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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

New private consortium to decommission nuclear power stations – will cut 1600 jobs

flag-UKMagnox nuclear decommissioning consortium to cut up to 1,600 jobs, Guardian, , 22 May 15  Cavendish Fluor Partnership says plans reflect ‘stepdowns’ in work at nuclear plants around UK The new private consortium that recently won the £4.2bn management contract for the decommissioning of 12 Magnox nuclear power stations has revealed plans to cut up to 1,600 jobs. Cavendish Nuclear, a division of Babcock International, plus its US partner Fluor, said the cuts reflected “planned stepdowns in the work programme” at a number of atomic sites around the UK.

The move comes amid speculation that Babcock is preparing to demand millions of pounds of extra subsidies from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) on the grounds that the workload was much heavier than anticipated.

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Unions expressed shock that staff, agency and contract workers would lose their jobs between now and September 2016, although the Cavendish Fluor Partnership said it would try to find some alternative posts. Eleven of the plants have already shut down and the remaining one in operation – Wylfa on Anglesey in North Wales – is due to stop generating power at the end of the year.

Problems with the decommissioning of the separate Sellafield site in Cumbria have recently led to the private consortium there which includes Amec and Areva of France – being thrown off the management contract.

The 12 nuclear power sites managed by the Cavendish consortium for Magnox include Berkeley, Gloucestershire; Bradwell, Essex; and Hinkley Point A in Somerset.

EDF last month announced plans to cut 400 construction jobs at the site of the planned new atomic plant of Hinkley Point C.

The reduction in workers comes amid continuing delays over a final investment decision on the £24.5bn project as negotiations with potential investors continue to move more slowly than expected. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/may/21/magnox-nuclear-decommissioning-consortium-cut-1600-jobs

May 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, employment, UK, wastes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Kantei Santa’ makes himself heard over the din of the election vans Is crime justified in the service of good?

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It’s an ancient question. “Thou shalt not kill,” says the Bible — war in God’s service being an implicit exception. Then there’s Don Quixote, lover of justice, upholder of virtue, who founders on the impossibility of doing good without committing outrages. His name became an adjective — quixotic — for a certain kind of activism that fails to allow for the practical limits life imposes on ideals.
“Quixotic” is a word Shukan Bunshun magazine applies to the self-described “Kantei Santa” — kantei meaning the prime minister’s official residence, Santa needing no introduction, surprising though it is to see him at work so far from Christmas. “Kantei Santa” was the signature on a warning note attached to a miniature drone found in late April on the roof of the prime minister’s residence. “Radioactive,” said the note. The stunt, it explained, was a protest against the government’s drive to restart nuclear power stations idled in the wake of the meltdown catastrophe in Fukushima in March 2011. A quantity of earth in a container attached to the drone was in fact found to be mildly radioactive. “Santa” reportedly told police he dug it up in Fukushima.
The “Santa” police have in custody is 40-year-old Yasuo Yamamoto of Obama, Fukui Prefecture. In Shukan Bunshun’s profile, Yamamoto comes across as sufficiently idiosyncratic to beg the question: Is the crime attributed to him explicable simply as the work of one emotionally unstable individual, or is there a broader significance?
Many people are against the nuclear restarts; Yamamoto is not alone there. Japan is a democracy. Democracy means the government is responsive to the popular will, as freely expressed via the media, demonstrations, elections. In undemocratic societies, citizens must resort to crime to make themselves heard. Insisting on being heard is itself a crime.
Japan is a democracy but, as many observers have been noting lately, a flawed one. It comes perilously close, for one thing, to being a one-party state, the Liberal Democratic Party having held power for all but three of the past 60 years. Gerrymandered electoral districts are unrepresentative to the point that the Supreme Court last November, following numerous lower courts, cast doubt on their constitutionality.
Seemingly undemocratic government initiatives lately are growing increasingly bold, conspicuous among them a new state secrets Law that potentially criminalizes a key aspect of a journalist’s job — namely, the pursuit of public information.
Proposed revisions to the 68-year-old Constitution seem to weaken its protection of democratic rights while strengthening the national military. Some at least among those old enough to remember Japan’s undemocratic and militarist past, and some younger people attentive enough to listen to them, are not reassured by the benign official phrase “proactive pacifism.” Should they be?
Elections are the lifeblood of democracy, and Japan has just been through two of them — one national, the other a nationwide series of local ones. The first, in December 2014, gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a resounding victory in spite of widespread unease, consistently surfacing in opinion polls, over the course he is charting. The second, in April, was marred by a curious fact unworthy of a vigorous and healthy democracy — 22 percent of incumbents ran unopposed. No wonder voter turnout sank to record lows — less than half on average. Turnout for the national election in December was little better — 52.66 percent, also a record low.
Can democracy survive public apathy? Japan is not the only developed nation facing that question. Democracy prolonged is democracy taken for granted. Infant democracies do better in that regard. Voters take courage from situations that demand courage, streaming en masse to the polls in defiance of army thugs, terrorist threats, even terrorist bombs.
“Sato! Sato! Sato!” Anyone who has lived through a Japanese election campaign will know what that refers to — the incessant screeching of candidates’ names into loudspeakers mounted on campaign vans that roll through your neighborhood and mine, turning daily life into a nightmare of cacophony. Again: No wonder people don’t vote; they feel belittled and insulted. In 70 years of democracy, can campaigning have failed to mature beyond this?
Don’t blame the candidates, said the Asahi Shimbun in a pre-election report. The rules that bind them are strict, minute and seemingly meaningless. “No other country has campaign rules as strict as Japan’s,” Waseda University professor Minoru Tsubogo tells the newspaper. No door-to-door campaigning. No ad balloons. No candidates’ speeches from moving vehicles. No posters larger than 40×30 cm. Each individual poster must bear a certifying seal. Internet campaigning was finally permitted in 2013 but seems not to have caught on. So it’s “Sato-Sato-Sato,” rookie candidates being the worst offenders because the incumbents are already known. The system doesn’t change because the incumbents who can change it are its beneficiaries — which may have something to do with Japan’s virtual one-party statehood.
A society so rigid in some respects can be curiously lax in others. If drones were regulated half as closely as election campaigning, Kantei Santa would never have got off the ground. Granted, technological progress this rapid is bound to outpace legislation; still, Japan, having received a sharp lesson in vulnerability from the Islamic State terrorist group last winter, appears curiously inattentive to the security risks involved.
A former Air Self-Defense Forces enlistee with special skills in electronics, Yamamoto had ample opportunity to ponder the implications of nuclear power — his native Fukui hosts more reactors than any other prefecture. On his blog he named Ernesto “Che” Guevara — not Don Quixote — as his inspiration. Che’s personality and revolutionary zeal were magnetically charismatic. They still are, nearly 50 years after his death. Did pretending to be Che fill a void in Yamamoto’s apparently humdrum, lonely life? Or was he, in his own mind, offering himself, Che-like, as a sacrificial victim to a nation he saw going astray?
Democracy. The Asahi, apropos the April “Sato-Sato” elections, offered its own reflections on the subject. Its exemplar of living democracy was the county council of Cornwall, England, where citizen participation is frequent and impassioned. When local libraries were being closed last year due to budget deficits, the council heard an earful — with respectful attention — from a 10-year-old boy defending his right to read. An Internet campaign was launched to save the libraries.
Imagine that happening in Japan! And yet why shouldn’t it? They’re closing libraries here too.

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/16/national/media-national/kantei-santa-makes-heard-din-election-vans/#.VViU7-cxnXY

May 17, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

ASAHI POLL: 27% of Fukushima voters want immediate end to nuclear power

AJ201410200031MA temporary housing complex in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, for evacuees

from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant crisis

October 20, 2014
Twenty-seven percent of voters in Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, want Japan to immediately abolish nuclear energy, around double the national average, an Asahi Shimbun survey found.
About 55 percent of voters in the prefecture support a break away from nuclear power in the near future, according to the telephone survey conducted on Oct. 18-19.
The survey results showed anti-nuclear sentiment is higher in Fukushima Prefecture than in the rest of the country.
Thirteen percent of voters in Tokyo supported the immediate abolition of nuclear energy in a survey in February, while 15 percent expressed the same opinion in a nationwide survey in January.
In those earlier surveys, 61 percent of Tokyoites and 62 percent of respondents nationwide said Japan should break away from nuclear power in the near future.
The latest survey covered 1,701 voters in Fukushima Prefecture and received 1,091 valid responses.
Only 15 percent of Fukushima voters said Japan should continue relying on nuclear energy, compared with 22 percent in the survey in Tokyo and 19 percent nationwide.
The survey also revealed that 66 percent of Fukushima voters accept Governor Yuhei Sato’s decision to allow the construction of an interim facility to store radioactive waste from cleanup work in the prefecture.
Eighteen percent said they disagree with Sato’s decision.
In addition, 53 percent said they support the central government’s decision to end its policy of helping all evacuees from the nuclear disaster return to their homes and instead assist them in resettling elsewhere. Twenty-eight percent were against the decision.
Up to 56 percent of respondents said they highly evaluate the governor’s efforts to rebuild the prefecture from the damage caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, compared with 25 percent who said otherwise.
Forty percent of Fukushima voters said they support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, matching the 40 percent who did not support the Cabinet.
Source: Asahi Fukushima
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201410200030

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment