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New environment minister says Japan should stop using nuclear power and scrap nuclear reactors after Fukushima

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New environment minister says Japan should stop using nuclear power
 
September 12, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s newly installed environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, wants the country to close down nuclear reactors to avoid a repeat of the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.
The comments by the son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, himself an anti-nuclear advocate, are likely to prove controversial in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports a return to nuclear power under new safety rules imposed after Fukushima.
“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” Shinjiro Koizumi said at his first news conference late on Wednesday after he was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan’s nuclear regulator is overseen by Koizumi’s ministry.
Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi station run by Tokyo Electric Power melted down after being hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, spewing radiation that forced 160,000 people to flee, many never to return..
Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which before Fukushima supplied about 30 percent of the country’s electricity, are going through a re-licensing process under new safety standards imposed after the disaster highlighted regulatory and operational failings.
Japan has six reactors operating at present, a fraction of the 54 units before Fukushima. About 40 percent of the pre-Fukushima fleet is being decommissioned.
Shinjiro Koizumi’s father, a popular prime minister now retired from parliament, became a harsh critic of atomic energy after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
 
Japan should scrap nuclear reactors after Fukushima, says new environment minister
Shinjiro Koizumi says: ‘We will be doomed if we allow another accident to occur’
 
 
September 12, 2019
Japan’s new environment minister has called for the country’s nuclear reactors to be scrapped to prevent a repeat of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Shinjiro Koizumi’s comments, made hours after he became Japan’s third-youngest cabinet minister since the war, could set him on a collision course with Japan’s pro-nuclear prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” Koizumi, 38, said. “We will be doomed if we allow another nuclear accident to occur. We never know when we’ll have an earthquake.”
Koizumi faced an immediate challenge from the new trade and industry minister, who said that ridding Japan of nuclear power was “unrealistic”.
“There are risks and fears about nuclear power,” Isshu Sugawara told reporters. “But ‘zero-nukes’ is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic.”
Japan’s government wants nuclear power to comprise 20% to 22% of the overall energy mix by 2030, drawing criticism from campaigners who say nuclear plants will always pose a danger given the country’s vulnerability to large earthquakes and tsunamis.
Abe, however, has called for reactors to be restarted, arguing that nuclear energy will help Japan achieve its carbon dioxide emissions targets and reduce its dependence on imported gas and oil.
All of Japan’s 54 reactors were shut down after a giant tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011.
Nuclear power accounted for about 30% of Japan’s energy production before the disaster. Today, just nine reactors are back in operation, having passed stringent safety checks introduced after the Fukushima meltdown.
But the government is unlikely to meet its target of 30 reactor restarts by 2030 amid strong local opposition and legal challenges.
Although he faces potential opposition from inside the cabinet, Koizumi should at least receive the backing of his father, Junichiro Koizumi, a former prime minister who has emerged as a vocal opponent of nuclear power.
While Japan debates the future of nuclear energy, the younger Koizumi, who has been tipped as a future prime minister, is now at the centre of a controversy over the future of more than a million tonnes of contaminated water stored at Fukushima Daiichi.
On Tuesday, his predecessor as environment minister said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, had no choice but to dilute the water and release it into the Pacific ocean rather than store it indefinitely.
The prospect of dumping the water into the sea has angered local fishermen and drawn protests from neighbouring South Korea.

September 14, 2019 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Bill calling for “immediate halt” to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, far right, speaks at a press conference at the House of Representatives First Members’ Office Building in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 10, 2018, to announce the bill for a nuclear free, renewable energy plan. Sitting on the far left is former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa.
Junichiro Koizumi-led group pitches bill calling for ‘immediate halt’ to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power
A group advised by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday unveiled details about a bill calling for an “immediate halt” to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to prevent a recurrence of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The group is seeking to submit the bill to an upcoming Diet session in cooperation with opposition parties.
Sporting his signature leonine hairdo, Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular prime ministers in recent memory, made a rare appearance before reporters with his unabated frankness, lashing out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his persistent pro-nuclear stance.
“You may think the goal of zero nuclear power is hard to achieve, but it’s not,” Koizumi said, adding that he believes many lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party support nuclear power passively out of respect for Abe, but that they could be persuaded to embrace a zero-nuclear policy under a different leader.
“Judging from his past remarks, I don’t think we can realize zero nuclear power as long as Abe remains in power. But I do think we can make it happen if he is replaced by a prime minister willing to listen to the public,” Koizumi told a packed news conference organized by Genjiren, an anti-nuclear association for which he serves as an adviser along with Morihiro Hosokawa, another former prime minister.
Claiming that the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant exposed the “extremely dangerous” and “costly” nature of atomic power — with a means of disposing of spent fuel still not in sight — the bill drafted by Genjiren calls for Japan’s “complete switch” to renewable energy.
Specifically, it demands that all active nuclear reactors be switched offline immediately and that those currently idle never be reactivated. It also defines the government’s responsibility to initiate steps toward a mass decommissioning and to map out “foolproof and safe” plans to dispose of spent fuel rods.
The bill sets forth specific numerical targets, too, saying various sources of natural energy, including solar, wind, water and geothermal heat, should occupy more than 50 percent of the nation’s total power supply by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
That Japan has experienced no mass power shortage following the shutdown of all 48 reactors in the wake of the 2011 crisis, except for a handful since reactivated, is in itself a testament to the fact that “we can get by without nuclear power,” Koizumi said.
A 2017 white paper by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry shows Japan’s reliance on nuclear power has plunged to a mere 1 percent after the Fukushima meltdowns. The vast majority of Japan’s power is supplied by sources such as liquefied natural gas, coal and oil.
Although the controversy over nuclear power has rarely emerged as a priority in recent parliamentary debates, the creation of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan may herald a breakthrough.
Later Wednesday, Genjiren pitched the bill to the CDP in a meeting with some of its members, including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was in power when the Fukushima crisis erupted.
The CDP seeks to submit its own “zero nuclear power” bill to a regular Diet session slated to kick off later this month, positioning itself as a clearer anti-nuclear alternative to Abe’s ruling party than its predecessor, the Democratic Party.
The DP, which until recently held the most seats among opposition parties in both houses of the Diet, had failed to go all-out in crusading against nuclear power under the previous leadership of Renho, who goes by only one name.
At a party convention last March, Renho balked at adopting an ambitious target of slashing Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to zero by 2030 after reportedly facing resistance from party members beholden to the support of electricity industry unions.
In a preliminary draft unveiled Wednesday, the CDP’s bill-in-the-making called for ridding Japan of nuclear power “as soon as possible.”
 
Civic group proposes bill for Japan to exit nuclear power
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A Japanese civic group of activists, scholars and former politicians proposed a bill Wednesday to promote the country’s use of renewable energy and exit nuclear power in the hope of gaining the support of ruling and opposition parties.
“We will definitely realize zero nuclear plants by winning the support of many citizens,” former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who serves as the group’s adviser, told a press conference.
Koizumi, whose remarks still carry influence among the public, and former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa have been campaigning against the resumption of nuclear reactors taken offline after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Hosokawa is also an adviser to the group.
The leader of the group, Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, later exchanged views with officials of the anti-nuclear Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force in the House of Representatives. The group is urging lawmakers to submit the bill to the Diet’s ordinary session to be convened on Jan. 22.
The government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is promoting the restart of idle nuclear reactors.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a separate press conference Wednesday the government’s stance to bring reactors back online once they clear safety reviews of the Nuclear Regulation Authority “will not change.”
“We will also seek to lower the dependence on nuclear power as much as possible by maximizing the use of renewable energy and the thorough implementation of energy-saving measures,” the top government spokesman said.

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January 11, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear pact’s future could emerge in Abe-Trump talks, arms remarks to complicate talks on U.S.-Japan deal ending in ’18

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Troops from the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military carry out a joint exercise on Ukibaru Island, Okinawa Prefecture, on Monday.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York next week, both men will size up each other and discuss the bilateral relationship and the challenges that lie ahead.

One challenge, whether it’s on the agenda or not, will be the future direction of Japan’s nuclear power program.

With a key 1988 bilateral agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear power due to expire in July 2018, Tokyo and Washington next year will have to begin addressing the question of what, exactly, Japan’s nuclear policy should be.

Renegotiating the treaty is also sure to raise questions about the possibility of Japan using nuclear materials for military purposes, especially as Trump made contradictory statements about the possibility of arming Japan with nuclear weapons.

In an April TV interview, he suggested that Japan might defend itself from North Korea’s nuclear weapons by way of a nuclear arsenal of its own. That comment came a few weeks after another television interview in which he said that it is time to reconsider America’s policy of not allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons because it is going to happen anyway, and is only a question of time.

Trump later claimed that his opponents were misrepresenting his position. In the weeks before Tuesday’s election, he toned down his rhetoric on nuclear weapons use in general.

Japan’s reply to Trump was that it would continue to maintain its three non-nuclear principles of not manufacturing, possessing, or introducing nuclear weapons.

Now, with the agreement’s extension soon to become an issue in the bilateral relationship, experts are wondering how Trump, when he is president, will handle negotiations.

“I have absolutely no idea what position the Trump administration will adopt. It’s pretty clear their issues team hasn’t thought through things like this,” says James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The U.S. has a long-standing policy against the accumulation of plutonium, but Japan already has about 48 tons stockpiled domestically and in Europe, and how it will consume or disposed of it remains uncertain.

“Japan has plans to produce more plutonium in the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Given how few MOX-burning reactors will be operating in the foreseeable future, there is a very serious risk of a large imbalance between plutonium supply and demand,” Acton said, using the acronym for mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel. “I suspect the U.S. will use the occasion of the agreement’s renewal to try and address this problem.”

The Rokkasho plant is in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, says Trump has created an unprecedented degree of uncertainty in Japan about nuclear cooperation in general.

“Regardless of what position the new U.S. administration takes with regard to renewing the 1988 agreement, it is Japan, with its 48 tons of separated plutonium and no peaceful use plans, together with the nations of East Asia, that need to take a leadership role in reducing the risks from nuclear power. That includes terminating Rokkasho,” Burnie said.

The 1988 agreement came about after concerns in the U.S. that Japan was pursuing a plutonium program that could lead to proliferation issues, and a desire by Japan to make it easier to obtain U.S. approval for nuclear material shipments to Japan from Europe, as required by a previous agreement. In turn, the U.S. got more say in the inspection and security requirements for nuclear facilities in Japan.

The agreement also clearly emphasized it was only for the peaceful uses of power.

Article 8 of the agreement specifically bans the transfer of nuclear material to Japan (or from Japan to the U.S.) for use in nuclear explosive devices, for research specifically on, or development of, nuclear devices, and for military purposes.

“The U.S. does not think that Japan is looking to possess nuclear weapons. But holding so much plutonium, like Japan does, sets a very bad example for other countries and creates great concerns in the U.S. about the problem of nuclear terrorism,” wrote Tetsuya Endo, former deputy chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission in a March article for the Tokyo-based Institute for Peace Policies.

Nuclear pact’s future could emerge in Abe-Trump talks

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Will People Power End Japan’s Nuclear Plans? The Niigata Effect

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In Japan, energy policies may not go the way the government and the nuclear industry want, Pablo Figueroa writes.

There was a common concern in the mind of voters during the recent poll to elect a new governor in Japan’s Niigata prefecture: to be in favour of or against restarting nuclear reactors. The triumph of nuclear-cautious Ryuichi Yoneyama shows that people in that area of the country are distrustful of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the infamous electric utility that owns the Kashiwasaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.

Currently shut down for inspections, Kashiwasaki-Kariwa is a massive seven-reactor power station and the largest nuclear complex in the world. Across Niigata prefecture, local residents are worried about the safety of the reactors looming in their backyard. And they should be. TEPCO is one of the main parties responsible for the 2011 nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi. The company’s systemic falsifying of safety checks, concealment of the true extent of earthquake damages and multiple nuclear incidents at their plants, as well as their proven ineptitude in dealing with the Fukushima crisis (which resulted in the worsening of the nuclear disaster) has been thoroughly documented. TEPCO recklessly put financial profit ahead of public safety, and people know it.

Yoneyama, endorsed by the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, defeated Tamio Mori, a construction bureaucrat backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The LDP’s pro-nuclear stance has been maintained with an almost blind stubbornness and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has done his utmost to restart the reactors that went offline for safety checks following the Fukushima debacle.

What shaped the Niigata election was the candidates’ attitudes toward Kashiwasaki-Kariwa: Mori remained ambiguous while Yoneyama pledged not to support restarts without a deeper investigation of the Fukushima disaster and the ability to protect prefectural residents. Most media in Japan portrayed Yoneyama as antinuclear but his stance would be better described as nuclear-cautious. His intention is to build dialogue with the nuclear industry and the central government, rather than spark a confrontation.

Losing the Niigata election is a blow for the LDP since not being able to secure control over the restarting of Kashiwasaki-Kariwa will have implications for the government’s energy policy. At the moment, only two of Japan’s forty-eight operational reactors are connected to the grid, one at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and one at the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture. Previously, two more reactors had been restarted at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Oi Prefecture but were later shut down when a district court issued an injunction ordering Kansai Electric Power Company to halt them. This outcome was perceived as a major victory against the nuclear industry’s unethical policies that dismiss people’s logical fears as unfounded.

Despite claims of improved safety standards, the reactors that are currently functioning still remain a huge public threat. When Unit 3 at the Ikata plant was restarted, the governor of Ehime stated that an accident similar to that in Fukushima will never happen. This claim is based on a safety myth and unnecessarily puts prefectural residents at risk. First, the plant sits just five kilometres off the Median Tectonic Line Fault Zone. This fault line, Japan’s longest, is active and projections estimate that a major quake will strike the island of Shikoku where the plant is located. Furthermore, the so-called emergency evacuation plans are largely smoke and mirrors. Nuclear energy operators make the common mistake – or adopt the typical strategy – of relying on best-case rather than worst-case scenarios. For instance, if a nuclear accident were to occur at Ikata, it is expected that people will flee by boat or car but this does not take into consideration potential bottlenecks, damage to roads, etc. A look at the access routes suggests that almost 5,000 people living on the peninsula west of the plant might become trapped. If that happens, they will be required to stay indoors where they would have no effective means of avoiding exposure to radioactive contamination. In addition, radiation-proof facilities in Ikata town are located underneath landslide-prone areas.

The situation of the Sendai Plant in Kagoshima is comparable. A major earthquake recently hit Kumamoto, an adjacent prefecture, and this was yet another red flag forcing many residents to consider how and where they would escape to should a major nuclear accident take place. The electric utility does not have a proper contingency plan. This severe flaw is a common pattern among nuclear companies and has been repeatedly denounced by groups opposing nuclear restarts.

Where is Japan going in terms of nuclear politics? The country’s leadership is in denial over the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe and the tragic situation of nuclear evacuees, the multiple issues surrounding radioactive contamination of vast expanses of land and the potential spikes in the incidence of thyroid cancer among children in Fukushima. Abe’s claims that Fukushima is ‘under control’ were met with public criticism and widespread scepticism: polls showed that practically nobody believed him. This attitude goes in lockstep with the electric utilities’ assertions that, under more stringent safety regulations, it is ‘safe’ to restart some reactors. None of the arguments employed to convince people of the need for nuclear power hold true: as it is, nuclear power is neither a safe nor a cheap option.

However, the government keeps pushing for a nuclear renaissance, completely disregarding the important lessons that could have been learned from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.  But there might be a snag in the government’s plans. The ‘Niigata Effect’ may be repeated during prefectural elections next year in Onagawa, Tokai and Hamaoka, where utilities are trying to get reactors back online. The outcome of these elections might delay or impede such processes; municipalities’ might not grant the consent needed for restarts.

Without a proper consideration of the risks involved, transparency, citizen participation, and multiple stakeholder involvement, there is the danger of reproducing the institutional mindset that incubated the Fukushima catastrophe. Japan’s leadership would benefit greatly from addressing these issues rather than trying to sweep them under the rug. What is at stake goes beyond economic profit and political muscle. Irresponsible nuclear policies endanger the wellbeing of present and future generations in Japan and the wider world.

http://www.policyforum.net/will-people-power-put-end-japans-nuclear-plans/

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Ministry Devises Crafty Finance Scheme Favoring Nuclear Power

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The industry ministry, the supposed champion of electricity market deregulation, is making a move that runs counter to the principles of reform by giving preferential treatment to nuclear power.

A proposal by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry would force new electricity suppliers that have entered the market in response to its liberalization to shoulder part of the costs of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan was submitted to an expert council discussing the issue.

The ministry, which regulates the power industry, has already presented a plan to make such new utilities bear part of the costs of decommissioning aging reactors at other nuclear power plants.

The power market reform, which was expanded this spring to cover retail electricity sales as well, is designed to abolish the regional monopolies of established utilities, thereby encouraging new entries into the market.

It is also aimed at lowering electricity rates by separating the operations of power plants and transmission grids to promote fair competition.

The ministry cannot claim it is working for fair competition if it is now creating rules that force new electricity providers that have nothing to do with any nuclear power plant or the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to pay part of the decommissioning bills.

In its attempt to get new utilities involved in the financing plan, the ministry is targeting the fees they pay to use the power transmission lines operated by established utilities.

The total cost of decommissioning the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant is estimated at several trillion yen.

The ministry has stressed its intention to protect the public from the huge financial burden. It has promised to make Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima plant, pay for the work by saving necessary funds through streamlining its operations.

But the ministry has proposed a new system to use the money saved from more efficient power grid operations primarily to cover decommissioning costs.

The current rule requires major utilities to lower the charges they impose on smaller power suppliers using their transmission lines when higher efficiency lifts their profits. But the proposed system would exempt the big power companies from the rule when they spend the money saved on decommissioning reactors.

The ministry seems to be trying to convince the public that this approach would not increase the financial burden on consumers because it doesn’t involve price hikes.

But this idea raises some questions that cannot be overlooked.

The costs of decommissioning reactors are by nature expenses related to power generation. But the ministry’s proposal would transfer part of the expenses to the operations of transmission lines.

As a result, new power suppliers using TEPCO’s transmission cables would have to pay higher fees.

Subscribers to such new utilities would also have to shoulder part of the burden. In particular, the envisioned system would be totally unacceptable for consumers who have switched to new power providers to avoid using electricity generated by nuclear plants.

The ministry appears to be targeting an “easy source” of revenue. The charges on using transmission lines are not highly visible to general consumers.

The ministry’s plan to use power transmission charges as a source of funds to decommission reactors is a crafty scheme to give preferential treatment to nuclear power. Its aim is to ensure nuclear plants will not lose their cost competitiveness against other electricity sources like thermal power generation.

For many years, both the government and established utilities have been emphasizing that atomic energy is a low-cost source of electricity.

They are grossly irresponsible and insincere if they are trying to impose part of the inevitable cost burden of decommissioning reactors on competitors.

The ministry should rethink the idea from the viewpoint of the basic principles of market deregulation.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611080049.html

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan to End Nuclear Power Generation in 2025

A very wise decision, we wish that other governments also would be wise enough to do the same. Congratulations to you Taiwan!

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Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei City in the northern part of the island. Its construction has been suspended due to an anti-nuclear movement that has intensified since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TAIPEI–In a rare move for power-hungry Asia, the Taiwanese government has decided to abolish nuclear power generation by 2025 to meet the public’s demand for a nuclear-free society following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, equivalent to the Cabinet in Japan, approved revisions to the electricity business law, which aim to promote the private-sector’s participation in renewable energy projects, on Oct. 20.

“Revising the law shows our determination to promote the move toward the abolition of nuclear power generation and change the ratios of electricity sources,” said President Tsai Ing-wen.

The government plans to start deliberations on the revised bill in the Legislative Yuan, or the parliament, in the near future, with the goal of passing it within this year.

Movements toward a nuclear-free society are active in Europe. For example, Germany has decided to abolish nuclear power generation by 2022.

On the other hand, China and India are increasing nuclear power generation to meet the growing demand for electricity. In Taiwan, nuclear power accounted for 14.1 percent of all the electricity generated in 2015. At present, three nuclear power plants are operating.

However, the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant heightened public opinion against nuclear power generation. In response to the sentiment, Tsai, who assumed the presidency in May with a vow of establishing a nuclear-free society, led the government’s effort to abolish nuclear power.

Like Japan, Taiwan is hit by many earthquakes. The three nuclear power plants currently in operation will reach their service lives of 40 years by 2025. The revised bill will clearly stipulate that operations of all the nuclear plants will be suspended by that year. The stipulation will close the possible extension of their operations.

The government is looking to solar power and wind power as the pillars of renewable energies. It aims to increase their total ratio among all electricity sources from the current 4 percent to 20 percent in 2025.

However, meeting the goal assumes that electricity generated by solar power will increase 24-fold in 10 years. Because of that, some people harbor doubts on the viability of the plan.

“A hurdle to overcome to achieve the goal is very high,” said an electric power industry source.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610230028.html

October 23, 2016 Posted by | Taiwan | , , | 1 Comment

Opposition to nuclear energy grows in Japan

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Opinion polls show the Japanese people oppose nuclear plants going back into operation. It underlines the scale of the problem facing the government in convincing everyone that it’s safe. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo.”

Before October 16, Ryuichi Yoneyama had contested four regional elections and been soundly beaten each time. Now, however, the 49-year-old qualified doctor and lawyer is to be sworn in as governor of Niigata Prefecture after defeating a candidate who had the backing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and was considered the firm favorite.

Yoneyama worked hard for his victory over Tamio Mori, a former bureaucrat with the construction ministry, but when the voters stepped into the voting booths there was a single issue that occupied their minds.

Mori and the LDP want to restart the world’s largest nuclear power station, the sprawling Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which lies on the prefecture’s coast. They insist that as Japan moves towards the sixth anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, triggering the second-worst nuclear crisis in history, new safety measures have been implemented that ensure the same thing could not happen in Niigata.

The voters did not agree, with 528,455 supporting Yoneyama’s pledge to not grant approval for Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to be restarted. In comparison, 465,044 voted for Mori.

Nationwide opposition

Those figures are broadly replicated across Japan, with a poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper on October 15 and 16 determining that 57 percent of the public is against the nation’s nuclear power plants being restarted, and just 29 percent supporting the resumption of reactors that have nearly all been mothballed since 2011.

At present, only two of the nation’s 54 reactors have been restarted – and that after much wrangling through the courts after local residents and environmental groups expressed their opposition.

Nevertheless, a report issued by the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) in July predicts that seven additional reactors will be on-line by the end of March next year and a further 12 will be operational one year later.

But as the opinion polls show, the majority of the public is against a policy that the government tells them is in the nation’s best interests.

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“Since the accident at Fukushima, many people have realized the negatives that go along with the positives of nuclear power, and they simply do not want to take that sort of risk again,” said Hiroko Moriwaki, a librarian who lives in Tokyo.

“And many think that we do not need to,” she added. “Since the disaster, the reactors have not been operational and look around you; we have all the electricity that we need, there are no blackouts and everything is normal.

“Just after the earthquake, we were told to do everything we could to save energy, but not any more,” Moriwaki told DW.

“So maybe we have reached the point where we don’t actually need nuclear energy and that this is in fact an opportunity that the country can take advantage of,” she said.

Japan is an advanced and industrialized nation with vast amounts of skills and technologies that could be put to use to develop and then commercialize new sources of safe, environment-friendly energy, she said.

As well as solar and wind power, which are already visible across Japan, there are moves afoot to harness Japan’s tidal and wave energy, while vast amounts of potential geothermal energy remain virtually untapped.

“We have so much technology, so wouldn’t it be best to divert some of that away from more investment in nuclear energy and put it into fuel sources that are safer and do not harm the environment at all?” Moriwaki asked.

Japan’s energy needs

Critics of this approach – of which the government is one – say Japanese industry needs a secure supply of energy right now and that Japan is presently importing 84 percent of its energy needs, primarily in the form of coal, gas and oil. And that is both expensive and to blame for the nation’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases climbing.

Still, the Japanese public is far from convinced that nuclear energy is the answer.

“It’s complicated and we keep hearing from the government how important it is to have the nuclear plants operating again, but after Fukushima, I think, a lot of people no longer trust the operators or the government,” said Kanako Hosomura, a housewife whose family home is north of Tokyo and only about 250 km from the Fukushima plant.

Inquiries after the disaster revealed that TEPCO ignored experts’ warnings about the potential size and power of tsunami and had failed to take precautions such as ensuring a backup power supply in the event the generators used to cool the reactors were out of operation.

The government also came under fire after the media reported that it did not have a full understanding of the severity of the crisis, while it was also issuing statements that the situation was completely under control at the same time as drawing up plans to evacuate tens of millions of people from a huge swathe of eastern Japan.

“When it comes down to it, I have a young son and a family and their safety is my number one priority,” said Hosomura. “Maybe Japan was lucky the Fukushima disaster was not worse than it was. Maybe next time we will not be so lucky.”

http://dw.com/p/2RVwE?fb

October 22, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

LDP may lose next election if nuclear exit becomes main issue: ex-PM

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the pro-nuclear ruling party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could lose the next Lower House election if nuclear power becomes the main election issue.

Citing recent gubernatorial election wins for candidates concerned about restarting nuclear power plants in Niigata and Kagoshima prefectures, Koizumi said during a recent interview with Kyodo News, “(Anti-nuclear) opinions are beginning to grow . . . that could influence the (next) House of Representatives election.”

If opposition parties unite in fielding anti-nuclear candidates and make complete phase-out of the country’s nuclear plants one of the top election issues, they can defeat the ruling Liberal Democratic Party by tapping into voter fears following the 20111 Fukushima meltdowns, Koizumi said.

The current term of Lower House lawmakers expires in December 2018, but some senior LDP officials have said Abe might dissolve the house for an election early next year.

Koizumi, who promoted nuclear power generation as prime minister between 2001 and 2006, has become an active anti-nuclear campaigner. He has repeatedly criticized Abe and the way his government is dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

There is no way that a party which ignores the will of the public can maintain its hold on power,” said Koizumi, who retired from politics in 2009.

Koizumi also said that the main opposition Democratic Party “has not realized that the nuclear issue can be the biggest election issue.”

The slogans by promoters of nuclear power that (nuclear power) is safe, low-cost and clean, are all lies,” Koizumi said.

He noted that the government would be forced to pour more funds into Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled following the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, to decontamination costs at the plant and compensation.

The government should give up its nuclear-fuel recycling policy, including the use of the Monju fast-breeder reactor, Koizumi said. The government has not decided on the fate of the trouble-prone reactor, which was intended to play a key role in the recycling policy.

On Abe’s drive to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, Koizumi said it will not be possible due to a lack of sufficient public support.

Koizumi said a breakthrough on the decades-old territorial dispute over a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido will also be difficult as Russia will not accept Japan’s ownership of the islands.

Abe hopes to make progress on the issue, which has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty, when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 15 in Japan.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/21/national/politics-diplomacy/ldp-may-lose-next-election-nuclear-exit-becomes-main-issue-ex-pm/

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Ex-PM Koizumi: ‘Why doesn’t gov’t eliminate nuclear power?’

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gestures as he speaks at a hotel in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Oct. 18, 2016

MATSUMOTO, Nagano — Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Oct. 18 commented on the victory of an anti-nuclear newcomer in the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, asking why the government isn’t giving up nuclear power when it can.

The newly elected governor, Ryuichi Yoneyama, has expressed a cautious view on the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

“He beat a candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Komeito and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, and it was an unexpected upset. I guess that the public has come to understand that nuclear power plants are dangerous, not safe,” Koizumi said during an address in the Nagano Prefecture city of Matsumoto.

He underscored the impact of the election, saying that if the opposition parties jointly field candidates in the next House of Representatives election and make the elimination of nuclear power plants the main focal point, “There’s no telling how the LDP will end up.”

Koizumi said that while he was in power, he believed the opinions of experts and thought that nuclear power plants were necessary. But his view on nuclear power changed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“With the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I realized that the descriptions of (atomic power) as safe, clean and low-cost were all lies.”

The former prime minister said he started efforts to eliminate all nuclear power plants in Japan after realizing the mistake and wanting to correct it and make amends. At times during his address, Koizumi raised his voice in earnest like he did when he was prime minister.

“They (the government) can eliminate nuclear power, so why don’t they?” he asked. “It’s time to turn a predicament into a chance.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161019/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Despite utilities’ attempts, nuclear safety myth can never be revived

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The No. 3, left, and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture

Japan should become a society that is not dependent on nuclear power generation as quickly as possible.

Five years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated wide areas in the northeastern Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, triggering the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Our editorials will continue arguing for a nuclear-free future for Japanese society.

The Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture on March 9 issued an injunction against the operation of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. The court told the utility to immediately shut down the No. 3 reactor at the plant and keep the No. 4 unit off-line. Both reactors were restarted earlier this year, but a malfunction automatically shut down the No. 4 unit on Feb. 29.

It was the first time for a Japanese court to order a halt to an online nuclear reactor.

The Abe administration can hardly claim that its policy decisions concerning nuclear power generation have been solidly based on lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Rather, the administration has been trying to revive the nuclear power policy that was in place before the disaster and restart as many reactors as possible.

The court decision echoes public anxiety about the government’s move to gradually regain Japan’s nuclear capacity without serious public debate on the issue.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government should sincerely respond to the important social changes caused by the triple meltdown and take steps toward a major shift in energy policy.

MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT NEW SAFETY STANDARDS

As for the Takahama plant, the Fukui District Court issued an injunction against plans to restart the two reactors in April last year.

Although another judge at the district court repealed the injunction eight months later, the fact remains that the judiciary has twice denied the safety of reactors that passed the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster.

When the Fukui District Court in April rejected the restarts of the reactors, proponents of nuclear power generation played down the importance of the order, saying it was “an exceptional decision by an exceptional judge.”

After the Otsu District Court’s injunction, however, this argument no longer holds water.

Looking back on the harrowing accident in Fukushima Prefecture, the district court pointed out that a severe nuclear accident could cause environmental destruction beyond national borders. It is hard to assert that efficiency in power generation should be pursued even at the risk of devastating disasters, the court maintained.

The court also contended that the NRA and Kansai Electric have made insufficient efforts to pinpoint the causes of the Fukushima accident.

The NRA’s endorsement of the safety of a reactor cannot be seen as a base for a sense of security within society, the court said.

The court’s decision that meeting the new regulatory standards alone does not necessarily ensure the safety of a reactor has huge implications.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said the Abe administration remains committed to promoting reactor restarts in line with the NRA’s judgments.

But the administration should carefully consider the significance of the fact that the judiciary has raised fundamental questions about the entire system of post-Fukushima nuclear safety regulation.

EVACUATION PLANS IN DOUBT

An Asahi Shimbun editorial published in July 2011 called for the creation of a society without nuclear power.

While supporting the temporary operation of the minimum number of reactors that are absolutely needed to meet electricity demand, the editorial proposed that nuclear power generation should be phased out in two to three decades by decommissioning dangerous and aging reactors.

In fact, all nuclear reactors in Japan were off-line for about two years and one month over the past five years. No serious power crunches or economic upheavals took place during the period, disproving initial warnings about such possibilities.

The experiences during the period have shown that the number of “absolutely necessary nuclear reactors” is not that many. This lends weight to the argument that strict conditions must be met for restarting a reactor.

A growing number of Japanese are calling for the immediate shutdown of all reactors or a steady reduction in Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy. An Asahi Shimbun public opinion poll in February confirmed this trend; a majority of respondents voiced opposition to reactor restarts.

The Abe administration initially pledged to lower the nation’s dependence on nuclear power over time. But it has gradually ratcheted up its rhetoric in promoting nuclear power generation through remarks that appear designed to create a new “nuclear safety myth.”

In his 2013 speech supporting Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, Abe told the world that the situation concerning radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima plant was “under control.”

He has also contended in the Diet that the NRA’s new safety standards were “the strictest in the world.”

But the Otsu District Court’s decision adjudged the standards as insufficient for giving the green light to a reactor restart.

In addition, there have been serious concerns about the lack of effective and reliable plans for emergency evacuations during severe nuclear accidents.

The new safety standards do not cover evacuation plans, and the NRA does not examine such plans when it evaluates the safety of a reactor.

In the case of the Takahama plant, a severe nuclear accident would force about 180,000 residents in Fukui, Kyoto and Shiga prefectures to evacuate. But no drill to ascertain the viability of evacuation plans was conducted before the two reactors resumed operations.

The court referred to the government’s “obligation to develop regulatory standards from a broad perspective that also covers the need of evacuation plans.” The government should immediately respond to this proposition.

NUCLEAR POWER OF GREAT PUBLIC CONCERN

Despite the enormous scale of damage caused by the Fukushima accident, the responsibility of those who had championed nuclear power generation has yet to be clarified.

As the Otsu District Court pointed out, the Japanese public who watched the disaster unfold at the Fukushima No. 1 plant understand the “overwhelming scope” of the damages caused by the accident as well as the “great confusion” that arose during the evacuation process.

Yet both the government and electric utilities are working in tandem to restart reactors as if they have forgotten what happened five years ago.

Some revelations have cast serious doubt about utilities’ commitment to learning lessons from the accident and putting the top priority on safety.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima plant, recently “discovered” a guideline in its operational manual that would have allowed it to announce core meltdowns much earlier than it did.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. has asked for the NRA’s permission to withdraw a plan to build a quake-proof building that can serve as an on-site response center during a severe nuclear accident. The company promised to build the emergency facility at its Sendai nuclear power plant before it restarted two reactors at the plant last year.

These episodes raise suspicions that the utilities are returning to their pre-disaster practice of cunningly using experts to make key decisions about their nuclear power operations within the close-knit pro-nuclear community.

Many issues concerning nuclear power policy are too complicated and arcane for ordinary citizens to easily understand. But the Fukushima nuclear crisis has reminded Japanese that nuclear power generation is an issue that is directly linked to their livelihoods and lifestyle choices.

No matter how hard they try to revive the safety myth about nuclear power, government policymakers and members of the “nuclear village,” the closed and small community of people and organizations with vested interests in promoting nuclear power, will never be able to bring the nation back to the days before the Fukushima disaster.

Nuclear power generation has already become a familiar issue and a matter of serious concern to the great majority of Japanese.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201603100041

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Former PM Naoto Kan says nuclear power makes little economic sense, must end

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Although the first reactor in Japan to be fired up in two years went online last month, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday that Japan needs to seek a nuclear-free path.

This is a lesson the country has learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said Kan, who was prime minister when the Fukushima No. 1 plant was hit by a huge quake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

“I’m absolutely sure that there will no longer be nuclear power by the end of this century. This is because it doesn’t make sense economically, and enough energy can be provided without it,” Kan said in a lecture to foreign residents in Tokyo.

While reactor 1 at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture was restarted in August, Japan has survived the past few summers without nuclear power, Kan said.

He added that although the current government is still promoting nuclear power, Japan has seen an increase of renewable energy since the Fukushima accident, especially from solar panels.

He said nuclear power was believed to be a cheap source of energy, but it is actually expensive, considering the cost of decommissioning and managing nuclear waste.

Kan also shared his experience of visiting Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in Finland, where a final nuclear waste repository is being constructed. There, he was told it would take 100,000 years for the radiation of nuclear waste to descend to the same level of the uranium that exists in the natural environment.

Using nuclear power, Kan said, means increasing the amount of dangerous waste that will trouble future generations, adding that this is why other former prime ministers such as Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa are also voicing their wish to end Japan’s dependence on it.

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/16/national/former-pm-naoto-kan-says-nuclear-power-makes-little-economic-sense-must-end/#.VfnAxZeFSM8

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Climate Risks from Nuclear Power. Radioactive Krypton 85: Atmospheric-Electrical and Air-Chemical Effects of Ionizing Radiation in the Atmosphere

Title: Climate risks by radioactive krypton-85 from nuclear fission Atmospheric-electrical and air-chemical effects of ionizing radiation in the atmosphere
Klimarisiken durch radioaktives Krypton-85 aus der Kernspaltung Luftelektrische und luftchemische Wirkungen ionisierender Strahlung in der Atmosphaere
Authors : Kollert, R. (Kollert und Donderer, Bremen (Germany)); Gewaltfreie Aktion Kaiseraugst, Liestal (Switzerland);
Corporate author: Bund fuer Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND), Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany). Landesverband Baden-Wuerttemberg ; Bund Naturschutz in Bayern e.V., Muenchen (Germany)
Publication year: 1994
Language: German ;
Abstract:
The study shows that krypton-85 from nuclear fission enhances air ionization and, thus, interferes with the atmospheric-electrical system and the water balance of the earth atmosphere. This is reason for concern: There are unforeseeable effects for weather and climate if the krypton-85 content of the earth atmosphere continues to rise. There may be a krypton-specific greenhouse effect and a collapse of the natural atmospheric-electrical field. In addition, human well-being may be expected to be impaired as a result of the diminished atmospheric-electrical field. There is also the risk of radiochemical actions and effects caused-by krypton-85-containing plumes in other air-borne pollutants like the latters’ transformation to aggressive oxidants. This implies radiation smog and more acid rain in the countries exposed. This study summarizes findings gained in these issues by various sciences, analyses them and elaborates hypotheses on the actions and effects of krypton-85 on the air, the atmosphere and the climate. (orig./HP);
Abstract : Die Studie zeigt, dass Krypton-85 aus der Kernspaltung die Luftionisation erhoeht und damit in das luftelektrische System sowie in den Wasserhaushalt der Erdatmosphaere eingreift. Dies gibt Anlass zu Sorge: Nicht absehbare Folgen fuer Wetter und Klima, falls der Krypton-85-Gehalt der Erdatmosphaere weiter stark ansteigt. Ein Krypton-spezifischer Treibhauseffekt ist moeglich sowie ein Zusammenbruch des natuerlichen luftelektrischen Feldes. Zu erwarten ist ueberdies eine Beeintraechtigung menschlichen Wohlbefindens infolge des verringerten luftelektrischen Feldes. Hinzu kommt das Risiko strahlenchemischer Wirkungen der Krypton-85-haltigen Abgasschwaden auf andere Luftschadstoffe, insbesondere deren Umwandlung in aggressive Oxidantien. Das bedeutet Strahlen-Smog und mehr sauren Regen ueber den betroffenen Laendern. Die Studie fuehrt zu diesen Problemkreisen Erkenntnisse aus verschiedenen Sachgebieten zusammen, analysiert sie und begruendet Hypothesen zur Wirkung von Krypton-85 auf die Luft, die Atmosphaere und das Klima. (orig./HP) ;
Pagination/Size: 66 p.;
SIGLE classification: 08N – Meteorology, climatology ; 03J – Nuclear waste reprocessing;
Keyword(s) :
FUEL REPROCESSING PLANTS; RADIOACTIVE EFFLUENTS; KRYPTON 85 ; ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURE PATHWAY; ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY ; ATMOSPHERIC PRECIPITATIONS; CLIMATIC CHANGE ; RADIOECOLOGY; IONIZING RADIATIONS ; PHOTOIONIZATION; AIR; EARTH ATMOSPHERE;
Document type :
I – Miscellaneous ;
Series / Report no. :
BUND Information : Luftelektrische und luftchemische Wirkungen ionisierender Strahlung in der Atmosphaere. v. 51 (ISSN )
Other identifier :
DE_ 1995:4257; DE;
handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10068/255704
Provenance: SIGLE;
Get a copy:
FIZ – Fachinformationszzentrum Karlsruhe TIB – Technische Informationsbibliothek
http://www.opengrey.eu/partner/fiz
http://www.opengrey.eu/partner/tib
Availability :
Available from TIB Hannover
Country :
Germany ;
http://www.opengrey.eu/item/display/10068/255704
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To cite or link to this reference:
http://hdl.handle.net/10068/255704

Note: Krypton is emitted during nuclear reactor operations, nuclear accidents, and nuclear fuel reprocessing (it’s present in the spent fuel-nuclear waste): “Radionuclide Release Limits—In the context of this ANPR, the specific radionuclide release limits established under 40 CFR 190.10(b). These are the legally permissible maximum amounts of krypton-85, iodine-129, as well as plutonium-239 and other alpha emitters that can enter the environment from the processes of nuclear power operations in any given year, on an energy production basis… There have been active reprocessing facilities in 15 countries, including the U.S., although some of these facilities were more research-oriented as opposed to commercial reprocessing facilities. Of the current operating facilities, the most widely known are the facilities at Sellafield (United Kingdom) and La Hague (France), which constitute the first and second leading producers globally for krypton-85. Both facilities discharge krypton-85 directly to the environment.https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/02/04/2014-02307/environmental-radiation-protection-standards-for-nuclear-power-operations

Potential radioactive pollutants resulting from expanded energy programs” By Hong Lee, et. al. Environmental Monitoring and Support Laboratory (Las Vegas, Nev.). Monitoring Systems Research and Development Division, EPA-600/7-77-082 August 1977 See text p. 83 re nuclear reactor emissions: http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/9101EI5M.PDF?Dockey=9101EI5M.PDF

Source: Mining Awareness

https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/climate-risks-from-nuclear-power-radioactive-krypton-85-atmospheric-electrical-and-air-chemical-effects-of-ionizing-radiation-in-the-atmosphere/

September 18, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

End the nuclear ‘safety myth’

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s final report on the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant puts the main blame on the then prevailing assumption that Japan’s “nuclear power plants were so safe that an accident of this magnitude was simply unthinkable.” Constant monitoring is needed to make sure the government, power companies and nuclear regulatory authorities aren’t falling into the same “safety myth” as they push to reactivate idled reactors that meet what is now touted as the “world’s most stringent” nuclear safety standards.

Last week, Kyushu Electric Power Co. began commercial operation of the No. 1 reactor of its Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture — a little over a month after it became the first reactor idled since 2011 to be reactivated on the basis of the safety standards that were tightened in response to the Fukushima disaster. The utility plans to restart the plant’s No. 2 reactor as early as next month, and the Abe administration and the power industry are pushing to bring more idled plants back online once they have cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening.

The regulatory system for nuclear power generation has been reformed since the 2011 crisis. The old Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which came under fire for the Fukushima debacle, has been replaced by the NRA, and new regulations introduced in 2013 require operators of nuclear power plants to beef up their defense against natural disasters such as major earthquakes and tsunamis. But while the NRA itself states that compliance with the new standards does not guarantee the plants’ safety, the government says the plants are ready for restart because they meet the NRA criteria. No one appears ready to take final responsibility for the plants’ safety.

The IAEA report, compiled by around 180 experts from 42 countries and submitted to an annual general conference of the United Nations nuclear watchdog this week, highlights the “assumption” held by Japan’s nuclear plant operators prior to 2011 that a crisis of that magnitude would not happen, which was never challenged by the government or regulatory authorities, leaving the nation unprepared for a severe accident.

The Fukushima power plant lost its emergency power supply after it was flooded by a 15-meter tsunami triggered by the magnitude-9 quake on March 11, 2011. The loss of power crippled its crucial core-cooling functions and led to the meltdowns in its three operating reactors. Citing Tepco’s failure to take precautionary action against such external hazards despite an estimate prior to the disaster that a powerful quake off Fukushima could cause a tsunami of roughly the same scale that hit the plant site, the report said “there was not sufficient consideration of low probability, high consequence external events,” partly because “of the basic assumption in Japan, reinforced over many decades, that the robustness of the technical design of the nuclear plants would provide sufficient protection against postulated risks.” This assumption led to “a tendency for organizations and their staff not to challenge the level of safety” and “resulted in a situation where safety improvements were not introduced promptly.”

The report also pointed to the deficiencies in Japan’s nuclear regulatory system behind the Fukushima disaster. “The regulation of nuclear safety in Japan at the time of the accident was performed by a number of organizations with different roles and responsibilities and complex interrelationships. It was not fully clear which organizations had the responsibility and authority to issue binding instructions on how to respond to safety issues without delay,” it said. “The regulations, guidelines and procedures in place at the time of the accident were not fully in line with international practice in some key areas, most notably in relation to periodic safety reviews, re-evaluation of hazards, severe accident management and safety culture.”

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, in his foreword to the report, says Japan’s regulatory system has since been reformed to meet international standards, with regulators given clearer responsibilities and greater authority. Whether the new plant safety standards are the world’s most stringent or not, plants that meet the standards are supposed to withstand much greater levels of external hazards and be better able to respond to emergencies than before.

Still, complacency under the new standards would risk reviving the same safety myth rebuked in the report. Questioning whether the tightened standards are sufficient could be branded as demanding zero tolerance of risks and thereby unrealistic. However, as the IAEA report points out, it was an “unlikely combination of events” that hit the Tepco plant, and the utility’s unpreparedness for such a situation that resulted in the 2011 disaster.

We need to consider whether the tendency to dismiss low-probability risks as “small enough” — as was, for example, the risk of Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant being hit by a volcanic eruption when the go-ahead was given for its restart — is acceptable from the viewpoint of preventing severe accidents at nuclear plants in the future.

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/09/14/editorials/end-nuclear-safety-myth/#.Vfjrx5eFSM9

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

EDITORIAL: Reflections on 2 years without nuclear power ahead of planned restarts

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
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201507300035

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Shareholders pressure utilities to ditch nuclear power

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Shareholders and politicians on Thursday urged the nation’s top utilities to exit nuclear power as the central government moves to restart reactors idled by public safety fears in the wake of the triple core meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture in 2011.

 

Despite a number of antinuclear proposals pushed at the shareholders’ meetings, however, officials from the utilities said this week they were eager to restart nuclear power plants as soon as possible after their businesses were staggered by the halt of all commercial nuclear reactors in the country after 3/11.

Nine utilities with nuclear plants, including the biggest, Tokyo Electric Power Co., which manages the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 power station — held their general shareholders’ meetings at a time when a nuclear power plant in the southwest is preparing go back online this summer for the first time under tighter post-Fukushima safety requirements.

Japan, which relies heavily on imported energy, invested heavily in nuclear power for decades, making withdrawal from what some believe to be a cheaper, less-polluting power source a difficult proposition to swallow.

At Tepco’s meeting, Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of the town of Futaba — which has been rendered uninhabitable by radiation contamination — said pulling out of atomic power is “the only way for the company to survive.”

Tepco, as the utility is known, has “forced people who were living peacefully into a situation like hell . . . I propose that Tepco break away from nuclear power,” the mayor said. Futaba co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Officials from Kansai Electric Power Co., which held its shareholders meeting in Kobe for the first time in many years, faced a barrage of tough questions about nuclear power, its decision to raise prices, and its ¥148.3 billion net loss in fiscal 2014.

Kepco faced sharp criticism for hiking household rates 8.36 percent at the beginning of the month because, as it acknowledges, its 11 commercial reactors are still idle, forcing it to rely more on imported fossil fuels. That was a sore point Thursday with politicians representing cities that hold Kepco shares.

“It’s regrettable the rise in rates is putting strong pressure on people’s lifestyles. Kepco’s efforts at management efficiency are still lacking,” said Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto. Kobe owns about 3 percent of Kepco’s stock.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, one of the utility’s harshest critics, was not present Thursday but submitted a motion together with the city of Kyoto calling on Kepco to get out of nuclear power. The motion was voted down. Osaka owns about 9.4 percent of Kepco’s stock.

Kepco’s heavy losses and its plans to restart reactor Nos. 3 and 4 at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture — despite a provisional injunction from the Fukui District Court in April — prompted calls from many shareholders for management, especially Chairman Shosuke Mori and President Makoto Yagi, to resign. But they and 14 other senior executives were re-elected.

“Nuclear power is part of the national energy policy, an important baseload. For reasons of energy security, economics, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we need to restart the reactors,” Yagi said at a news conference in Osaka on Thursday afternoon.

Shareholders expressed worries about how Kepco will adjust to the full deregulation of the electricity market next year, which is expected bring new, more flexible competition for electricity service at a time when the company is financially strapped.

In Fukuoka, shareholders at Kyushu Electric Power Co., which is looking to restart its Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture in August, proposed that the president be dismissed, saying his stance of continuing nuclear power has hurt earnings.

But President Michiaki Uriu told the meeting that the utility “aims to restart nuclear reactors as soon as possible on the premise that securing safety is the priority.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to reactivate reactors that meet safety regulations beefed-up by the new nuclear regulator that was set up after the Fukushima crisis. The majority of the public, however, remains opposed.

The government plans to make nuclear energy account for 20 percent to 22 percent of the country’s total electricity supply in 2030, compared with around 30 percent before.

Source : Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/25/business/shareholders-pressure-utilities-ditch-nuclear-power/#.VYwCX0b1CM9

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment