposed to 250 millisieverts. The health damage from acute radiation poisoning below that limit is negligible, it said.
The council’s report calls for nuclear plant operators to carefully explain to workers tackling emergency situations about their tasks and obtain their consent to work in such an environment.
It also requests utility companies to conduct proper training of workers, while one of the council members also called on them to conduct follow-up medical checks to detect cancer and other illnesses.
The report also acknowledges that nuclear plant workers could be required to engage in tasks that cause them to be exposed to more than 250 millisieverts in acute emergency situations.
At Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, which the company aims to restart in August, workers will carry out their tasks with an exposure limit of 100 millisieverts until the maximum limit is raised to 250 millisieverts.
A plant worker who has worked at nuclear facilities for 20 years said he suspects that workers from subcontractors will agree to work under the raised limit.
“The cancer checkups and other measures also sound to me as stopgap efforts to ease our anxiety,” he said.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
Three former TEPCO executives to stand trial
Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company will face mandatory indictment over the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Nobody has been held criminally responsible so far for Japan’s worst nuclear accident.
The prosecution inquest panel of randomly-selected citizens voted for the indictment on Friday, disagreeing for a 2nd time with prosecutors who had dismissed the complaint filed against the officials. The prosecutors said the officials could not have predicted a quake and tsunami on the scale of the March 11th disasters.
The decision leads to the mandatory indictment of former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro for professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
Court-appointed lawyers will act as prosecutors in the trial.
In its decision, the panel said TEPCO should have taken measures to protect the plant from tsunami and flood-triggered serious accidents after it had made a projection of a 15.7-meter tsunami hitting the plant.
The panel said TEPCO could have foreseen that in a worst-case scenario, flooding would result in a massive release of radioactive substances or other severe situations. The panel said that if TEPCO had taken appropriate precautions, a serious accident like the one in March 2011 could have been avoided.
Prosecutors in 2013 dismissed the initial complaints filed by Fukushima residents and others against more than 30 former TEPCO officials for failing to take precautions against major quakes and tsunami.
The case was taken up for reconsideration by the inquest panel, which decided in July last year that the three officials should be indicted.
But prosecutors dismissed the case again in January, sending it back to the inquest panel.
Residents hail indictment decision
The leader of the residents, Ruiko Muto, has praised the panel’s decision.
Muto said she believes a court will determine who was responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and give a fair judgment.
She said that 110,000 people are still unable to return to their homes. She added that having the former executives face a criminal trial will help prevent a recurrence and create a society in which people can live in peace.
The residents’ lawyer, Hiroyuki Kawai, also said that if the former officials had escaped indictment, the real cause of the accident would have been covered up forever.
He expressed hope that the trial will find out more about what caused the nuclear accident.
TEPCO declined to comment on the decision or the criminal complaint that led to it.
But it said in a statement that it wants to renew its heartfelt apology to the people of Fukushima and many others for causing trouble and concern.
The firm said it will do its utmost for compensation, plant decommissioning and decontamination, based on the principle of seeking reconstruction of Fukushima. It added that it is fully resolved to improving the safety of nuclear power plants.
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says it may have to postpone plans to send a robot probe into the plant’s No.2 reactor due to difficult preparations.
Tokyo Electric Power Company was planning to send a robot into the containment vessel of the No.2 reactor in August. The purpose is to capture video images of molten nuclear fuel for the first time.
The utility assumes the fuel penetrated the reactor core and is inside the containment vessel.
The plan involved using a pipe sticking out of the container as an entry point for the robot. But some concrete blocks are blocking the way and need to be removed.
Workers found that the remote-controlled machinery they wanted to use to remove the blocks cannot operate in some areas of the reactor building due to an eroded floor and other reasons.
TEPCO says it is now considering using chemicals to clear the blocks or developing new machinery to remove the blocks.
Due to these reasons, the utility says the probe may be postponed from August until December or later, in the worst case.
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it has finished removing highly radioactive water from underground tunnels linked to the reactor buildings.
More than 10,000 tons of highly contaminated water flowed into the tunnels outside the buildings for reactors No.2 and 3. Experts feared that the water might seep into the sea.
The concern led the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, to try and block any more tainted water from entering the tunnels.
The firm has been filling the tunnels with cement to pump out contaminated water since November.
It finished draining the No.2 reactor building’s tunnels late last month. The company says it also completed similar work on the tunnels connected to the No.3 reactor building on Thursday.
The firm will continue the work to fill the tunnels with cement until sometime late next month.
The utility initially attempted to freeze radioactive water in sections where the tunnels connect to the reactor buildings. But this did not work.
The government and TEPCO had placed top priority on addressing the highly radioactive water in the tunnels due to a fear that it might badly pollute the sea near the plant. The latest achievement will significantly reduce that risk.
TEPCO announced that they have completed the concreting of the unit 3 seawater piping trench system. Two vertical shafts are being filled currently to complete the last of this project.
Japan’s government and the International Atomic Energy Agency “Normalise” the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe
Normalizing” Nuclear Catastrophe: Japan’s Abe Government Risks Fukushima Victims’ Lives with “Forced Return” to Contaminated Areas By Kendra Ulrich Global Research, July 30, 2015 Ecologist 29 July 2015 ‘Normalizing’ nuclear catastrophe
“…….In an effort to reduce public opposition, Abe has been pushing forward the pro-nuclear agenda to ‘normalize’ nuclear disaster.
If the public can be convinced that less than five years after the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, citizens can go home and return to life the way it was before the disaster – with no additional health risks – then that is a powerful argument against the majority of Japanese citizens who oppose nuclear reactor restarts.
The effort to minimize the impact of the disaster on the nuclear industry has been aided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency charged with the promotion of nuclear energy in its charter.
The IAEA has sought to downplay the radiological risks to the population since the early days in 2011. In fact, it produced two documents that can be said to have laid the foundation and justification for Abe’s current policy of de facto forced resettlement.
The reality is this myth making requires that the people of Fukushima prefecture – especially the people of Iitate – be the sacrificial lambs for the nuclear industry. This is not only wholly unjust, but is a violation of their human rights.
They have already been exposed to more radiation than any other population in the region. To deliberately force the people of Iitate, especially women and children, back to areas where dose rates reach up to 20 millisieverts per year puts them at significant, unacceptable, and unnecessary risk.
A deliberate plan that will have terrible consequences Continue reading
Japan has started turning abandoned golf courses into solar power plants, Business Insider, ARIEL SCHWARTZ JUL 17, 2015,…….. developers built too many golf courses over the last few decades after demand shot up in the 1980s. Now the industry is in decline, with participation in the sport down 40% from the 1990s, and abandoned golf courses are starting to pop up.
Kyocera’s solution: turn the abandoned green space into solar farms. Japan has been hungry for alternative energy ever since the 2011 Fukushima disaster made nuclear power an unattractive option in the country, and golf courses just happen to be perfectly suited for solar power — they’re large open spaces that often get lots of sunlight.
Kyocera’s first project, now under construction, is a 23 megawatt solar plant on a golf course in Kyoto prefecture. When it goes live in 2017, the plant will produce enough power for about 8,100 households.
The company is also developing a 92 megawatt solar plant — generating enough energy for over 30,000 households –……….http://www.businessinsider.com.au/japan-has-started-turning-abandoned-golf-courses-into-solar-power-plants-2015-7
Fukushima operator sued over suicide of 102-yo by hanging during evacuation,
Fumio Okubo was living in the village of Iitate, only 38 km from Fukushima Daiichi, when a massive earthquake and tsunami led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the nuclear plant in March 2011. His village was in an area of moderate contamination.
A month later in April, the authorities called for the village to be evacuated, but Okudo was apparently emotionally unable to leave the home where he was born and had lived his entire life.
After learning about the evacuation order on April 22, 2011 via TV, the old farmer told his daughter-in-law Mieko Okubo:“I don’t want to evacuate… I think I have lived a bit too long.”
The next day Mieko found him hanging his room.
Now Mieko, 62, says the 102-year-old’s family is suing Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) for 60 million yen ($485,000) in compensation.
“I want them to realize the gravity of what happened. A person who lived to become 102 chose to kill himself. We want them to know the pains that we as his family have to suffer,” she said at a press conference in Fukushima, adding that the family “will use this opportunity to speak about our feelings.”
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday also says Okubo “was not able to think about living anywhere else” because his“acquaintances, property and purpose of life were all in the village.”………..
Japan Quake Insurance on the Rise as Fukushima Shakes Confidence, Bloomneerg Business, 30 July 15
The increase could come into effect in January 2017, according to the Ministry of Finance group studying the issue. It may be introduced in phases and would follow a 15.5 percent rise approved in July last year, the first increase in quake premiums in 18 years.
Japan’s earthquake insurance rates vary by region and are based on so-called hazard maps published each year by the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion. Since the March 2011 disaster, the hazard maps have been expanded to other areas, said Professor Hiroyuki Fujiwara at the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention.
Seismologists that draw up Japan’s hazard maps warn of a large earthquake that could do more direct damage to metropolitan Tokyo, the world’s biggest city with a population of about 30 million and the heart of Japan’s government, business world and financial markets.
The city sits adjacent to three major fault lines on the boundary of two tectonic plates, the Philippine and the Eurasian. Between 2000 and 2009, Japan experienced 20.5 percent of the world’s earthquakes that were magnitude 6 or above, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency and U.S. Geological Survey data.
Fujiwara said there is a 70 percent chance of a magnitude 7 quake hitting Tokyo within the next 30 years……..http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-30/japan-quake-insurance-on-the-rise-as-fukushima-shakes-confidence
An excerpt of the documentary
I have a friend, from Belgium, Alain de Halleux, he is a movie maker. He is quite famous among the french speaking community because many years ago he made an excellent documentary on Chernobyl (in french).
3 years ago, he went to Japan and also to Fukushima, stayed a few months, and shot a documentary titled “Welcome to Fukushima”.
That documentary is excellent, because:
1. He is not an amateur cameraman but a professional cameraman
2. He interviewed many people evacuees and non-evacuees, so it brings very well the human angle.
3. This is definitely THE BEST documentary I have seen about Fukushima.
Unfortunately that documentary at present has only been distributed in Japan and in European French speaking countries: Belgium, France, Switzerland. It is in Japanese with French subtitles.
I am thinking that this excellent movie should reach the english-speaking countries, so I am now enquiring to some of my contacts, how to find a way to have this documentary distributed in an english-version (to be made) either on TV channels or on a tour.
I want to find a way to make this movie reach many, it is a unique eye opener on Fukushima, this if well distributed, reaching many people, could help awake many, and make a real difference, all the other documentaries I saw about Fukushima do not have the kind of punch that this one has…
He is also very active in renewable energy….helping a wind energy citizen cooperative in Southern Belgium….
He is also now working on a new documentary, about Taro Yamamoto and his fight against nuclear as an independent elected parlement deputy in Japan, Taro Yamamoto being a key figure in the antinuclear movement in Japan….
If any one of you has any suggestion, or contact to help this documentary to be distributed to a larger public in an english version, please send me an email. Thank you.
Japan has survived without atomic energy for almost two years since all of the country’s nuclear power reactors were taken offline in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
The country rode out summers and winters, despite surges in electricity demand for air-conditioning and heating purposes, with no major blackouts.
The triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which threatened the very survival of the Japanese state, has yet to be brought under control.
Opinion polls show that more than half of the general public is opposed to restarting nuclear reactors. The public’s desire to keep the reactors offline, even at the cost of inconvenience, is due to the fact that people have learned how dreadful atomic energy can be.
However, the Abe administration is seeking a return to nuclear power. It is preparing to restart Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture in August, and aims eventually to have atomic energy account for 20 percent or more of Japan’s electricity mix in the future.
We oppose any return to nuclear power that comes without serious debate. Japan should make utmost efforts to avoid restarts, while at the same time taking care that doing so will not place an onerous burden on people’s living standards. Our energy needs should be centered on renewable energy sources rather than nuclear power as the primary source of electricity.
POWER DEMAND ALREADY COVERED
The Asahi Shimbun published a series of editorials in 2011 calling for a society free of nuclear power.
We stated that all of Japan’s nuclear reactors should be decommissioned, hopefully in 20 to 30 years, with priority given to aged reactors and high-risk reactors. The reactors to be kept alive should be selected on a “safety first” basis and limited to those necessary from the viewpoint of supply and demand.
We also stated that Japan should do its best to develop and spread the use of renewable energy sources while simultaneously pursuing measures for power saving and energy conservation. Thermal power generation could be strengthened as a stopgap measure, although steps should be sought in the long term so that a departure from nuclear energy does not contribute to global warming.
We also said Japan should push forward with power industry reform to encourage new entrants into the market while moving toward a decentralized energy society where wisdom and consumer choice play a greater role.
Our basic ideas remain the same. But the situation has changed over the last four years.
The most dramatic development is that the amount of electricity generated by nuclear reactors is now zero.
Nuclear reactors were up and running across Japan four years ago. They were subsequently taken offline one after another for regular inspections. Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture was reactivated temporarily, but no single nuclear reactor has been brought back online since September 2013.
Despite concerns that were raised, no serious power shortages occurred. Emergency power sources were raked up to stave off a crisis on some occasions, but there has always been sufficient supply to cover demand, partly because the practice of saving power has taken root in the public mind, and partly also because capacities were enhanced at thermal power plants and regional utilities cooperated in supplying power to each other.
But it is too early to say that we have a solid foundation for keeping the number of active nuclear reactors at zero.
The clustered siting of power plants, whereby electricity is sent from large-scale power stations to faraway areas with heavy power consumption areas, has remained unchanged after the nuclear disaster. Systemic vulnerability is still an issue. And there is always the danger of unforeseen circumstances unfolding if a key thermal power plant were to malfunction during peak power demand.
SYSTEMIC VULNERABILITY PERSISTS
The current situation, where thermal power accounts for 90 percent of Japan’s electricity, could hardly be called sustainable. As long as Japan relies on imports for its energy sources, the country will remain permanently exposed to the risk of variations in foreign exchange rates and prices.
We are also left to reflect on the extent to which the general public and the Japanese economy could tolerate additional increases in electricity rates. We have to avoid letting rate hikes, without detailed studies, have a serious impact on people’s living standards and general economic activity.
The risk of a serious impact on people’s lives has yet to be reduced to zero. Given the situation, it is difficult to totally rule out the option of restarting nuclear reactors as a last resort.
However, decisions on restarting individual nuclear reactors must be made with extreme care.
What kind of disadvantage could be averted by activating a particular nuclear reactor? Will a nuclear restart still be necessary after power demand has been covered by a mutual supply of electricity over broad areas? Persuasive explanations should be available from viewpoints such as these.
The nuclear reactor in question must be safe enough from the viewpoint of its geographical location. Means must also be available to allow residents of adjacent areas to evacuate in an emergency. These are obvious preconditions for a nuclear restart.
The fact that we have got along without nuclear power has correspondingly heightened the hurdles for a restart.
Japan, under these circumstances, must develop renewable energy sources as quickly as possible and pursue a shift to a distributed system of electric power. Indispensable to that end are policy initiatives for guiding a switch to the new direction.
The central government should set a pathway for reform and focus its resources on upgrades on the power grid, disposal of nuclear waste and other efforts. There should also be organizational arrangement for pursuing the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, assistance to local governments that will lose revenue from the nuclear plants they host, and transitional measures for business operators associated with nuclear power generation.
FUKUSHIMA DISASTER THE STARTING POINT
The Abe administration, however, is heading in the opposite direction.
It initially said it would reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible, but then changed course to maintaining nuclear plants, and left it all up to the Nuclear Regulation Authority to make all decisions on the safety of nuclear reactors ahead of any go-aheads for restarts.
The NRA is tasked only with screening procedures to ensure the safe operation of nuclear power plants. It is not in any way responsible for the entire policy.
The administration told local governments hosting nuclear plants that the central government will be responsible, but what precisely this entails remains to be seen. A mountain of unanswered questions remain about the Sendai nuclear plant, such as measures to ensure the safety of local residents and measures against potential volcanic eruptions.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster should be the starting point for reflecting on the issue of nuclear power generation.
We should think about ways to make the most of the fact that no nuclear reactor is active now.
Source : Asahi Shimbun
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