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Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida says nuclear power should be reconsidered as energy costs soar

Of 33 operable reactors overseen by the Nuclear Regulation Authority only 10 have restarted under rules imposed since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Apr 27, 2022

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country must consider using more nuclear power, as the import-dependent nation grapples with rising fuel prices and a weak yen.

Regulations in place since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 need to be made more efficient to help the process of restarting Japan’s idled reactors, he said, adding new impetus to calls for the energy source to take a bigger role. Only about a third of operable reactors have resumed.

“We must think about nuclear power given rising electricity and gas prices,” Kishida said in a TV Tokyo interview late Tuesday evening. “We won’t compromise on safety, and will get the understanding of the people before proceeding.”

Kishida’s remarks come as Japan contends with an energy crisis that’s sent prices of liquefied natural gas and coal to record highs. The nation imports almost all of its energy needs, and costlier fuel has slashed profits of utility companies and stoked inflationary fears among consumers who are facing higher power bills. A beleaguered yen, which has weakened against the dollar to touch the lowest level in two decades, is adding to the burden for fuel importers.

Lawmakers have been calling for nuclear restarts to accelerate, while public support is growing according to a March survey.

Still, a lengthy restart inspection process, combined with frequent lawsuits filed by nuclear opponents, have hampered efforts to get idled reactors back online. Of 33 operable reactors overseen by the Nuclear Regulation Authority only 10 have restarted under rules imposed since the Fukushima disaster.


May 1, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Statement by Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency: 11 Years of Oblivion: An Alarming Abandonment of a Culture of Safety

March 3, 2022
NPO Nuclear Information and Documentation Center

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several experts have stated that the use of nuclear energy should be promoted from the perspective of energy security. One of the most prominent is a statement made by Shiro Arai, President of the Japan Atomic Energy Industries Association (former Director of TEPCO Holdings and Deputy General Manager of the Nuclear Energy & Location Headquarters), at a regular press conference on February 25.

 I understand that some people think that nuclear power may act as a brake on the use of nuclear power,” he said. I understand that some people think it will act as a brake on the use of nuclear power, but the utility of nuclear power is very great. We have no choice but to make efforts through diplomatic efforts and improved international relations.”[i]

 Such opportunistic and disregard for human life is unacceptable. In particular, Chairman Arai’s statement is a sign of extreme danger. This is because it reveals the shallow nature of the nuclear safety culture that the nuclear industry claims to be working on.

 Operating nuclear power plants during wartime is extremely risky from a safety standpoint. This is even more so when one’s own territory is a battlefield. If the power grid is destroyed, external power sources will be lost. Diesel generators need fuel to operate, and in wartime, supplies are often disrupted. Although the Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks on nuclear power plants, there is a risk that the facilities could be destroyed by accidental fire. In the worst case, a deliberate attack could destroy the reactor. An attack on or evacuation of the operators would not only impede safe operation, but also make it impossible to cope with an accident. Massive radioactive contamination from a meltdown in a wartime situation would resemble a nuclear war.

In wartime, the best option to reduce the risk of nuclear power plants is to shut them down. We all know from the Fukushima Daiichi accident that cooling is required for a long period of time after shutdown, but control is still much easier than when the plant is operating.

Despite this, Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear corporation, operated 13 of its 15 nuclear reactors at its four sites until the 23rd, and as of March 1, when the invasion was underway, it was still operating nine of them. Even the Zaporizha nuclear power plant, which the Russians are closing in on, has three units in operation. If there were to be an accident, why would they operate at the risk of irreparable damage? The reason lies in Ukraine’s high dependence on nuclear power. If a nuclear power plant were to be shut down, Ukraine would not be able to compensate for the loss of power from other sources.

It is not just another country. Japan once had a 50% nuclear energy ratio, and today the government and nuclear industry are still aiming for 20-22%. Are we asking for more operations despite the fact that we have witnessed how huge the potential risks of war in a country with nuclear power plants are? Nuclear war is possible even without nuclear bombs, and this is what the situation in Ukraine confronts us with.

Chairman Arai is aware of this extremely dangerous relationship between nuclear power and war, yet he insists that nuclear power should be promoted because the benefits outweigh the risks. The commercial enterprises that operate nuclear power plants are supposed to make comparative choices among various power sources when using nuclear power, but while promoting nuclear power, he claims that the government, not the enterprises or the industry, should be responsible for the risks involved. The nuclear safety culture, according to the nuclear industry, is “an aggregate of the attitudes and characteristics (the way things are) in organizations and individuals in which ‘the issue of the safety of nuclear facilities is given the attention it deserves in terms of its importance as taking precedence over everything else'”[ii]. President Arai’s statement is a clear indication of how nuclear safety culture is an entity in name only.

What the tragedy in Ukraine shows is the danger of dependence on nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are a major risk to both security and energy security. Who should and can bear this risk? The question must be asked whether the citizens who will suffer the most serious damage will accept nuclear power, including the risks involved.

March 3, 2022 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Caught between nostalgia and science fiction

by beyondnuclearinternational

Swapping one dangerous technology for another isn’t progress

By Linda Pentz Gunter

It’s starting to sound a lot like a Christmas carol as a growing chorus of voices clamors to stop the European Union from including nuclear power in its “green taxonomy.”

Six countries, five former Japanese prime ministers, four former nuclear regulators, a bunch of French hens (at least 20 protesters), and two heads of Italy’s major energy behemoth, have all spoken out in recent weeks against rebranding dangerous, expensive nuclear power as “sustainable” energy or even a bridge to an all renewable future.

The youth climate movement, Fridays for the Future, have also condemned the potential inclusion of nuclear power in the EU Taxonomy as “greenwashing”, with spokesperson Luisa Neubauer telling Euractiv that Germany “can phase out both coal and nuclear power and enter the renewable age.” Why, she asked, would you “swap one high risk technology, coal, for another high risk technology? And maybe those risks aren’t quite the same, but the risks attached to nuclear energy, people have experienced that.” In addition, the costs for nuclear power, she said are “in a different galaxy” compared to renewables.

Francesco Starace, a nuclear engineer by training and the head of Enel, the Italian multinational energy company, said of nuclear power, “we can’t stay halfway between nostalgia for the past and hope in science fiction”. Enel Green Power head, Salvatore Bernabei, said “we don’t intend to invest in nuclear, obviously.”

Said Starace: “We must act now because the red alert for humanity has gone off and the next ten years will be crucial. There is only one road and it is already marked: electrification, renewables and batteries”.

The five former prime ministers of Japan spoke from direct experience, having lived through the devastation caused by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began on March 11, 2011, but is still damaging human health and the environment today.

“Promoting nuclear power can ruin a country,” wrote Junichiro Koizumi, Morihiro Hosokawa, Naoto Kan, Yukio Hatoyama and Tomiichi Murayama in a statement directed at the EU.

“We have witnessed in Fukushima over the last decade [ ] an indescribable tragedy and contamination on an unprecedented scale,” the prime ministers wrote. “Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and vast areas of agricultural land have been contaminated. Radioactive water well beyond storage capacity continues to be generated, many children are suffering from thyroid cancer, and massive amounts of the country’s resources and wealth has been lost. We do not wish European countries to make the same mistake.”

The former Japanese prime ministers reminded the EU that they have witnessed the multiple tragedies of a nuclear accident first hand. (Photo: Matthias Lambrecht/Creative Commons)

The four former nuclear regulators — Dr. Greg Jaczko (US), Prof. Wolfgang Renneberg (Germany), Dr. Bernard Laponche (France) and Dr. Paul Dorfman (UK) — stated categorically that “The central message, repeated again and again, that a new generation of nuclear will be clean, safe, smart and cheap, is fiction.”

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the four said, using nuclear power to address it was a completely unrealistic proposition. “The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm,” they wrote. 

They added: “Nuclear isn’t cheap, but extremely costly. Perhaps most importantly nuclear is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change. To make a relevant contribution to global power generation, up to more than ten thousand new reactors would be required, depending on reactor design.”

Although France is leading the charge — for obviously self-interested reasons — to include nuclear power in the EU Taxonomy, the country is not without its nuclear opponents. The nationwide Réseau sortir du nucléaire and scores of regional groups struggle to get attention, but have staged protests for years. France relies on nuclear power for 70% of its electricity and is also a member of the UN Security Council as a nuclear weapons country, giving it an illusory sense of prestige of which it is reluctant to let go.

Last December, protesters descended on France’s foreign ministry, roundly criticizing French president, Emmanuel Macron’s continued promotion of nuclear power. At the same time, the country was facing electricity shortages due to five French reactor outages.

Even scientists, sometimes the more cautious of species, have spoken out. According to the Financial Times, which viewed the documentation, scientific experts “hired by Brussels to help draw up the sustainable investment rules” have criticized the inclusion of nuclear power, while not going as far as to ask for its removal altogether. However, the experts wrote that “the inclusion of nuclear energy contravenes the principle of ‘do no significant harm’”, the Financial Times said.

Meanwhile, Austria is preparing to take the EU to court if it persists in labeling nuclear power as green. Austria has the support of Spain, Luxembourg and Denmark in calling the consideration of nuclear as a “sustainable” energy source “a step backwards.”

Germany, which is close to phasing out all of its nuclear power plants, has also rejected nuclear as part of the EU Taxonomy while so far failing to oppose the inclusion of gas, again for vested interests.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for and curates Beyond Nuclear International.

January 31, 2022 Posted by | Nuclear | , , , | Leave a comment

European Green Taxonomy and nuclear power: 5 former prime ministers of Japan have taken a public stand against its inclusion

Published on 29 January 2022 by André JACQUES

The European Commission should make its decision on February 02. The European Commission has decided to include nuclear power in the European green taxonomy (see the press release of the European Commission). Annual press conference at the Japan Foreign Correspondents Press Club (FCCJ). 27/01/2022. Via Javale Gola and Our Distant Neighbors

The last two Prime Ministers, in the presence of the General Secretary of Genjiren (Federation of associations for “zero nuclear energy” and the promotion of ENR) recall the (exorbitant) cost of nuclear power following the Fukushima Daiichi accident and then data on the development of ENR for a decade in Japan. (allocution of 35 minutes). From now on, zero nuclear power is credible, renewable energies are efficient…

According to Naoto Kan, wind power is starting little but solar power a lot, he calculated that there are 4 million hectares of cultivable land in Japan, and announced a solar power production capacity of 2 trillion Kw/h (10 to 12). He concludes with an illustration: large areas are available on the island of Hokkaido, but not elsewhere where small farmers are aging without being replaced; a good scenario according to Kan, would be to maintain the activity (on these non-constructible lands) to make them evolve into solar farms.QUESTIONS (36 minutes).South China Morning Post: in a context of climate disruption, energy needs at the global level are increasing; China is committed to the U.S. project of SMR, which is also of interest to Japan. Is stopping nuclear power a responsible position?

KOIZUMI: I am in favor of “zero nuclear power”; all industrial waste is exploding, we don’t know what to do with it; nuclear waste is even more phenomenal in volume and it is absolutely necessary to secure it because it represents a great danger but today the government wants to continue the development of nuclear power while we have no solution for the containment of the waste

KAN: to speak only about Japan, it has been victim of nuclear power twice (The bomb and then Fukushima); concerning the nuclear accident of Fukushima Daiichi, we came close to having to evacuate the population of Tokyo, so that the nuclear option does not seem to me to be tenable anymore. To decrease C02, the potential of ENR can cover the needs, as it is demonstrated and promoted also abroad.Liberation: “I am a French journalist, for the taxonomy of nuclear power, not all French people are in favor of it but the president of France is the promoter of nuclear power, can you deliver a brief and strong message to our president.(at 46′).

KAN: If I were to speak to President Macron, I would say what I just told you. That is, without nuclear, ENRs are enough to meet energy needs, that’s the first point. Secondly, we almost had to evacuate Tokyo, but France has a lot of nuclear power plants and if a similar accident happened in France, we might have to evacuate Paris, and if so, for 50 to 100 years, during which time Paris would be uninhabitable, as was the case at Chernobyl. I’m sure the president will be sensitive to both of these messages.”

KOIZUMI: France is currently aiming for 50% nuclear, so it seems difficult for the president to defend zero nuclear… But it has neighbors who also want to reduce their dependence, such as Germany, and I think these countries need to demonstrate the feasibility of zero nuclear, which will make the French president change his mind.

The end: the mediator (the gentleman on the right) asks them to intervene with the former European leaders, before February 2… for example Kan with Prodi; then he announces that it is the first time that they are gathered here for a new announcement, the creation between them of a new political party! but it is a joke, Koizumi is retired and does not want to enter politics anymore! Naoto Kan wants to devote himself to the promotion of the energy sufficiency of Japan thanks to the solar energy.

The translator, to conclude, informs the foreign correspondents that the European Parliament regrets the decision-making power of the European Commission on a subject so important for many countries and wishes it success in its opposition to this taxonomy resolution .

See opposite the trailer of the Film “The lid of the sun” that Crilan was shown in Flamanville in 2018 in the presence of Naoto Kan and then in Cherbourg in the presence of the director.

January 30, 2022 Posted by | 1 NUCLEAR ISSUES | , , , | 1 Comment

Ballooning costs give lie to notion nuclear power is cheapest energy

From left: The No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture
August 12, 2019
Soaring costs borne by operators of nuclear power plants to safeguard their facilities against natural disasters and terrorist attacks suggest the government is wrong in its longstanding contention that nuclear power is the nation’s cheapest energy source.
A study by The Asahi Shimbun found that the overall estimate for the cost of safety measures by 11 operators stood at 5.074 trillion yen ($48.32 billion) as of July. The operators include those whose nuclear facilities are still under construction.
The combined figure for the 11 companies represents an increase of about 660 billion yen from a year earlier.
The Asahi Shimbun has tallied total estimated safety costs by nuclear plant operators since 2013.
As of January 2013, the combined total was 998.2 billion yen.
New safety regulations implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster obliged power companies to equip their facilities with additional safeguard measures to prevent a severe accident triggered by a powerful earthquake, tsunami, fire, terrorist attack and other emergencies.
The Fukushima disaster was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, which generated towering tsunami that knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., setting off a triple meltdown.
The new regulations went into effect in 2013.
TEPCO’s estimated cost to implement safeguard measures doubled to 969 billion yen in the latest study due to steps to counter liquefaction and terrorist strikes at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s No. 6 and No. 7 reactors in Niigata Prefecture.
Kansai Electric Power Co. reported an additional 130.8 billion yen as the cost of building an emergency facility to respond to a terrorist attack on its Oi nuclear plant’s No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in Fukui Prefecture.
In the survey, The Asahi Shimbun for the first time asked power companies about their most recent estimates for countermeasures against terrorism and the previous estimate when they applied for certification of their anti-terror facilities by the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.
The responses showed that anti-terror measures are proving to be two times to five times more expensive than the companies initially envisaged.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. replied that such steps for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at its Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture grew five-fold from 43 billion yen to 220 billion yen.
Kansai Electric Power Co. said it plans to spend 125.7 billion yen on anti-terror measures for the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, up from 69.1 billion yen.
In the case of Shikoku Electric Power Co., the utility said measures to safeguard the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture from a terror attack surged from 32 billion yen to 55 billion yen.
Shikoku Electric said the increase is due to a change in the design and construction method following the NRA’s safety examination.
Of the 11 companies surveyed, six did not include costs for terrorism countermeasures in their estimates for safeguard mechanisms, which means that overall costs for safety measures, including those against terrorism, can only grow.
Nine reactors at five nuclear facilities are now back online after clearing the more stringent standards set by the NRA.
The safety cost for each of those reactors ranged from 130 billion yen to 230 billion yen.
It appears likely that plans by Chugoku Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Japan Atomic Power Co. to restart reactors will cost each of the operators more than 300 billion yen per reactor in safety measures, if the cost of implementing terrorism countermeasures is added.
With the ballooning safety costs, the government’s argument that nuclear energy is cheaper than hydro power and coal is increasingly in doubt.
In 2015, a government study put the cost to generate 1 kilowatt-hour of energy for hydro power at 11 yen, coal-fired thermal power at 12.9 yen and nuclear power at 10.3 yen or more.
The government study estimated the cost for safety measures per nuclear reactor at about 100 billion yen.
The power generation cost for a reactor will rise 0.6 yen for an increase of every 100 billion yen that will be set aside for safeguard measures.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Parties must close gap with reality in talks on nuclear power

TEPCO wants to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture.
July 15, 2019
Any discussion on nuclear power policy should be based on reality.
In their Upper House election campaign platforms, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, say they will allow more restarts of nuclear reactors in line with the government’s Basic Energy Plan.
The plan defines nuclear energy as a mainstay source of power, which it assumes will account for 20 to 22 percent of Japan’s total power supply in fiscal 2030.
Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, decisions have been made to decommission some of the nation’s nuclear reactors; plans are being floated to decommission others. The total number of the reactors concerned is 21.
Achieving the goal of the Basic Energy Plan would require about 30 operating reactors, meaning the activation of almost all remaining nuclear reactors in Japan.
One is tempted to ask if such a plan can be described as realistic.
The power industry has placed topmost priority on restarting nuclear reactors, but only nine reactors have so far been brought back online.
Many reactors are not likely to be reactivated any time soon because of local opposition, the presence of an active fault nearby or for other reasons.
Officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which is seeking to restart reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, made an argument for itself during a general shareholders’ meeting in June.
“We need to have nuclear reactors up and running, after all,” they said, adding that doing so would allow TEPCO to increase its profits and thereby “fulfill its responsibility for Fukushima.”
TEPCO, however, has apologized for keeping local governments in the dark for three years about insufficient seismic resistance of the Main Anti-Earthquake Building at the Niigata plant, which would serve as a center for response measures in the event of a disaster.
Following a big earthquake in June this year, TEPCO mistakenly sent wrong information to local governments saying that “abnormalities” had occurred at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
Given these circumstances, TEPCO could hardly expect to gain deeper understanding of the host communities.
The construction of anti-terror facilities is falling behind schedule at nuclear plants elsewhere in Japan where reactors have been brought back online.
Beginning next spring, reactors operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. are expected to be taken offline again in succession.
The argument that nuclear power is cheap is also losing ground. Expenses for safety measures have swollen following the Fukushima disaster, and more than 4 trillion yen ($37 billion) in total has been spent so far to prepare nuclear reactors for their restarts.
The joint public-private efforts to export nuclear power technology to developing markets overseas, given the thin opportunities in Japan, have reached a deadlock in many nations.
The ruling parties should explain specifically how they plan to deal with all of these realities if they insist that Japan should remain reliant on nuclear power.
A final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste is unlikely to be built soon, either. The nuclear fuel recycling program, intended to extract plutonium from spent fuel for reuse, has also practically failed.
Despite all that, there are still plans to activate a reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, to extract plutonium. This shows Japan’s nuclear power policy is laden with many layers of contradictions.
Opposition parties that oppose reactor restarts and are calling for zero nuclear power, such as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party, should also face up to the question of feasibility.
Even if a transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar power, is to be pursued, there is still a need to curb the burden on the public to guarantee a certain level of income for renewable energy operators.
Measures should be established to ensure a stable supply of power even when renewables account for the majority of it. Allowances should also be made for the economies of local communities that have long depended on nuclear power.
People living in power consumption areas, to say nothing of residents of communities hosting nuclear plants, should give serious thought to the future of nuclear power in this country.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Koizumi says Japan must say ‘no’ to nuclear energy

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks about his zero nuclear power proposal during a Dec. 12 interview in Tokyo.
January 17, 2019
When he was prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi championed the use of atomic power to generate electricity.
Then the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster struck, triggering a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
Koizumi, in office from 2001 to 2006, and widely regarded as one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders, started reading up on the nuclear issue, and had a change of heart.
Koizumi, 76, published his first book by his own hand titled “Genpatsu Zero Yareba Dekiru” (We can abolish all nuclear plants if we try) in December. It is available from Ohta Publishing Co.
In it, he lambasts consumers for lacking a sense of crisis and simply believing a serious accident like the Fukushima disaster will never happen again in Japan during their lifetime.
In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Koizumi said it was “a lie” to claim that nuclear power is “safe, low-cost and clean,” although that is precisely what he espoused when he held the reins of power.
* * *
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Question: An opinion poll by The Asahi Shimbun in February 2018 showed that 61 percent of people oppose the restart of idle nuclear reactors, and yet, reactors are successively being brought back online. What is your view about this?
Koizumi: Many people still support the zero nuclear power generation policy. When I teamed up with Morihiro Hosokawa, (a former prime minister), who ran for the Tokyo governor’s election (in 2014), to call for abolition of nuclear power facilities, voters on the streets showed a positive reaction.
But now many people do not realize how dangerous nuclear reactors are. They probably believe a nuclear accident will never occur again while they live because of all the attention that has been paid to safety since the Fukushima crisis.
However, in the 2012 report compiled by the government’s panel to investigate causes of the disaster, the panel’s chair said, “Things that are possible happen. Things that are thought not possible also happen.”
In other words, there are no totally safe technologies.
Q: Many people seemingly believe that they have no choice but to accept nuclear power because it costs less than other types of electricity generation and electricity rates are cheaper. Do you agree?
A: The argument is doubtful. Nuclear power is relatively cheap just because the government covers part of the costs. Nuclear plants cannot be operated without assistance from the government. Private financial institutions would not extend loans to operators of nuclear facilities if the state did not provide guarantees.
Were it not for governmental support and taxpayers’ money, nuclear power would be more expensive than other kinds of energy.
Renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) currently accounts for 15 percent of total power production in Japan. The percentage is much higher than before the Fukushima crisis. Even if costs slightly increase, citizens would accept the zero nuclear policy.
Q: Is it really possible to replace all the nuclear reactors with other sorts of power plants?
A: No reactors were operated for two years after the Fukushima disaster. But no power shortages were reported during the period. That means Japan can do without nuclear plants. It is a fact.
Q: During your tenure as prime minister (between 2001 and 2006), it emerged in 2002 that Tokyo Electric Power Co. had concealed problems at its nuclear facilities. Didn’t that cause you to lose your trust in nuclear power even then?
A: No. Power supply is important and the risk of power failures could damage the economy. It was then said to be difficult to replace (nuclear plants that produced) 30 percent of the nation’s electricity needs with other power sources.
As there were few facilities to generate power based on renewables at the time, I believed nuclear reactors were essential. I simply trusted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which said “nuclear energy is safe, low-cost and clean.”
But that was a big lie.
Although some people argued “nuclear plants are dangerous” even before the Fukushima crisis, I was deceived by the ministry and did not take their words seriously.
I did some soul-searching and decided I ought to spread the word that Japan can do without nuclear plants.
Q: You said “deceived.” Are you working to rectify your past mistake?
A: Yes. I am touring across Japan as I am keen to share my thoughts with many people.
Q: The issue of nuclear plants and their safety has hardly featured in recent national election campaigns. What’s your take on this?
A: The construction of a nuclear reactor is estimated at 1 trillion yen ($9.28 billion) now. Building reactors requires many materials, so many companies are involved in the nuclear power business.
Many tiny, small and midsize companies benefit from nuclear plants. Many of them insist that abolishing nuclear power would throw people out of work.
Some labor unions that support opposition parties are engaged in the nuclear power generation industry, though the (main opposition) Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan says it is in favor of the zero nuclear power policy.
Q: What do you think is important in realizing a nuclear-free society?
A: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists nuclear plants are essential, so many lawmakers remain silent about the issue. But there are lawmakers even in the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party who support the zero nuclear power policy.
If Abe declares the state will abolish all nuclear plants, the situation will drastically change. Both ruling and opposition parties can cooperate over the issue.
Why hasn’t the government set dream-inspiring goals to promote solar, wind and geothermal power generation?
Q: Could you explain the words in your book that “it is regrettable and irritating that I was deceived”?
A: When meeting with Abe, I always tell him, “Be careful not to be deceived by the economy ministry.” But he just smiles a wry smile and does not argue back.
He should not miss the current political opportunity that he has the upper hand (to change the government’s conventional nuclear energy policy).
Q: Do you talk with your son and Lower House lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi about the issue of nuclear plants?
A: He knows my opinion all too well. He is still young, so he should do what he wants after gaining power.
(This article is based on an interview by Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Takashi Arichika.)

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Utilities reject shareholders’ calls for nuclear power phase-out

hgjhlkmù.jpgAnti-nuclear demonstrators gather in front of the venue hosting Kansai Electric Power Co.’s annual meeting as shareholders of the company head to the site in Kobe’s Chuo Ward on June 28.


Japan’s eight major nuclear power plant operators rejected all proposals from their shareholders to abolish nuclear reactors at their annual meetings on June 28.

The heads of each utilities company emphasized the need for nuclear power generation as a vital energy source, citing the regional nuclear facilities which have gradually resumed operations after their shutdown in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in 2011.

At Kansai Electric Power Co.’s general meeting, the utility dismissed anti-nuclear proposals by major shareholders, including the Osaka and Kyoto city governments.

Kansai Electric brought its Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in Fukui Prefecture back online in May and June.

Electric power distribution systems which aren’t dependent on nuclear energy should be established,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa urged.

But Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane shot back, “Nuclear power plants are essential in terms of environmental issues as well (as financial).”

We will reduce electric rates in August and raise our corporate value, too,” Iwane added.

Meanwhile, one of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s shareholders asked the company at its meeting whether it plans to pursue either nuclear energy or renewable energy.

A company executive shied away from answering directly and only replied: “Nuclear power generation is a vital electricity source. We would also like to consider renewable energy as a growing business.”

Utilities executives painted a positive picture at the other general shareholders’ meetings.

One from Hokkaido Electric Power Co. said, “As the deregulation of the electric power industry moves forward, it is necessary to resume operations of nuclear power plants as soon as possible to succeed in a competitive industry.”

A Chubu Electric Power Co. executive also said, “Even if safety measures incur costs, they can be recovered once nuclear power plants resume operations.”

Shareholders’ proposals to end nuclear power generation at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) were also rejected at its annual general shareholders’ meeting on June 23.

July 5, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Could nuclear advocacy be Abe’s undoing?


Nuclear foe: Ryuichi Yoneyama (center), a medical doctor who advocates anti-nuclear policies, raises his hands after he was assured of winning the gubernatorial election in Niigata Prefecture on Oct. 16.

Voters have elected anti-nuclear governors in Kagoshima and Niigata prefectures in recent months. These elections can be considered referenda on nuclear power because that issue was the main focus of debate in both campaigns. The results have put Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — and his plans to rev up the country’s fleet of nuclear reactors — behind the eight ball of public opinion and prefectural politics.

There will be a slew of gubernatorial elections in 2017 that will focus on nuclear energy, an issue where the Liberal Democratic Party is vulnerable because it was in charge when all of Japan’s reactors were built and was arguably complicit in the culture of complacency and regulatory capture that compromised public safety. The LDP owns the Fukushima disaster and thus the shambolic cleanup further discredits Abe’s party.

The media portrayed the victory of Ryuichi Yoneyama in Niigata over the “nuclear village” candidate, former construction ministry bureaucrat Tamio Mori as a major upset. Abe endorsed Mori, but his pro-nuclear advocacy proved his undoing. Mori toned down that message toward the end of his campaign but it was too late to fend off Yoneyama, who rode the wave of nuclear anxieties into office. He replaces another anti-nuclear governor who stymied Tepco’s plans to restart reactors in the prefecture in the aftermath of the Fukushima debacle and revelations of slack safety practices.

In 2007, the massive 8-gigawatt Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which consists of seven reactors, shut down after a strong earthquake struck Niigata. Local scientists had sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government for selecting a dangerous site for the world’s largest atomic power plant, arguing that it is built on an active fault line, but a judge dismissed their claims as baseless in 2005.

Mother Nature ruled otherwise. The reactors all shut down, but the land subsided, breaking water pipes so that fire-fighting was delayed. More importantly, the manager of the plant said during a subsequent NHK interview that first responders had been very lucky, explaining that he and his staff would have been helpless if anything had gone wrong, as they were all locked out of the command center where the reactor controls are located because the door to the room had jammed shut due to land subsidence. Improvising, they set up whiteboards in the parking lot and relied on their mobile phones, but they had absolutely no means to manage any reactor emergency if there had been one. This story is not forgotten in Niigata.

There is heightened concern among most Japanese about nuclear safety following the three meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. Three major investigations into the nuclear disaster have pinpointed human error as the main cause of the meltdowns, highlighting cozy and collusive relations between Tepco and nuclear watchdogs that compromised safety because regulations were not strictly enforced and regulators averted their eyes from serious breaches. They are also mindful that back in 2002 a whistleblower alerted authorities to Tepco’s systematic falsification of repair and maintenance records for all 17 of its reactors. A coverup failed and the media subsequently revealed that all of the utilities operating nuclear reactors had engaged in similarly shoddy practices, cutting corners to save money.

Have the lessons of Fukushima been learned and led to appropriate countermeasures to upgrade safety? Apparently voters are not convinced by the PR machine that touts stricter safety regulations and hardware upgrades, and they have been finding support among judges who have issued injunctions blocking reactor restarts that have been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. The NRA is the reincarnation of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which lost all credibility following post-Fukushima meltdown revelations of slipshod oversight. Alas, the Homer Simpsons of NISA now constitute the majority of NRA employees, undermining the credibility of the new nuclear watchdog agency.

The government and utilities are supposed to consult local opinion, but in practice they limit this to communities hosting reactors because these people have a vested interest in rebooting nuclear plants. Nuclear power plants don’t generate revenue and subsidies if idle, while restarting a reactor opens the spigots of cash that these remote communities are dependent on. Now that the evacuation zones have been expanded to 30 kilometers, extending into adjoining towns that shoulder the same risks without the benefits, it would make sense to give these communities a say in restarts. However, the central government opposes that because it fears that locals who have not been co-opted wouldn’t be in favor of restarts, especially since evacuation drills have been chaotic, revealing that the government is advocating restarts before it is properly prepared to deal with a crisis.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are operating and one of them is in Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, where another anti-nuclear governor won election. This reactor is not far from where the devastating Kumamoto earthquake struck in April, in a region that also features a number of active volcanoes spewing ash that could block roads and impede an emergency evacuation.

What are the chances of a simultaneous earthquake, typhoon, tsunami and volcanic eruption affecting a nuclear reactor? Probably not that high, but there was such a deadly combination of earthquakes, eruptions, landslide and tsunami with a 100-meter wave recorded in Kyushu in 1791 that killed 15,000 people. But no worries — that was on a different part of the island.

Exit polls from Niigata’s gubernatorial elections found that 73 percent of voters oppose restarting the Niigata plant and only 27 percent are in favor. A mid-October Asahi poll found that 57 percent of Japanese nationwide were opposed to nuclear restarts and only 29 percent were in favor. More importantly, the same poll found that 73 percent of Japanese favor a zero nuclear energy policy in the near future and just 22 percent are opposed to the idea.

What must worry Abe even more is that within the LDP, 45 percent of members oppose nuclear energy while just 42 percent support his nuclear advocacy. Thus former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi may be right with his recent assertion that Abe has a nuclear Achilles’ heel that may lead to his downfall.

October 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan business lobby says Abe govt can’t rely on nuclear energy

Japan‘s use of nuclear power is unlikely to meet a government target of returning to near pre-Fukushima levels and the world’s No.3 economy needs to get serious about boosting renewables, a senior executive at a top business lobby said.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policies, nuclear is supposed to supply a fifth of energy generation by 2030, but Teruo Asada, vice chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, said Japan was unlikely to get anywhere near this.

The influential business lobby has issued a proposal urging Tokyo to remove hurdles for renewable power amid the shaky outlook for nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The move shows how business attitudes are now shifting as reactor restarts get held up by legal challenges, safety issues and public scepticism.

“We have a sense of crisis that Japan will become a laughing stock if we do not encourage renewable power,” said Asada, who is also chairman of trading house Marubeni Corp.

Long dependent on imported fossil fuels, Japan’s government and big business actively promoted nuclear energy despite widespread public opposition.

The government wants nuclear to make up 20-22 percent of electricity supply by 2030, down from 30 percent before Fukushima. So far, however, only two out of 42 operable reactors have started and the newly elected governor of the prefecture where they are located has pledged to shut them.

Renewables supplied 14.3 percent of power in the year to March 2016 and the government’s 2030 target is 22-24 pct.

“In the very long term, we have to lower our dependence on nuclear. Based on current progress, nuclear power reliance may not reach even 10 percent,” said Asada, adding the association wanted measures to encourage private investment in renewables and for public funding of infrastructure such as transmission lines.

The influential business lobby has a membership of about 1,400 executives from around 950 companies.

Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo focusing on energy issues, said the push signaled “a profound change in thinking among blue-chip business executives.”

“Many business leaders have clearly thrown in the towel on nuclear and are instead openly lobbying for Japan to vault to global leadership in renewables, efficiency and smart infrastructure.”

When asked about the association’s proposals, an industry ministry official said the government was maintaining its nuclear target.

“The Japanese government will aim for the maximum introduction of renewable energy but renewable energy has a cost issue,” said Yohei Ogino, a deputy director for energy policy.

But three sources familiar with official thinking told Reuters in May that Japan will cut reliance on nuclear power when it releases an updated energy plan as early as next year.

Following the nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011, Japan has had some success in overcoming one of the world’s worst peacetime energy crises, partly due to lower oil prices and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices.

Japan has also promoted renewables but most investment has been in solar and in recent years it has cut incentives.

“There are too many hurdles for other sources of renewable power,” Asada said.


July 23, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

As Japan re-embraces nuclear power, safety warnings persist

An aerial view shows the No.1 and No.2 reactor buildings at Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai nuclear power station in Satsumasendai

An aerial view shows the No.1 (L) and No.2 reactor buildings at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan, August 11, 2015, in this photo taken by Kyodo. REUTERS/Kyodo

Japan’s re-embrace of nuclear power, on display last week with the recertification of two aging reactors, is prompting some critics to warn that Tokyo is neglecting the lessons of Fukushima.

In the first such step since the 2011 disaster, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on June 20 approved Kansai Electric Power Co’s application to extend the life of two reactors beyond 40 years.

As it became clear the NRA was going to allow the extensions, a former commissioner broke a silence maintained since he left the agency in 2014 and said “a sense of crisis” over safety prompted him to go public and urge more attention to earthquake risk.

Kunihiko Shimazaki, who was a commissioner from 2012 to 2014, said a powerful quake in April that killed 69 on Kyushu island showed the risk to some of Japan’s 42 operable nuclear reactors was being underestimated.

“I cannot stand by without doing anything. We may have another tragedy and, if that happens, it could not be something that was ‘beyond expectations’,” he said, referring to a common description of the catastrophic chain of events after the earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima meltdowns.

The NRA has said it would take into account Shimazaki’s position in some of its assessments.

Separately when asked about the operating extensions of the reactors, a spokesman for the regulator referred Reuters to remarks by agency chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, on the day of the extensions, when he said: “It does not guarantee absolute safety but it means the reactors have cleared the safety standards.”

According to the World Nuclear Association, an industry body, early reactors were designed for a life of about 30 years, while newer plants can operate up to 60 years.

A 2012 Japanese law also limits the life of all reactors to 40 years, allowing for license extensions only in exceptional circumstances.


The meltdowns five years ago at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi plant after an earthquake and tsunami – the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 – were blamed in an official report on lax oversight and collusion between operators and regulators.

Kyushu Electric Power is the only utility that has been cleared to restart two reactors at its Sendai plant, while other utilities have been blocked so far by legal action from nearby residents. One more reactor may restart later this month.

After Fukushima, Japan revamped its regulator and tasked it with implementing new standards that the NRA chairman has repeatedly said are among the world’s toughest.

But an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review this year made 26 suggestions and recommendations to address shortcomings – such as a lack of communication between departments and agencies, and failures on basic radiation standards – and cited only two examples of good practice.

Tokyo is revising the law to ensure there can be unscheduled inspections of nuclear sites, a standard practice in many countries, according to a NRA document, and the regulator is taking steps to improve its internal processes.

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Japanese regulator was still young and it would take time to build up a strong safety culture.

But opinion polls show that more than 50 percent of Japan’s population remain opposed to nuclear power following Fukushima, even if using other fuels boosts electricity prices.

The NRA faces accusations that it is caving into pressure to quickly restart an industry that used to supply a third of Japan’s electricity.

“The regulator is the guarantor for the population, not the manufacturers or the utilities, and it is failing,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent analyst and one of the authors of an annual report on the world nuclear industry.

“The first level where the NRA is failing is every single day in their oversight of Fukushima,” he said.

This week a power failure at the Fukushima site knocked out radiation monitoring and the freezing of a so-called ice wall to isolate the damaged reactors. Cooling and water circulation to keep the reactors in a safe state were not affected.

A NRA spokesman said it had not issued instructions to Tokyo Electric or released a media statement because no law was broken.

The government is not pressuring the NRA to approve restarts or interfering in its operations, said Yohei Ogino, a deputy director for energy policy in the industry ministry.

But he said the government will encourage operators “to voluntarily beef up safety, as the country has lost faith in nuclear power.”

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Utilities asked by shareholders to abandon nuclear energy


Protesters including shareholders hold up signs criticizing Tokyo Electric Power Co. executives in front of the Yoyogi First Gymnasium where the utility held its annual shareholders’ meeting on June 28.

Shareholders call on utilities to abandon nuclear energy

Japan’s nine major electric power companies faced renewed calls to end their dependence on nuclear energy at their annual shareholders’ meetings on June 28.

However, as such proposals require approval by a two-thirds majority of shareholders with voting rights for passage, all were expected to be rejected.

A total of 73 motions from shareholders were submitted at the meetings of the nine utilities. Many called on the companies to leave nuclear power generation.

But executives again stressed the need for nuclear plants to turn a profit.

At the shareholders’ meeting held by Kyushu Electric Power Co., President Michiaki Uriu said: “We have been able to secure a profit due to the resumption of operations at nuclear plants and a large decrease in fuel costs. We will work toward an early resumption of operations at the Genkai nuclear plant (in Saga Prefecture).”

Kyushu Electric Power resumed operations last year at two reactors of the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in southern Kyushu.

Kansai Electric Power Co. also resumed operations at two reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan this year, but the Otsu District Court issued a temporary injunction to halt them.

“We will make every effort to gain the understanding of society, starting with local residents,” President Makoto Yagi said at the Kansai Electric Power shareholders’ meeting on June 28. “Nuclear plants are an important energy source from the standpoint of economics and environmental issues. We will implement a cut in electricity rates as soon as possible through an early resumption of operations.”

At the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. meeting, President Naomi Hirose said: “We will proceed with measures to allow us to work on the important corporate issue of resuming operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant (in Niigata Prefecture).”

Hirose also apologized for a delay in announcing that meltdowns had occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck in March 2011.

Members of the Nuclear Phase-Out TEPCO Shareholder’s Movement handed out fliers in front of the venue for the TEPCO meeting.

Yui Kimura, 63, a leading member of the group, criticized the revelation about covering up the meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

“TEPCO is trying to resume operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant without taking responsibility for the accident,” Kimura said.

Another shareholder, Fusako Iwata, 66, from Gifu Prefecture, said: “At that time, the public believed without question what the central government and TEPCO said. We will not be deceived again.”

Utilities reject shareholders’ call to abandon nuclear power

Japan’s nine major electric power companies shot down renewed proposals calling for them to end their dependence on nuclear energy at their annual shareholders’ meetings on June 28.

The top executives of each utility again stressed the importance of nuclear power and indicated that they plan to resume such operations at their plants as soon as possible.

At the Tokyo Electric Power Co. shareholders’ meeting, President Naomi Hirose apologized for his predecessor’s instruction to employees to avoid using the term “meltdown” during the early phases of the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

I sincerely apologize for causing concerns,” Hirose said in responding to a question from a shareholder. “I promise that we will never impose silence on our employees under any circumstances.”

TEPCO described the condition of the Fukushima reactors as suffering less serious “core damage” for two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant.

Seventy-three motions from shareholders were submitted at the meetings of the nine utilities. Many called on the companies to end nuclear power generation.

However, since proposals require approval by a two-thirds majority of the voting rights of participating shareholders for passage, all were rejected.

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment