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Crowds form at Olympic torch event in Japan despite coronavirus caution

ghjlklmlPeople wear protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic’s Flame of Recovery tour at Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture on Friday

 

March 20, 2020

ISHINOMAKI (Reuters) An Olympic torch event in Japan drew hundreds of spectators on the day of the flame’s arrival on Friday, creating the type of packed gathering the government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have warned against to prevent coronavirus from spreading further.

About 500 people gathered in a jostling crowd to look at the flame and popular comedians taking part in a ceremony in Ishinomaki, 335 km north of Tokyo.

The Greek part of the torch relay began last week, but a day later the remainder was canceled to avoid attracting crowds.

It is not a good decision [to come here] but I am not sure if I will get another chance to see the cauldron, Ishinomaki resident and teacher Kiyotake Goto, 44, told Reuters.

Earlier in the day, a plane carrying the torch from Greece arrived at Japan Air Self-Defence Force Matsushima airbase, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

No spectators were present for the arrival ceremony at the base, where officials pledged the Tokyo 2020 Games will proceed despite mounting pressure to halt the world’s biggest sporting event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We originally planned to have children here to welcome the flame. But, prioritizing their safety, we’ve decided to do without them, Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori said.

That was an agonizing decision … We will do our utmost in preparing for a safe and secure event, said Mori, a former prime minister.

Organizers have repeatedly said the Games, due to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, will go ahead, but as the rapid spread of the virus brings the sports world to a virtual standstill, fears are growing that the Olympics may be postponed or canceled.

I think it’s impossible [to hold the Games]. It’ll be a global issue if the virus spreads even further, Koichiro Maeda, a 55-year-old company employee, told Reuters in downtown Tokyo.

The respiratory disease, which emerged in China late last year, has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide.

Japan is grappling with pressure to avoid a health crisis among 600,000 expected overseas spectators and athletes at an event that could see $3 billion in sponsorships and at least $12 billion spent on preparations evaporate.

The plane with the torch arrived nearly empty after the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee decided not to send a high-level delegation that was originally to have included Mori and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.

This is a tough time. I hope the torch relay will bring people vigor and hope, Saori Yoshida, three-times gold-medal winning wrestler, told the welcome ceremony.

The flame will travel round the Tohoku region hit by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, in what organizers call a recovery flame tour before the official kick-off ceremony in Fukushima on March 26.

Organizers have urged the public not to crowd the relay route, canceling many events along the way and restricting public access to others. Runners and staff will have their temperatures and health monitored, organizers said.

Some athletes, including reigning Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, said the International Olympic Committee’s decision to go ahead was putting their health at risk when entire countries have shut down to curb the virus.

The torch relay will begin at J-Village, a soccer training center in Fukushima that served as an operations base for workers who battled triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the 2011 tsunami.

It is due to pass many of Japan’s most famous landmarks over a 121-day journey to Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, including Mount Fuji, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Kumamoto Castle.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-flame-arrival/crowds-form-at-olympic-torch-event-in-japan-despite-coronavirus-caution-idUSKBN2163LH

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Cancel. The. Olympics.

hhjA board in Yokohama, Japan, on Monday showed the number of days until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.Credit…

Amid a pandemic, it would be wildly irresponsible for the Games to go on.

March 18, 2020

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers insist that the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games will go on. Even with widespread cancellations in European soccer, Formula One auto racing, and professional and collegiate basketball in the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan vowed, “We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned.”

While sports can create an escape hatch from the grit and grind of daily life, there is no escaping the fact that the coronavirus pandemic presents an extraordinary challenge that cannot be overcome with mere platitudes and prayers. Pressing ahead with the Tokyo Games means creating a massive, potentially perilous petri dish. For the sake of global public health, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games should be canceled.

The Olympics are not slated to commence until July 24. But the International Olympic Committee’s response to the coronavirus has not been forward-thinking. After a recent meeting of the executive board, the I.O.C.’s president, Thomas Bach, stated that the board had not even mentioned the words “postponement” or “cancellation.” But organizers have delivered mixed messages. A Tokyo 2020 executive board member suggested delaying the Games, only to backpedal and apologize, while the organizing committee chairman, Yoshiro Mori, said, “Our basic stance is to proceed with our preparation and to hold a safe Olympics.” Japan’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, hewed to a similar script: “The I.O.C. and 2020 organizers are not at all considering canceling or postponing the Games.”

In a communiqué issued Tuesday, the I.O.C. noted that its task force overseeing the situation was considering possible “adaptations” but that the I.O.C. “remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” adding, “with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counterproductive.”

Refusing to even consider alternatives is reckless. Measured, evidence-driven speculation is the responsible course. Epidemiologists have been clear that the coronavirus is a potentially historic pandemic. Each day, the World Health Organization reveals more countries and territories with reported cases of the virus. The W.H.O. recently declared that Europe, where many Summer Olympians live and train, is the pandemic’s epicenter. According to experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pandemic could infect between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States.

With athletes and spectators coming from around the world, the Olympics could become a dystopic coronavirus hot zone. As a Stanford University infectious disease specialist, Yvonne Maldonado, put it, with the Olympics, “You bring a lot of people together, and then you ship them back all over the world: That’s the perfect way to transmit.”

But the Olympic spectacle is a powerful drug. Last week, despite the coronavirus mayhem, the Olympic torch relay commenced in Greece, where an actor dressed as a pagan priestess ignited the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia. Within hours, however, the torch relay was canceled over public-health concerns.

And yet, Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers contend the torch relay will proceed on schedule, starting on March 26 in Fukushima, the prefecture decimated by the triple-whammy earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011. This decision has not only raised eyebrows in light of the pandemic but also because Greenpeace has found radiation hot spots along the torch relay route.

While participants in the Olympic torch relay may be putting themselves in harm’s way, personnel at the I.O.C.’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, will not. This week, most of them began teleworking. According to the I.O.C., this measure aims “to protect the health of its staff and their families” from the coronavirus. Workers with the Tokyo torch relay are not being accorded the same precautions.

The I.O.C. has a history of pressing through catastrophe to stage the Games, adopting the mantra “the Games must go on.” In a fractious world, the Olympics symbolize international cooperation and good will. But must they in the age of coronavirus? Much remains unknown about Covid-19, and one study, forthcoming in Swiss Medical Weekly, projects the disease won’t reach its peak until winter 2020-21. Insisting that the Olympics take place while the world wobbles to the rhythms of a pandemic requires real hubris.

There are powerful interests that are keen to make sure the Tokyo 2020 Games are staged on schedule. Television broadcasters, while insured, will see profits melt away. Japanese politicians like Prime Minister Abe have sunk enormous sums of political capital into the Games. The I.O.C.’s Olympic brand could suffer damage. And there is added pressure to recoup funds after the price for the Tokyo Olympics skyrocketed from $7.3 billion at the time of the bid to more than $26 billion, according to an audit by the Japanese government. But fiscal irresponsibility does not justify exacerbating a global public-health emergency.

President Trump recently suggested that the Games should not take place this summer, although Japan’s Olympic minister immediately rebuffed postponement. Delaying the Games involves significant complications and costs. For broadcasters like NBC it means having to compete for eyeballs in a crowded sports calendar, including its own cash-cow programming like football. Postponement also adds costs to an already bloated budget for venue maintenance and the Tokyo 2020 payroll. Then there is the Olympic Village, slated to be turned into apartments, many of which have already been sold.

The Olympics have long been mired in a slow-motion crisis, with doping, athlete abuse and a dwindling number of cities keen to host. The way that Olympic power brokers have responded has been distressing. They do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Cancellation may appear ominous. But in reality, it would be a remarkable act of global solidarity. Pierre de Coubertin, the French aristocrat who revived the modern Olympics in the 1890s, referred to “the noble spirit of chivalry” as the foundation for sport and society. To confront the coronavirus crisis, a hefty dose of selfless chivalry is required. Amid a global pandemic, holding the Games is unconscionable. It’s time to hit the five-ring pause button and cancel the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/opinion/tokyo-olympics-coronavirus.html?smid=fb-share&fbclid=IwAR1zCEth6GxvkXtxXxnfxysJImQ_-Ru57O4Pkn9DvuIvlH23NxfwLpWB-wY

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Tepco has drafted a plan for disposing of Fukushima’s accumulation of waste water

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Release of Fukushima No 1 reactor’s radioactive water may take 30 years

Tepco may take 30 years to release Fukushima No. 1 radioactive water,  https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/25/national/tepco-fukushima-nuclear-plant-water/#.Xnvw-4gzbIU     Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Tuesday it may spend up to 20 to 30 years releasing contaminated water into the surrounding environment from its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The possible time span was mentioned in draft plans Tepco drew up in line with a government panel’s report in February, calling the release of the water into the ocean or the air in the form of vapor a “realistic option.”

The company currently stores roughly 119 tons of water that still contains tritium and other radioactive substances after passing through a treatment process at the nuclear plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The amount of contaminated water stored at the facility is still increasing.

According to the draft plans, Tepco will first conduct secondary treatment work to reduce the amount of radioactive substances in the water other than tritium — which cannot be removed by existing systems — to levels below national standards.

Following the treatment, the water will be released into the ocean, after being diluted with seawater to lower the radiation level to 1,500 becquerels per liter, or emitted into the air from a tall exhaust stack after being vaporized.

Tepco also plans to use social media to counter rumors that exposure to radiation from the released water is harmful.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympic Games’ costly chaos: they can’t be held in 2020

March 24, 2020 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima 50 ‘ – a new film about the nuclear meltdown

March 23, 2020 Posted by | Japan, Resources -audiovicual | Leave a comment

Japanese govt moving to transfer renewable energy funds to Fukushima nuclear clean-up.

State funds to be juggled to cover cleanup costs from Fukushima  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13225190, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, March 18, 2020  The government has moved to revise a law to allow for the diversion of budgetary funds set aside for the promotion of renewable energy to help cover ballooning costs related to the storage of radioactive waste produced during cleanup work after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tax revenues appropriated for renewable-related projects are not permitted to be used for nuclear power programs under the special account law, which governs budgets allocated for specific purposes.

Earlier this month, however, the government submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the law to make the diversion of funds legal. It plans to enact the legislation during the current Diet session and put the revised law into force in April 2021.

This would be the first time for a revenue source earmarked for a specific expenditure to be diverted to a different purpose.

But the revision bill is likely to draw criticism from the public as it concerns the divisive issue of nuclear power and raises further questions about the government’ longstanding insistence that nuclear power is an inexpensive energy source.

Energy-related expenditures are booked under the government’s special account, separately from the general account.

These expenditures are grouped into more categories, such as one for nuclear energy and another for renewable energy sources.

About 300 billion yen ($2.78 billion) a year is allocated for programs associated with nuclear energy, including grants to local governments hosting nuclear power plants, while 800 billion yen or so is set aside to promote renewable energy, energy saving efforts and ensuring a stable energy supply.

Revenues for nuclear energy-related programs are collected under the promotion of power resources development tax, which are levied on electricity rates. Those for renewables are collected from businesses importing petroleum and coal under the petroleum and coal tax.

They are project-specific tax revenues, meaning they cannot be used for other purposes. The amount of those budgets remains at similar levels each year.

The government’s move was prompted by runaway costs to process a vast volume of contaminated waste due to the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and maintain them in interim storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture.

The government decided to shoulder some of the costs to help Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the stricken plant, and gained Cabinet approval to do so in December 2013.

Since fiscal 2014, it has set aside about 35 billion yen annually for the interim storage facilities. The funds come from revenues earmarked for nuclear energy-related projects in the special account.

But expenditures concerning the storage facilities are running a lot higher than initially envisaged.

An estimate released in late 2016 by the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry showed that the project will eventually cost 1.6 trillion yen, compared with an initial projection of 1.1 trillion yen.

The government has allocated an additional 12 billion yen annually for the storage facility project since fiscal 2017.

Government officials say the price tag could further increase in coming years, likely leaving the government with scant financial resources to cover the project.

The revision bill has a clause stipulating that funds diverted to nuclear energy-related programs must eventually be returned to renewable energy project-specific tax revenues.

But it remains unclear if the clause will ease objections from opponents of nuclear energy, even if the fund diversion is a temporary measure.

Yoshikazu Miki, former president of Aoyama Gakuin University and a specialist of the tax system in Japan, called on the government to justify its proposed fund diversion by providing a full explanation of the issue.

“A special account budget has rarely been scrutinized during Diet debate, unlike the general account,” Miki said. “The revision bill requires special attention as it is related to a nuclear power plant. Some members of the public may raise objections to the revision. The government needs to explain the matter to taxpayers to defend its need to act in this way.”

(This article was written by Tsuneo Sasaki and Hiroki Ito.)

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Terrorism fears for Japan’s nuclear reactors – safety measures still not implemented

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Japan Olympics Official Tests Positive For COVID-19 As Training Camps Canceled Across Country

olympics officialThe deputy head of Japan’s Olympics Committee has coronavirus after reportedly experiencing a mild fever on Sunday after returning from a trip to Europe and the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal.

 

March 17, 2020

Kozo Tashima, who is also the president of Japan’s Football Association, was in Orlando, Florida on March 5 where he watched the Japanese women’s soccer national team play against Spain. While in the US he lobbied for Japan to host the women’s soccer World Cup during meetings held in New York – before returning to Japan on March 8.

“My symptoms didn’t start until March 14, so I wasn’t a major infection risk to others, but I apologize to those who were in meetings with me, JFA executives, the media and others I may have been in close contact with,” said Tashima in a statement, adding that his condition isn’t serious.

Mr. Tashima is almost certain to be unable to attend the next executive board meeting for the Olympic organizing committee at the end of this month, at which the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be on the agenda. Mr. Tashima is one of 25 executive board members who attend meetings every few months to review Olympic planning. –Wall Street Journal

While government officials said on Tuesday that they intend to hold the Olympics during the pandemic, with spectators and without changes to the scale of the event scheduled to begin July 24, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun to change his tone, according to TIME.

Abe and his cabinet, as well as the organizers and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, had until days ago been unanimous in insisting the Games would be staged as scheduled. But, following a G-7 leaders’ video conference on the coronavirus Monday, Abe avoided comment on the timing of the event.

I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus, and I gained support for that from the G-7 leaders,” he told reporters after the event.

Asked whether the timing of the event was discussed, Abe repeated the same phrases without answering directly. He also used similar words when asked about the issue in parliament Monday. –TIME

Meanwhile, NHK reports that foreign countries’ national team training camps for the Olympic and Paralympic games have been canceled or postponed in 16 cities across Japan.

Cancellations include the table tennis and gymnastics team from Colombia, which planned on training in the western city of Kitakyushu, as well as Britain’s wheelchair basketball team which had scheduled practice in Urayasu City near Tokyo.

NHK also reports that events or projects to promote exchanges between foreign athletes and local residents have been canceled or postponed in approximately 60 municipalities throughout Japan – including a project by Matsukawa Town in Nagano Prefecture which planned to send high school students to Costa Rica.

https://www.zerohedge.com/political/japan-olympics-official-tests-positive-covid-19-training-camps-canceled-across-country?fbclid=IwAR2VGIukAzMDliLCqTCRr7s_7w76lBut1xhZuAvyQVsAxyAGkAXkmd48UJY

 

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japanese Prime Minister Gives First Hints Tokyo Olympics Could Be Postponed

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March 17, 2020

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun to shift his messaging on the Tokyo Olympics, in a sign he may have accepted that the deadly coronavirus will make it necessary to postpone the event planned to start in July.

Abe and his cabinet, as well as the organizers and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, had until days ago been unanimous in insisting the Games would be staged as scheduled. But, following a G-7 leaders’ video conference on the coronavirus Monday, Abe avoided comment on the timing of the event.

I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus, and I gained support for that from the G-7 leaders,” he told reporters after the event.

Sporting events around the globe have been called off, delayed or held without spectators because of the virus, raising questions on whether it would be safe to bring hundreds of thousands of athletes, officials and spectators together in Tokyo. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the Tokyo Olympics should be pushed back a year.

Asked whether the timing of the event was discussed, Abe repeated the same phrases without answering directly. He also used similar words when asked about the issue in parliament Monday.

Abe’s comments come after a poll showed almost two thirds of Japanese voters thought the Olympics should be postponed due to the pandemic. Japan’s prime minister had been closely associated with Tokyo hosting the games — flying to Buenos Aires in 2013 to make a bid for Japan’s case in person and appearing at the closing ceremonies for the Rio Games four years ago dressed as the Super Mario video game character to promote Tokyo 2020.

The politics of delaying the games have shifted. In the early days of the crisis, delaying would have been an admission that Abe had failed to manage it. Now that it’s a global crisis, delaying may be what’s necessary to defend the Japanese people,” Tobias Harris, a Japan analyst for Teneo Intelligence in Washington, wrote on Twitter.

Proceed As Planned?

With a growing number of qualifying events already canceled, the summer start date is looking increasingly impracticable. The Tokyo Organizing Committee is asking that spectators stay away from Japan’s torch relay beginning at the end of the month, Kyodo News reported, an event usually expected to drum up excitement for the games.

Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto later denied that Abe’s comments meant any delay to the event.

Holding it perfectly means preparing properly to hold it as planned, and working together to that end,” she said Tuesday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said there was no change to Japan’s preparations.

The French Olympic committee chief was reported as saying earlier that the virus must be on the wane by late May to allow the Tokyo Games to take place in July.

In response, Hashimoto reiterated that the International Olympic Committee had the authority to make the decision.

I am aware of various individual opinions, but the government’s position is to provide support in close cooperation with the IOC, the organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government,” she said.

The Olympic Games haven’t been canceled since the summer of 1944, when they were called off due to World War Two.

 

https://time.com/5804519/tokyo-olympics-coronavirus-postpone/?fbclid=IwAR3GaAf26l2-29iA9lmhsprobmzwLj8x2vRhizT7OltG_JcYHzNCOavdBfs

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Sendai nuclear reactor 1 offline because not meeting safety requirements

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March 16, 2020

The operator of a nuclear power plant in southwestern Japan has suspended one of its reactors as it cannot meet the deadline for building mandatory facilities to deal with emergencies.

Kyushu Electric Power Company began work to reduce output at the No.1 reactor at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture at 2:30 a.m. on Monday. The reactor went offline at 1:01 p.m.

Kyushu Electric will start regular inspections on the reactor earlier than scheduled.

This is the first time for a reactor to go offline because of its failure to meet the government’s new regulations.

The regulations were drawn up in 2013 after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant two years earlier.

They require nuclear plant operators to construct facilities to ensure the safety of reactors in the event of emergencies such as acts of terror and aircraft crashes.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, or NRA, obliges the operators to erect such facilities within five years of construction plans being approved.

Kyushu Electric says it aims to put the reactor back online after completing the necessary facilities by December and gaining approval from the NRA.

The utility also plans to shut down the No.2 reactor at the Sendai plant in May for failing to meet the deadline.

Kansai Electric Power Company is also expected to suspend the No.3 and No.4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture in August and October respectively for the same reason.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200316_35/

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo High Court slashes damages to Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees

March 19, 2020 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment

The clean-up of the Fukushima nuclear mess is not going to schedule – continual decommissioning delays

March 17, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, Fukushima continuing, Reference | 1 Comment

Japan’s Sendai nuclear reactor 1 offline because not meeting safety requirements

March 17, 2020 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Starting the Olympic torch relay in Fukushima should remind us of the dangers of nuclear power

Starting the Olympic torch relay in Fukushima should remind us of the dangers of nuclear power https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/03/13/commentary/japan-commentary/starting-olympic-torch-relay-fukushima-remind-us-dangers-nuclear-power/#.XmvxdqgzbIU

BY CASSANDRA JEFFERY AND M. V. RAMANA  13 Mar 20, If the Tokyo Olympics are held on schedule, thousands of athletes will soon come to Japan. Considering the multiple reactors that melted down there nine years ago, in March 2011, the government’s decision to start the ceremonial torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture seems a bit odd, to say the least.

While radiation levels may have declined since 2011, there are still hot spots in the prefecture, including near the sports complex where the torch relay will begin and along the relay route. The persistence of this contamination, and the economic fallout of the reactor accidents, should remind us of the hazardous nature of nuclear power.

Simultaneously, changes in the economics of alternative sources of energy in the last decade invite us to reconsider how countries, including Japan, should generate electricity in the future.

Japan is not alone in having experienced severe nuclear accidents. The 1986 Chernobyl accident also contaminated very large areas in Ukraine and Belarus. As in Japan, many people had to be evacuated; about 116,000, according to the 2000 report of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Many of them never did return; 34 years after the accident, thousands of square kilometers remain closed off to human inhabitation.

Events such as these are, naturally, traumatic and result in people viewing nuclear power as a risky technology. In turn, that view has led to persistent and widespread public opposition around the world.

This is evident in Japan too, where opinion polls show overwhelming opposition to the government’s plans to restart nuclear plants that have been shut down. One poll from February 2019 found 56 percent of respondents were opposed to, with only 32 percent in favor of, resuming nuclear operations. Other polls show significant local opposition, one example coming out of Miyagi Prefecture. Even the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, which aims to promote nuclear power, finds that only 17.3 percent prefer nuclear energy, with much larger majorities preferring solar, wind and hydro power.

There is also the immense cost of cleaning up after such accidents. Estimates for the Fukushima disaster range from nearly $200 billion to over $600 billion. In 2013, France’s nuclear safety institute estimated that a similar accident in France could end up costing $580 billion. In Japan, just the cost of bringing old nuclear power plants into compliance with post-Fukushima safety regulations has been estimated at $44.2 billion.

Even in the absence of accidents and additional safety features, nuclear power is already very expensive. For the United States, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimates an average cost of $155 per megawatt-hour of nuclear electricity, more than three times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per MWh each for wind and solar energy. The latter costs have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last 10 years. In the face of the high costs of nuclear power — economic, environmental and public health — and overwhelming public opposition, it is puzzling that the government would persist in trying to restart nuclear power plants.

To explain his support for the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that the country cannot do without nuclear power, especially in view of climate change concerns. The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off. Further, starting in 2015, Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below the levels in 2011, because of “reduced energy consumption” and the increase in “low-carbon electricity.” The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation, a factor that could play an important role in the future.

Some, including the Global Energy Network Institute and a group of analysts led by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson, argue that Japan could be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Regardless of whether Japan reaches that goal, there is little doubt that Japan could be expanding renewable energy, and that increased reliance on renewables makes economic and environmental sense.

Instead, the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and promoting nuclear power. Efforts by Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that controls nuclear and energy policy.

Moreover, Abenomics involves exports of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms, as an important component. So far, despite many trips by Abe to various countries, Japan has yet to export any reactors in the last decade; a project with the most likely client, Turkey, collapsed because of high costs.

This suggests one possible explanation: Perhaps Abe realizes that before exporting nuclear reactors, he first has to shore up the domestic nuclear industry and prove that Japan has fully recovered from the 2011 nuclear disaster. But is that worth the risk?

Restarting nuclear reactors or constructing new ones, should that ever happen, only increases the likelihood of more nuclear accidents in the future and raises the costs of electricity. Regardless of who we cheer for at the Olympic Games, nuclear power does not deserve our applause.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment