Spring: The Season of Nuclear Disaster – Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi was the title of the April 4, 2017 tele-briefing hosted by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and guest speaker Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen. Hosted by Tim Judson, NIRS executive director, Arnie discusses the myths of atomic energy, the ins and outs of each disaster, and his own personal experiences with assessing the industry failures and magnitude of each disaster. At the end of his presentation, Arnie and Tim also answered questions from listeners in this enlightening segment.
PARIS (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande on Monday confirmed bilateral cooperation in the research of the commercial use of nuclear power as well as in security.
The two countries agreed on joint research on a French-led fast reactor development project called ASTRID, an acronym for Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration.
As the leaders met, Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, who is accompanying Abe, and French environment minister Segolene Royal signed a nuclear power cooperation agreement, stating that they will work together on nuclear fuel cycle and fast reactor development.
France aims to start the operation of ASTRID in the 2030s.
Abe and Hollande also attended a signing ceremony on a deal in which Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. will each acquire a 5 percent stake in a nuclear fuel reprocessing joint venture to be established by French atomic energy company Areva.
In the sphere of security, Abe revealed to reporters after the talks with Hollande that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces will jointly conduct naval exercises with France, the United States and Britain.
The Japanese premier welcomed the “significant” agreement on the exercises to be held in the Asia-Pacific region, including off Guam in the Western Pacific, apparently in view of China’s expansionary maritime activities.
The Japanese leader said he and Hollande shared a view that the Indian and Pacific oceans are international public goods and need to be maintained as free and open areas.
Abe said a French training squadron, including a helicopter carrier, will visit Japan in late April.
On regional issues, Abe strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, while Hollande expressed Paris’ support for Tokyo on the matter.
It was the 10th and final meeting between Abe and Hollande as the latter is not running in France’s upcoming presidential election. The first round of the election is in April followed by a potential runoff vote in May.
As for economic issues, Abe and Hollande agreed on the importance of promoting free trade amid the threat of rising protectionism across the world following the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
They affirmed cooperation for the early signing of the free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union.
Abe expressed Japan’s support for “a strong Europe” to be maintained even after Britain’s forthcoming exit from the bloc.
“Japan and Europe must fly the flag of free trade high, together with the United States,” Abe said.
Hollande said the Japan-France relationship can be further strengthened.
France’s election is one of a series in Europe this year in which public unease about immigration and the functions of the European Union have fuelled speculation voters could pick populist candidates over the current political establishment.
Abe arrived in Paris on Monday after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hanover. He is scheduled to meet European Council President Donald Tusk and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni before returning to Japan on Wednesday.
Japan is located in the seismically active zone and that is where more than 10% of all earthquakes in the world. The ideal place to build many nuclear plants if you have a death wish!!!
16 locations in Kanto, Chugoku, Kyushu added to list of ‘major active faults’
The government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion held a task-force meeting on Feb. 21 and decided to add 16 locations in the Kanto, Chugoku, and Kyushu regions to the list of “major active faults” that could cause heavy damage.
The decision is expected to help with regional disaster prevention efforts as the newly listed active faults will be subject to priority research to be conducted by the government and other relevant entities. The latest addition has brought the total number of locations listed as “major active faults” across the country to 113.
Detailed research had been conducted in the three regions ahead of other areas since 2013 to check the possibility of earthquakes occurring in each of the three regions. The number of major active faults could increase further as the headquarters is also planning to conduct similar research in other regions.
The newly added major active faults include: the Minobu fault straddling Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures; the Okubo fault in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures; the Shikano-Yoshioka fault in Tottori Prefecture; the Saga plain northern fault zone; and the Midorikawa fault zone in Kumamoto Prefecture. The Shinji fault, that stretches from east to west about 2 kilometers south of Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane Nuclear Power Plant in Matsue, was also added to the list.
Since the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the headquarters had designated active faults with high seismicity stretching at least 20 kilometers that could cause earthquakes with a magnitude of 7 or higher as major active faults.
However, in response to a series of major tremors such as the 2004 Chuetsu earthquakes caused by faults that had not been listed as major active faults, the headquarters has conducted survey research on active faults including non-listed faults. As a result, even some of those faults that were considered to fall short of meeting the criteria for being called major active faults have been added to the list.
Kojin Wada, an official of the Earthquake and Disaster-Reduction Research Division at the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, said, “We expect that the general public’s awareness of regional active faults is going to rise (with the latest addition to the list).”
The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at the company’s facility in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Monday
Toshiba’s woes weigh heavily on government’s ambition to sell Japan’s nuclear technology
OSAKA – Toshiba’s announcement that it will write down nearly ¥712.5 billion in losses involving its U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse, is seen as a major setback for the government’s strategy of selling Japanese nuclear power technology abroad.
Over the past four years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and nuclear power players, such as Toshiba/Westinghouse, General Electric-Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have promoted Japanese nuclear reactor technology worldwide.
Attempts to increase exports came even as concern within Japan grew over nuclear safety following a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The efforts also came as questions were being raised about the total cost of nuclear power compared with other energy sources.
Japanese firms have attempted, with little success, to sell their technologies in countries as diverse as France, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates. In June 2016, Toshiba said its goal was to win orders for 45 or more nuclear reactors overseas by 2030.
But Tuesday’s announcement by Toshiba came a few weeks after the company announced it would not take any new construction orders for nuclear reactors, and that it would focus instead on maintenance and decommissioning operations.
That decision effectively ended a decade-long effort by Toshiba, which began when it acquired a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006, to make nuclear reactors a viable export business.
It follows greater than projected construction costs for four Westinghouse AP1000 next-generation nuclear reactors in the U.S. that have run billions of dollars over budget and are three years behind schedule. Original plans called for their startup around 2019 but that could be delayed.
Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, told reporters at a regular news conference on Tuesday that promoting nuclear reactor exports was a necessary strategy, but one that needed to be reviewed.
“The nuclear power industry requires huge amounts of money for safety,” Kobayashi said.
“Given such high costs, we have to think about whether just one company can succeed. We have to keep strong technology in Japan, but we need to rethink how to create a union of private firms” in the nuclear business, he said.
But with Toshiba’s problems and the growing use worldwide of other, cheaper energy sources, including some renewables, anti-nuclear groups see an opportunity for Japan to change its basic policy.
“The Japanese government’s nuclear export policy was built on a combination of a poor understanding of the global energy market and self-delusion, said Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany who is currently based in Japan.
“The sooner the government and industry realize there is no future for nuclear power either domestically or in exports, the sooner they can concentrate on the energy technology of the future — renewables.”
VOX POPULI: Toshiba’s plight shows nuclear business is now a treacherous bet
What appears to be a lump of melted nuclear fuel is discernible in a photo, released late last month, of the interior of the crippled No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The high radiation level inside the reactor would be lethal to humans so a small robot was expected to start inspecting the interior on Feb. 16. (The robot started inspection around 7:50 a.m.)
The robot is marked with the name TOSHIBA.
While leading the nation in the dismantling of nuclear reactors, Toshiba Corp. has aggressively pursued nuclear power plant construction overseas through its U.S. affiliate.
But on Feb. 14, the company announced a projected loss of 712.5 billion yen ($6.3 billion) in its nuclear business. To survive, Toshiba will have to sell off its profitable businesses piecemeal. To be sure, the company is in for massive restructuring.
The 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant was one of the indirect causes of Toshiba’s losses. Around the world, tighter regulations have been applied to nuclear power plants because of safety concerns, and Toshiba’s four nuclear plant construction projects in the United States became far more costly than anticipated.
The company has only itself to blame for underestimating the consequences of the Fukushima disaster.
I dropped in at the Toshiba Science Museum in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, the other day. Its impressive array of exhibits included Japan’s first electric refrigerator, washing machine and vacuum cleaner. There was even a portable personal computer, said to be the first of its kind in the world.
Once a prestigious corporation that boasted cutting-edge technology, I wonder how long Toshiba’s decline will continue.
Overseas, Siemens AG of Germany withdrew from the nuclear business after the Fukushima accident, and France’s Areva SA is said to be struggling.
Toshiba’s massive losses remind us anew that the end is drawing near on the era of lucrative nuclear businesses.
A long, tough road lies ahead for the decommissioning of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors. I feel for Toshiba workers who are engaged in this task while their company languishes.
It will soon be six years since the Fukushima disaster. The days of having to confront the gravity of that accident are far from over.
The nuke biz is going down like dominoes. Hitachi announces a nearly $6.2 billion loss on its U.S. uranium enrichment joint effort with GE.
Electronics giant Hitachi Ltd. is set to lose tens of billions of yen this fiscal year due to the withdrawal from a project to develop a new method of uranium enrichment by a joint venture in the United States.
The loss, forecast by Hitachi on Feb. 1, was disclosed shortly after Toshiba Corp. made a similar announcement last month of deficits brought on by its nuclear power business.
Hitachi is expected to report a 70 billion yen ($620 million) non-operating loss by the time books are closed for fiscal 2016 at the end of March, said Mitsuaki Nishiyama, a senior vice president of the Tokyo-based conglomerate, in a news conference on the company’s performance through the third quarter.
The deficit is largely attributed to the joint venture GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc. withdrawing from the uranium enrichment project. Due to this decision, Hitachi no longer expects any profits from the North Carolina-based company, of which it owns 40 percent and the rest by General Electric.
After allocating the losses, the value of Hitachi’s share of the joint venture comes to only about 11 billion yen.
Despite the gloomy news, Nishiyama said that “there are no more large deficit risks.”
Hitachi and GE were expecting more nuclear power plants to be built when they launched the joint fuel enrichment business, but orders have been sluggish across the globe, forcing the project to be shelved.
Nevertheless, Hitachi will be sticking with its nuclear power business. The company said that it plans to proceed with its project to build a plant in Britain by ensuring costs are thoroughly managed.
No one is fit for nuclear.
Not those who believed that they were nor those who still believe that they are.
Let’s all ban this deadly industry from our planet earth!
According to a well-known joke about the national traits of Europeans, it is heaven if the chefs are French, the engineers are German and the bankers are Swiss and it is hell if the chefs are British, the engineers are French and the bankers are Italian.”
As for the Japanese? They appear not suited to a particular field — nuclear energy. And that is no joke. The development of nuclear technology as part of national policy and by private nuclear businesses has repeatedly experienced failure, causing problems to numerous people and wasting a massive amount of money.
Mutsu, Japan’s first and only nuclear-powered ship which was launched in the early 1970s, suffered a radiation leakage and was decommissioned in 1992 after having only four experimental runs.
The government decided late last year to decommission the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture, which has hardly been in operation for more than 20 years following a fire triggered by a sodium leak broke out at the facility in 1995.
Construction work on a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, got underway in 1993, but its completion was postponed 23 times and there are no prospects that it will be put in operation in the foreseeable future.
Roughly 5 trillion yen has so far been spent on nuclear projects in Japan.
In March 2011, a serious accident occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after the complex was hit by a massive tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Over 80,000 residents from areas near the atomic power station are still living outside the affected areas as evacuees. The costs of dealing with the nuclear crisis have already surpassed 20 trillion yen.
Meanwhile, Toshiba Corp. has added a new page to the negative history of Japan’s nuclear development.
In 2006, Toshiba acquired Westinghouse Electric Co., a U.S. nuclear plant company, for over 600 billion yen. The deal was criticized as too costly, but Toshiba wanted to control the world nuclear power market. Toshiba’s president at the time was upbeat about the takeover saying, “We’ll conduct business aggressively.”
Nevertheless, Toshiba will likely suffer nearly 1 trillion yen in losses from the deal because the electronics giant failed to find hidden problems involving its U.S. nuclear power unit. The world nuclear power market has shrunk since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Following revelations that it had padded its profits through accounting irregularities, Toshiba downsized its workforce by more than 10,000 people, but its rehabilitation efforts are still insufficient. Its financial difficulties have even put the company’s survival in jeopardy.
Physicist and technology commentator Kiyoshi Sakurai, who is well versed in technical problems and accidents involving nuclear plants, warned in a past Mainichi Shimbun interview, “Only a handful of those concerned with a certain project loudly underscore the significance of the project. These people could self-righteously go too far without understanding the project’s objectivity or necessity.”
His remarks remind the public of a past silly war (World War II).
More sadly, it is feared that Japanese people traumatized by the atomic bombing tend to stick to the peaceful use of atomic energy and have lost the capacity for calm and rational judgment.
After reviewing the above, one can see that Japanese people are unfit for nuclear energy development projects. (By Hideaki Nakamura, Editorial Writer)
There is increasing worldwide support for a Depleted Uranium ban….There is a growing consensus among civil society groups, scientists and
some military organisations that the health risks from DU have been seriously underestimated.
Latest documents advocating the ban of depleted uranium. By Jerry Mazza, Online Journal, 23 July 2010, US Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute Between 2000 and 2003, Dr Alexandra Miller of AFFRI was at the forefront of US Government sponsored research into DU�s chemical toxicity and radioactivity. Through a series of peer-reviewed papers, Dr Miller and her colleagues demonstrated for the first time that internalised DU oxides could result in �a significant enhancement of urinary mutagenicity,� that they can transform human cells into cells capable of producing cancerous tumours,
……and that DU was capable of inducing DNA damage in the absence of significant radioactive decay, i.e. through its chemical toxicity alone. In one study, 76% of mice implanted with DU pellets developed leukaemia.
�There is increasing worldwide support for a DU ban. In 2007 Belgium became the first country in the world to ban all conventional weapons containing uranium with �other states set to follow their example. Meanwhile the Italian government agreed to a 170m Euro compensation package for personnel exposed to uranium weapons in the Balkans.
Later that year the UN General Assembly passed a resolution highlighting serious health concerns over DU and in May 2008, 94% of MEPs in the European Parliament strengthened four previous calls for a moratorium by calling for a DU ban treaty in a wide-ranging resolution. In December 2008 141 states in the UN General Assembly ordered the World Health Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Programme to update their positions on the long-term health and environmental threat that uranium weapons pose.
With more than 100 member organisations worldwide, ICBUW represents the best opportunity yet to achieve a global ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapon systems. Even though the use of weapons containing uranium should already be illegal under International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Laws, an explicit treaty, as has been seen with chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster bombs, has proved the best solution for confirming their illegality. Such a treaty would not only outlaw the use of uranium weapons, but would include the prohibition of their production, the destruction of stockpiles, the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.
ICBUW has prepared a draft treaty, which contains a general and comprehensive prohibition of the development, production, transport, storage, possession, transfer and use of uranium ammunition.
There is a growing consensus among civil society groups, scientists and
some military organisations that the health risks from DU have been seriously underestimated. Establishment scientific bodies have been slow to react to the wealth of new research into DU and policy makers have been content to ignore the claims of researchers and activists. Deliberate obfuscation by the mining, nuclear and arms industries has further hampered efforts to recognise the problem and achieve a ban. The past failure of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional �Weapons to deal with landmines and cluster bombs suggests that an independent treaty process is the best route to limiting the further use and proliferation of uranium weapons.
As enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, the methods and means of warfare are not unlimited. We must not allow the short term military advantage claimed for uranium weapons to override our responsibility for the long-term welfare of people and planet.
Recently former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 74, was seen talking to 62-year-old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Their encounter was recorded on a photo page of the Sept. 29 issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun.
The scene was Aoyama Funeral Hall in Tokyo, where they had attended the Sept. 15 funeral of former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Koichi Kato and were waiting for their cars to arrive. For about 90 seconds the “master and disciple” stood side by side. Below are the details of Koizimi’s comments and the prime minister’s reaction, which didn’t appear in Shukan Bunshun.
Koizumi: “Why don’t you totally eliminate nuclear power plants?”
Abe: (Faint smile, bow)
Koizumi: “Having zero nuclear power plants is cheaper. Why don’t you understand such a simple thing? It’s all lies, what the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is saying. The things advocates of nuclear power plants are saying — they’re all lies. Don’t be fooled.”
Abe: (Wry smile, bows again, and with head kept low heads to official vehicle)
Koizumi is currently pouring his efforts into a fund to support those who say they were affected by radiation during “Operation Tomodachi,” a U.S. Armed Forces operation to support Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Over 400 soldiers from the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier and accompanying ships complained of ill-health after helping in rescue efforts following their urgent dispatch to the seas off Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Some of them are said to have died from causes including leukemia.
The aircraft carrier fleet worked intermittently in a radiation plume from the stricken power plant between March 13 and 17, 2011. After returning home from Japan, a stream of soldiers developed ailments including brain tumors and thyroid cancer. The nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the Japanese and U.S. governments acknowledged that they had been exposed to low-level radiation, but do not accept a causal relationship between exposure and their illnesses.
Koizumi learned that some soldiers had left the military at a young age, had no insurance and couldn’t pay their medical fees. It was in May this year that the former prime minister traveled to the United States and directly inquired about their circumstances.
Former soldiers earlier filed a lawsuit against parties including TEPCO, and oral arguments over whether jurisdiction of the case should lie in Japan or the United States were heard in an appeals court in California on Sept. 1. At the time, a Japanese government adviser is said to have supported an agent for TEPCO, stating that radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military.
Koizumi, who read a note on the hearing (carried in the Sept. 9 issue of the magazine Shukan Kinyobi), responded immediately.
“This is embarrassing. They were relief efforts for Japan, right? The American judge is said to have been appalled,” he was quoted as saying.
On July 5, Koizumi appeared in a news conference with figures including former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 78, and Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, 61, an adviser at The Johnan Shinkin Bank, to announce the start of fundraising activities to help the U.S. soldiers. Koizumi himself approached the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) but was turned away on the grounds that TEPCO is a member of the federation.
Reinforcements have nevertheless appeared on the funding front. Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 75, posed the following question: “Mr. Koizumi, will you come to Osaka and give a lecture? I’ll assemble 1,000 people. With a fee of 10,000 yen per person, that’ll bring in 10 million yen.”
When Koizumi appeared at the lecture in August, 1,300 people turned up. The same style of lecture is due to be held in Tokyo on Nov. 16, organized by the head of a group of managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the president of a solar power generation company provided 10 million yen.
Through these efforts, the total has climbed to 50 million yen. Koizumi apparently hopes to amass 100 million yen by next spring.
The connection between radiation exposure and the development of illness is delicate. There’s a possibility of developing cancer, but there are doubts about whether a person would suddenly die, experts say.
On Sept. 7, Koizumi spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district. He was asked if it was responsible to talk about damage from radiation exposure without presenting scientific evidence.
Below is the gist of his reply:
“I’m no longer a member of the government. I’m a civilian. There are people who are actually suffering. It’s common sense for me to support them.”
Fundraising and service instead of criticism; denial of the perception of saying, “Radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military” to protect nuclear power policies … I support this form of common sense from our former prime minister. (By Takao Yamada, Special Senior Writer)
In the event of a serious nuclear accident, the government is considering capping the liability of electric power companies and placing the burden beyond that on the public in the form of taxes or higher electricity rates.
The Cabinet Office plans to submit the plan to an experts’ panel along with the current program, which does not contain such caps, sources said.
The experts’ panel will start to discuss both from Oct. 3 and issue the results of its discussions within this fiscal year, which ends in March 2017. After that, the science ministry will consider revising the related laws, they added.
In the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, the compensation paid by the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has reached 6 trillion yen (about $60 billion).
The amount is much higher than the 120 billion yen in total that can be currently covered by a private insurance program and governmental expenditures.
Because of that liability, electric power companies are asking the government to place a cap on the compensation they must pay at the time of serious nuclear accidents.
According to the sources, the setting of an upper limit would require utilities to shoulder a considerably higher amount of compensation.
In the event that the actual compensation exceeds that amount, the utility would also have to pay the portion beyond the limit if the nuclear accident is completely attributable to their actions.
If the nuclear accident is mainly caused by natural disasters, however, the portion beyond the upper limit would be chiefly covered by governmental compensation and only a part of that portion would fall on the utilities, depending on the extent of their culpability.
The government’s compensation would be eventually shouldered by taxpayers.
The push to set a cap is apparently being led by the belief of electric power companies that now is a good time to ask the public to share part of the burden with the prevailing mood in the current administration to restart nuclear reactors.
However, some experts say that if an upper limit is adopted, electric power companies will become less concerned about safety.
“There is a possibility that those companies will place less importance on investing in safety measures,” said Tadashi Otsuka, professor of law at Waseda University, an expert on environmental laws and compensation systems.
Reassessing the 3.11 Disaster and the Future of Nuclear Power in Japan: An Interview with Former Prime Minister Kan Naoto
Interview by Vincenzo Capodici, Introduction by Shaun Burnie, Translation by Richard Minear
For more than two decades, the global nuclear industry has attempted to frame the debate on nuclear power within the context of climate change: nuclear power is better than any of the alternatives. So the argument went. Ambitious nuclear expansion plans inthe United States and Japan, two of the largest existing markets, and the growth of nuclear power in China appeared to show—superficially at least—that the technology had a future. At least in terms of political rhetoric and media perception, it appeared to be a winning argument. Then came March 11, 2011. Those most determined to promote nuclear power even cited the Fukushima Daiichi accident as a reason for expanding nuclear power: impacts were low, no one died, radiation levels are not a risk. So claimeda handful of commentators in the international (particularly English-language) media.
However,from the start of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11 2011,the harsh reality of nuclear power was exposed to billions of people across the planet, and in particular to the population of Japan, including the more than 160,000 people displaced by the disaster, many of whom are still unable to return to their homes, and scores of millions more threatened had worst case scenarios occurred. One authoritative voice that has been central to exposing the myth-making of the nuclear industry and its supporters has been that of KanNaoto, Prime Minister in 2011. His conversion from promoter to stern critic may be simple to understand, but it is no less commendable for its bravery. When the survival of half the society you are elected to serve and protect is threatened by a technology that is essentially an expensive way to boil water, then something is clearly wrong. Japan avoided societal destruction thanks in large part to the dedication of workers at the crippled nuclear plant, but also to the intervention of Kan and his staff, and to luck. Had it not been for a leaking pipe into the cooling pool of Unit 4 that maintained sufficient water levels, the highly irradiated spent fuel in the pool, including the entire core only recently removed from the reactor core, would have been exposed, releasing an amount of radioactivity far in excess of that released from the other three reactors. The cascade of subsequent events would have meant total loss of control of the other reactors, including their spent fuel pools and requiring massive evacuation extending throughout metropolitan Tokyo, as Prime Minister Kan feared. That three former Prime Ministers of Japan are not just opposed to nuclear power but actively campaigning against it is unprecedented in global politics and is evidence of the scale of the threat that Fukushima posed to tens of millions ofJapanese.
The reality is thatin terms of electricity share and relative to renewable energy,nuclear power has been in decline globally for two decades.Since the FukushimaDaiichiaccident, this decline has only increased in pace. The nuclear industry knew full well that nuclear power could not be scaled up to the level required to make a serious impact on global emissions. But that was never the point. The industry adopted the climate-change argument as a survival strategy: to ensure extending the life of existing aging reactors and make possible the addition of some new nuclear capacity in the coming decades—sufficient at least to allow a core nuclear industrial infrastructure to survive to mid-century.The dream was to survive to mid-century, when limitless energy would be realized by the deployment of commercial plutonium fast-breeder reactors and other generation IV designs. It was always a myth, but it had a commercial and strategic rationale for the power companies, nuclear suppliers and their political allies.
The basis for the Fukushima Daiichi accident began long before March 11th 2011, when decisions were made to build and operate reactors in a nation almost uniquely vulnerable to major seismic events. More than five years on, the accident continues with a legacy that will stretch over the decades. Preventing the next catastrophic accident in Japan is now a passion of the former Prime Minister, joining as he has the majority of the people of Japan determined to transition to a society based on renewable energy. He is surely correct that the end of nuclear power in Japan is possible. The utilities remain in crisis, with only three reactors operating, and legal challenges have been launched across the nation. No matter what policy the government chooses, the basis for Japan’s entire nuclear fuel cycle policy, which is based on plutonium separation at Rokkasho-mura and its use in the Monju reactor and its fantasy successor reactors, is in a worse state than ever before. But as KanNaotoknows better than most, this is an industry entrenched within the establishment and still wields enormous influence. Its end is not guaranteed. Determination and dedication will be needed to defeat it. Fortunately, the Japanese people have these in abundance. SB
Q: What is your central message?
Kan: Up until the accident at the Fukushima reactor, I too was confident that since Japanese technology is of high quality, no Chernobyl-like event was possible.
But in fact when I came face to face with Fukushima, I learned I was completely mistaken. I learned first and foremost that we stood on the brink of disaster: had the incident spread only slightly, half the territory of Japan, half the area of metropolitan Tokyo would have been irradiated and 50,000,000 people would have had to evacuate.
Half one’s country would be irradiated, nearly half of the population would have to flee: to the extent it’s conceivable, only defeat in major war is comparable.
That the risk was so enormous: that is what in the first place I want all of you, all the Japanese, all the world’s people to realize.
Q: You yourself are a physicist, yet you don’t believe in the first analysis that people can handle nuclear power? Don’t you believe that there are technical advances and that in the end it will be safe to use?
Kan: As a rule, all technologies involve risk. For example, automobiles have accidents; airplanes, too. But the scale of the risk if an accident happens affects the question whether or not to use that technology. You compare the plus of using it and on the other hand the minus of not using it. We learned that with nuclear reactors, the Fukushima nuclear reactors, the risk was such that 50,000,000 people nearly had to evacuate. Moreover, if we had not used nuclear reactors—in fact, after the incident, there was a period of about two years when we didn’t use nuclear power and there was no great impact on the public welfare, nor any economic impact either. So when you take these factors as a whole into account, in a broad sense there is no plus to using nuclear power. That is my judgment.
One more thing. In the matter of the difference between nuclear power and other technologies, controlling the radiation is in the final analysis extremely difficult.
For example, plutonium emits radiation for a long time. Its half-life is 24,000 years, so because nuclear waste contains plutonium—in its disposal, even if you let it sit and don’t use it—its half-life is 24,000 years, in effect forever. So it’s a very difficult technology to use—an additional point I want to make.
Q: It figured a bit ago in the lecture by Professor Prasser, that in third-generation reactors, risk can be avoided. What is your response?
Kan: It’s as Professor Khwostowa said: we’ve said that even with many nuclear reactors, an event inside a reactor like the Fukushima nuclear accident or a Chernobyl-sized event would occur only once in a million years; but in fact, in the past sixty years, we’ve had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Professor Prasser says it’s getting gradually safer, but in fact accidents have happened with greater frequency and on a larger scale than was foreseen. So partial improvements are possible, as Professor Prasser says, but saying that doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen. Equipment causes accidents, but so do humans.
Q: Today it’s five years after Fukushima. What is the situation in Japan today? We hear that there are plans beginning in 2018 to return the refugees to their homes. To what extent is the clean-up complete?
Kan: Let me describe conditions on site at Fukushima. Reactors #1, #2, #3 melted down, and the melted nuclear fuel still sits in the containment vessel; every day they introduce water to cool it. Radioactivity in the vessel of #2, they say, is 70 sieverts—not microsieverts or millisieverts, 70 sieverts. If humans approach a site that is radiating 70 sieverts, they die within five minutes. That situation has held ever since: that’s the current situation.
Moreover, the water they introduce leaves the containment vessel and is said to be recirculated, but in fact it mixes with groundwater, and some flows into the ocean. Prime Minister Abe used the words “under control,” but Japanese experts, including me, consider it not under control if part is flowing into the ocean. All the experts see it this way.
As for the area outside the site, more than 100,000 people have fled the Fukushima area.
So now the government is pushing residential decontamination and beyond that the decontamination of agricultural land.
Even if you decontaminate the soil, it’s only a temporary or partial reduction in radioactivity; in very many cases cesium comes down from the mountains, it returns.
The Fukushima prefectural government and the government say that certain of the areas where decontamination has been completed are habitable, so people have until 2018 to return; moreover, beyond that date, they won’t give aid to the people who have fled. But I and others think there’s still danger and that the support should be continued at the same level for people who conclude on their own that it’s still dangerous—that’s what we’re saying.
Given the conditions on site and the conditions of those who have fled, you simply can’t say that the clean-up is complete.
Q: Since the Fukushima accident, you have become a strong advocate of getting rid of nuclear reactors; yet in the end, the Abe regime came to power, and it is going in the opposite direction: three reactors are now in operation. As you see this happening, are you angry?
Kan: Clearly what Prime Minister Abe is trying to do—his nuclear reactor policy or energy policy—is mistaken. I am strongly opposed to current policy.
But are things moving steadily backward? Three reactors are indeed in operation. However, phrase it differently: only three are in operation. Why only three? Most—more than half the people—are still resisting strongly. From now on, if it should come to new nuclear plants, say, or to extending the licenses of existing nuclear plants, popular opposition is extremely strong, so that won’t be at all easy. In that sense, Japan’s situation today is a very harsh opposition—a tug of war—between the Abe government, intent on retrogression, and the people, who are heading toward abolishing nuclear reactors.
Two of Prime Minister Abe’s closest advisors are opposed to his policy on nuclear power.
One is his wife. The other is former Prime Minister Koizumi, who promoted him.
Q: Last question: please talk about the possibility that within ten years Japan will do away with nuclear power.
Kan: In the long run, it will disappear gradually. But if you ask whether it will disappear in the next ten years, I can’t say. For example, even in my own party opinion is divided; some hope to do away with it in the 2030s. So I can’t say whether it will disappear completely in the next ten years, but taking the long view, it will surely be gone, for example, by the year 2050 or 2070. The most important reason is economic. It has become clear that compared with other forms of energy, the cost of nuclear energy is high.
Q: Thank you.
Since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in March 2011 and the subsequent shutdown of nuclear reactors in Japan, five reactors have received approval to restart operations under the new safety standards imposed by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Only three of those reactors are currently operating. Applications for the restart of 21 other reactors, including 1 under construction, are under review by the NRA. Some reactors that meet the new NRA safety standards and have been approved to restart continue to face legal or political opposition that may delay or forestall their restart.
After the Fukushima accident, all 54 of Japan’s reactors were shut down. Twelve reactors totaling 7.2 gigawatts (GW) were permanently closed. Restart applications for 20 previously operating reactors (totaling 19.5 GW) and 1 new reactor under construction (the 1.4 GW Oma Nuclear Power Station) have been filed with the NRA. The remaining 17 reactors (16 GW) have yet to submit restart applications. There is still uncertainty about whether some of these reactors can meet the new NRA safety regulations, particularly regulations regarding the ability to withstand severe earthquakes.
In addition to NRA approval, the restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors requires the approval of the central government and the consent of local governments or prefectures where the power plants are located. Opposition to reactor restarts has been primarily related to public concerns about seismic risks, the adequacy of NRA regulations, and evacuation plans in the event of an accident.
The five reactors approved by the NRA to restart total nearly 4.2 GW. Three reactors are operating, while two remain idle pending the outcome of legal challenges:
- Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Sendai Units 1 and 2 (1.7 GW combined) are located in the Kagoshima prefecture and received NRA approval to restart in May 2015, slightly less than two years after submitting applications to restart. In August 2015, Sendai Unit 1 was the first reactor to be restarted under the NRA’s new safety regulations, with Sendai Unit 2 following in October. The reactors are scheduled to shut down for periodic inspection and maintenance in October and December 2016, and post-outage restarts may be delayed in light of the recent call by the newly elected prefectural governors for the temporary suspension of operations at Sendai.
- Kansai Electric Power Company’s Takahama Units 3 and 4 (1.7 GW combined) in the Fukui prefecture received NRA restart approval in February 2015. Although the reactors briefly restarted in early 2016, a district court in the neighboring Shiga prefecture issued an injunction in March to shut down the two reactors. That court’s decision was reaffirmed in June and again in July following challenges by Kansai Electric. Kansai Electric filed an appeal with the Osaka High Court in late July seeking to lift the injunction.
- Shikoku Electric Power Company’s Ikata Unit 3 (0.8 GW) is located in the Ehime prefecture. The NRA approved restart in August 2016. The reactor began generating electricity in August 2016 and is expected to resume commercial operation in September.
In July 2016, Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics (IEEJ) analyzed low, reference, and high reactor restart scenarios for fiscal years 2016 (ending March 2017) and 2017 (ending March 2018). The High case envisions that as many as 25 reactors may restart by March 2018, compared with 12 in the Low case. The continued uncertainty related to the length of the NRA review process, the difficulty in getting local consent, and the potential for protracted court proceedings can all affect both the actual level and timing of nuclear capacity
The three-unit Ikata nuclear power plant in the south of Japan.Its 890MW unit 3 is the only reactor in Japan that has a chance of restarting in 2016.
For all Japan’s talk of 43 ‘operable’ nuclear reactors, only two are actually running, writes Jim Green, as renewables and a 12% fall in demand eat into the power market. And while Japan’s ‘nuclear village’ defends safety standards, the IAEA, tasked with promoting nuclear power worldwide, has expressed deep concerns over the country’s weak and ‘fragmented’ safety regulation.
According to the World Nuclear Association, Japan has 43 ‘operable’ power reactors (they are ‘operational’ according to the IAEA), three under construction, nine ‘on order or planned’, and three ‘proposed’.
The numbers suggest that Japan’s nuclear industry is finally getting back on its feet after the Fukushima disaster – but nothing could be further from the truth.
Before considering the industry’s current problems, a little historical context from the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016:
“[I]t has been 17 years since Japan’s nuclear output peaked at 313 TWh in 1998. The noticeably sharp decline during 2002-2003, amounting to a reduction of almost 30%, was due to the temporary shutdown of all 17 of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) reactors – seven at Kashiwazaki Kariwa and six at Fukushima Daiichi and four at Fukushima Daini.
“The shutdown was following an admission from TEPCO that its staff had deliberately falsified data for inclusion in regulatory safety inspections reports. During 2003, TEPCO managed to resume operations of five of its reactors.
“The further noticeable decline in electrical output in 2007 was the result of the extended shutdown of the seven Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors, with a total installed capacity of 8 GWe, following the Niigata Chuetsu-oki earthquake in 2007. TEPCO was struggling to restart the Kashiwazaki Kariwa units, when the Fukushima earthquake occurred.”
How many of Japan’s reactors are really ‘operable’?
Nuclear power accounted for 29% of electricity generation in Japan in 2010, down from the historic peak of 36% in 1998, and plans were being developed to increase nuclear’s share to 50%. But all of Japan’s reactors were shut down in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Reactors didn’t power a single light-bulb from September 2013 to August 2015.
Japan had 55 operable reactors before Fukushima (including the ill-fated Monju fast reactor). In addition to the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, the permanent shutdown of another six reactors has been confirmed – all of them smallish (<559 MWe) and all of them ageing (grid connections between 1969 and 1977): Kansai Electric’s Mihama 1 and 2, Kyushu Electric’s Genkai 1, Shikoku’s Ikata 1, JAPC’s Tsuruga 1, and Chugoku Electric’s Shimane 1.
So Japan now has 43 ‘operable’ or ‘operational’ reactors, and it isn’t hard to identify some with little or no prospect of ever restarting, such as the four Fukushima Daini reactors (or Monju for that matter).
Two reactors at Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture were restarted in August and October 2015. And that’s it – only two of Japan’s 43 ‘operable’ or ‘operational’ reactors are actually operating. Moreover an anti-nuclear candidate, Satoshi Mitazono, was elected governor of Kagoshima Prefecture in early July 2016 and he announced that he will seek the shut-down of the two Sendai reactors – he can prevent their restart after they shut down for inspection later this year.
As of 1 July 2016, 11 utilities had applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) for safety assessments of a total of 26 reactors, including seven reactors that have completed the assessment process. Apart from whatever hurdles the NRA might put in their way, there are other obstacles: citizen-led lawsuits; local political and public opposition; economic factors, in particular the questionable economics of large investments to upgrade and restart aging reactors; and the impact of electricity deregulation and intensified market competition.
It’s anyone’s guess how many reactors might restart, but the process will continue to be drawn out – the only strong candidate for restart this year is the Ikata 3 reactor in Ehime Prefecture.
The government’s current energy policy calls for a 22-24% nuclear share of electricity generation by 2030. That is less than half of the pre-Fukushima plans for future nuclear growth (the 50% target), and considerably lower than the 29% nuclear share in 2010. Currently, nuclear power – the two Sendai reactors – account for less than 1%.
To reach the 20-22% target would require the operation of around 35 reactors by 2030, which seems highly improbable.
Cheap renewables picking up high-level support
The use of both fossil fuels and renewables has increased since the Fukushima disaster, while energy efficiency has made the task considerably easier – national power consumption in 2015 was 12% below the 2010 level.
The World Nuclear Industry Status Report comments on energy politics in Japan:
“Japanese utilities are insisting on, and the government has granted and reinforced, the right to refuse cheaper renewable power, supposedly due to concerns about grid stability – hardly plausible in view of their far smaller renewable fractions than in several European countries – but apparently to suppress competition.
“The utilities also continue strenuous efforts to ensure that the imminent liberalization of the monopoly-based, vertically integrated Japanese power system should not actually expose utilities’ legacy plants to real competition.
“The ability of existing Japanese nuclear plants, if restarted, to operate competitively against modern renewables (as many in the U.S. and Europe can no longer do) is unclear because nuclear operating costs are not transparent. However, the utilities’ almost complete suppression of Japanese wind power suggests they are concerned on this score.
“And as renewables continue to become cheaper and more ubiquitous, customers will be increasingly tempted by Japan’s extremely high electricity prices to make and store their own electricity and to drop off the grid altogether, as is already happening, for example, in Hawaii and Australia.”
The Japan Association of Corporate Executives, with a membership of about 1,400 executives from around 950 companies, recently issued a statement urging Tokyo to remove hurdles holding back the expansion of renewable power – which supplied 14.3 percent of power in Japan in the year to March 2016.
The statement also notes that the outlook for nuclear is “uncertain” and that the 20‒22% target could not be met without an improbably high number of restarts of idled reactors along with numerous reactor lifespan extensions beyond 40 years.
Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, said the push signalled “a profound change in thinking among blue-chip business executives.” DeWit added:
“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.”
Safety concerns – the case of Takahama
The restart of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui Prefecture is indicative of the nuclear industry’s broader problems. Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) first applied to the NRA for permission to restart the reactors in July 2013. In February 2015, the NRA gave its permission for KEPCO to make the required safety upgrades. The restart process was delayed by an injunction imposed by the Fukui District Court in April 2015, but the ruling was overturned in December 2015.
Takahama 3 was restarted in late January 2016, and TEPCO was in the process of resolving technical glitches affecting the start-up of Takahama 4, when the Otsu District Court in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture ruled on 9 March 2016 that the reactors must be shut down in response to a petition by 29 citizens.
The court found that investigations of active fault lines and other safety issues were not thorough enough, it expressed doubts regarding the plant’s ability to withstand a tsunami, and it questioned emergency response and evacuation plans. Citizens and NGOs also questioned the use of arbitrary figures in KEPCO’s safety analysis, and fire protection.
Nuclear Engineering International reported on 2 February 2016:
“While there are plans on paper to evacuate some Fukui residents to Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tokushima prefectures, many municipalities there have no detailed plans for receiving evacuees. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said he did not feel adequate local consent had been obtained, citing concerns about evacuation issues. Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki said there was a lack of sufficient disaster planning.”
On July 12, the Otsu District Court rejected KEPCO’s appeal and upheld the injunction preventing the operation of Takahama 3 and 4. KEPCO plans to appeal the decision to the Osaka High Court.
Meanwhile, KEPCO is considering whether it is worth investing in upgrades required for the restart of the Takahama 1 and 2 reactors. The NRA controversially approved 20-year lifespan extensions for the two reactors (grid connected in 1974 and 1975), but citizens have initiated a lawsuit to keep them shut down.
Japan’s ‘lax’ and’ inadequate’ regulatory regime
While safety and regulatory standards have improved in the aftermath of Fukushima, there are still serious problems. Citizens and NGOs have raised countless concerns, but criticisms have also come from other quarters.
When the NRA recently approved lifespan extensions for two Takahama reactors, a former NRA commissioner broke his silence and said “a sense of crisis” over safety prompted him to go public and urge more attention to earthquake risks. Kunihiko Shimazaki, a commissioner from 2012 to 2014, said: “I cannot stand by without doing anything. We may have another tragedy …”
Professor Yoshioka Hitoshi, a Kyushu University academic who served on the government’s 2011-12 Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations, said in October 2015:
“Unfortunately, the new regulatory regime is … inadequate to ensure the safety of Japan’s nuclear power facilities. The first problem is that the new safety standards on which the screening and inspection of facilities are to be based are simply too lax. While it is true that the new rules are based on international standards, the international standards themselves are predicated on the status quo.
“They have been set so as to be attainable by most of the reactors already in operation. In essence, the NRA made sure that all Japan’s existing reactors would be able to meet the new standards with the help of affordable piecemeal modifications – back-fitting, in other words.”
Even the IAEA has slammed the feeble NRA
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review in early 2016 made the following recommendations (among others) regarding the NRA:
- To attract competent and experienced staff, and develop competencies relevant to nuclear and radiation safety.
- To amend relevant legislation with the aim of allowing NRA to improve the effectiveness of its inspections. The NRA inspection programme “needs significant improvement in certain areas. NRA inspectors should be legally allowed to have free access to any site at any time. The decision process for initiating reactive inspections should be shortened.”
- To strengthen the promotion of safety culture including a questioning attitude.
- To give greater priority to the oversight of the implementation of radiation protection measures.
- To develop requirements and guidance for emergency preparedness and response in relation to radiation sources.
The IAEA further noted that the NRA’s enforcement provisions are inadequate:
“There is no clear written enforcement policy in place at the NRA. There is no documented process in place at NRA for determining the level of sanctions. NRA inspectors have no power to enforce corrective actions if there is an imminent likelihood of safety significant event. They are required to defer to NRA headquarters. … NRA processes for enforcement are fragmented and some processes are not documented.
“NRA needs to establish a formal Enforcement Policy that sets forth processes clearly addressing items such as evaluation of the severity level of non-conformances, sanctions for different levels of non-conformances, processes for issuance of Orders, and expected actions of NRA inspectors if significant safety issues develop.”
As the industry declines, expect new safety cutbacks
The narrative from government and industry is that safety and regulatory standards in Japan are now adequate – or they soon will be once teething problems with the new regime are sorted out. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka claims that Japanese regulatory standards are “the strictest in the world.”
But Japan’s safety and regulatory standards aren’t strict. Improvements are ongoing – such as NRA actions in response to the IAEA report, and reports that legislation will be revised to allow unscheduled inspections of nuclear sites. But improvements are slow, partial and piecemeal and there are forces pushing in the other direction. An Associated Press report states that nuclear laws will be revised in 2017 but not enacted until 2020.
Reactor lifespan extensions beyond 40 years were meant to be “limited only to exceptional cases” according to then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking in 2012. Extensions were considered an emergency measure against a possible energy crunch. But lifespan extensions have been approved in the absence of an energy crunch, and more will likely follow.
If Japan’s nuclear history is any guide, already flawed safety and regulatory standards will be weakened over time. Signification elements of Japan’s corrupt ‘nuclear village’ are back in control just a few years after the Fukushima disaster. Add to that aging reactors, and utilities facing serious economic stress and intense competition, and there’s every reason to be concerned about nuclear safety in Japan.
Tomas Kåberger, Professor of Industrial Energy Policy at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, noted in the foreword to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report:
“A nuclear industry under economic stress may become an even more dangerous industry. Owners do what they can to reduce operating costs to avoid making economic loss. Reduce staff, reduce maintenance, and reduce any monitoring and inspection that may be avoided.
“While a stated ambition of ‘safety first’ and demands of safety authorities will be heard, the conflict is always there and reduced margins of safety may prove to be mistakes.”
“(We can choose) a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.” That was how Barack Obama wound up his 17-minute-long public address during his historic visit to Hiroshima on May 27.
He was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city leveled by the world’s first atomic bombing. The 71st anniversary of that event fell on Aug. 6. Nagasaki suffered the same fate as Hiroshima three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945.
Obama’s visit to Hiroshima was a benchmark event. Even so, nuclear stockpiles around the world are still in excess of 15,000 warheads. A world without nuclear weapons remains a distant dream.
Action is needed to carve out the future. In this regard, there are particularly high expectations for the role of Japan, which experienced the ravages of atomic bombings.
But the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are increasingly suspicious of the central government’s intentions. In their view, the government seems to be obstructing the global trend for trying to eradicate nuclear weaponry.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who accompanied Obama during his Hiroshima visit, pledged that he would “continue to make incessant efforts” toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons.
But what precisely is he determined to do, we wonder. The key question here is that of a concrete vision.
TOKYO EMBARRASSED BY TALK OF ‘NO FIRST USE’
The Washington Post reported last month that the Obama administration is considering changes in its nuclear policy.
Notably, a declaration of “no first use” is reportedly being weighed as an option. The term refers to a country’s pledge that it will not be the first to use nuclear arms unless it comes under nuclear attack from another nation. China and India, among the world’s nuclear weapon states, have adopted that policy.
“No first use” is expected to significantly reduce the role of nuclear arms in security policy. It is also believed to be highly effective in urging other nuclear weapon states to engage in nuclear disarmament.
Ten U.S. Democratic senators have called on Obama to declare “no first use.” The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have sent a letter to Obama to express their support for the potential nuclear policy changes, saying such moves would “mark an important step toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons.”
But Tokyo appears to be embarrassed by this. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said only that Japan and the United States “should remain closely in touch” over the matter. When the Obama administration reviewed its nuclear policy in 2010, it stopped short of declaring “no first use” out of consideration for Japan and other U.S. allies.
At the United Nations, meantime, there is growing momentum to outlaw nuclear arms, which are inhumane weapons, under international law.
A U.N. working group, which has been discussing the matter since February in Switzerland, is holding its final session this month. The working group’s chairman has worked out a draft report that says, “A majority of States expressed support for the commencement of negotiations … in 2017.”
Japan is one country that is not part of that “majority of States.” Tokyo has reiterated at the working group’s sessions that the time is not ripe for declaring nuclear weapons illegal in view of the current security climate.
Seventy-one years after the A-bombings, the very country that suffered the nuclear attacks is trying to block the trend for nuclear disarmament.
PERSISTENT DEPENDENCE ON NUCLEAR UMBRELLA
The backdrop here is Japan’s dependence on the “nuclear umbrella,” under which it relies on the nuclear arsenal of the United States to deter attacks from other countries.
Tokyo believes Japan must stay under the nuclear umbrella, not the least because it has to face up to China, which is pursuing a rapid military buildup, and to North Korea, which has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests and test-firings of missiles.
No approval can be given to a “no first use” policy and a prospective treaty to ban nuclear weapons, both of which would erode the deterrent potential of the nuclear umbrella, according to Tokyo’s position.
Let us remember, however, that nuclear deterrence theory is a relic of the Cold War period. The government of Japan has not ruled out a possible use of nuclear weapons by the United States. That is broadly at odds with the sentiment of the Japanese public, which does not want a repeat of the ravages of a nuclear attack.
As long as deterrence theory is adhered to, other nuclear weapon states will also stick to their reliance on nuclear arsenals, which means the risk of a nuclear war would never diminish.
It goes without saying that the security climate should be taken into account from a tough viewpoint. Many experts believe, however, that conventional war potential–basically that of Japan and the United States–alone is functioning as a sufficient deterrent on North Korea and China.
“We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without (nuclear weapons),” Obama said in his Hiroshima address.
Kazumi Matsui, the mayor of Hiroshima, cited that passage in his Aug. 6 Peace Declaration, and added, “We need to fill our policymakers with the passion to … create a security system based on trust and dialogue.”
Courage and passion: These qualities are probably expected from the government of Japan more than anything else. Tokyo should start striving to seek a security policy that does not rely on the nuclear umbrella and begin holding talks with Washington to achieve that goal.
Abe has attended the peace ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki every year. He has also had opportunities to hold dialogue with representatives of A-bomb survivors.
But the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki strongly distrust Abe. The prime minister has not only rushed through policies that undermine the pacifist principles of the Constitution, such as lifting Japan’s self-imposed ban on the right to exercise collective self-defense and enacting new security legislation. He has been less than willing to listen to earnest pleas. In 2014, for example, he used the phrase, “It’s a matter of opinion,” to dismiss concerns expressed by an A-bomb survivor.
POIGNANT CALLS FROM A-BOMBED CITIES
The Nagasaki Peace Declaration to be released Aug. 9 is expected to include, for the first time in two years, a demand for enacting a law to set down Japan’s three non-nuclear principles–not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction into Japan, of nuclear weapons.
Sumiteru Taniguchi, an 87-year-old A-bomb survivor, strongly called, during a drafting committee meeting, for the inclusion of that passage.
“Those who never experienced that abominable war are trying to have the (pacifist) Constitution amended,” Taniguchi said. “As a survivor of the A-bomb, I have to continue calling out loud as long as I am alive.”
Poignant calls from the A-bombed cities represent the starting point of efforts to realize a world without nuclear arms. If Abe wishes, as he says he does, to lead initiatives to have nuclear weapons abolished, the first thing he should do is to face up in earnest to the calls of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and seek out a way to go hand in hand with them.
TOKYO — An influential political lobby in Japan will do its utmost to capitalize on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s election victory and push for the constitution to be revised to allow a more active military, the group’s chairman said Wednesday.
Abe’s gains in the upper house in last weekend’s election mean his party can cobble together the crucial two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a revision and put it to a referendum, if it gets support from lawmakers in other parties open to the changes.
Tadae Takubo, chairman of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, said the war-renouncing constitution that makes Japan’s defense “defective” needs to be corrected.
It’s time to grow out of Japan’s “silly” postwar goal of becoming an economic power with lightweight military, and seek to restore Japan with more self-respect, traditional family values and principles under the emperor as head of nation, said Takubo, international politics professor at Kyorin University.
“This is a golden opportunity that has never happened before. If I were in the prime minister’s position, I will go all out to accomplish a revision during the current term,” Takubo said. His organization will provide full support to push forward the drive, he said.
For Abe and his ultra-conservative supporters, like Nippon Kaigi, the 1947 constitution is the legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values. The charter renounces the use of force in international conflicts and limits Japan’s military to self-defense only, although Japan has a well-equipped modern army, navy and air force that work closely with the United States, its top ally.
Abe’s ruling party proposed revisions to the constitution in 2012 that intended to restore traditions similar to prewar-era family values centered on the emperor, and to put national interest before individuals’ basic human rights in some cases. It was never formally submitted to parliament.
Abe did not make the constitution a focus of the election, but said on Monday he takes Sunday’s victory as a public endorsement for a revision, pledging to launch a parliamentary committee to discuss which articles to change and how.
Founded in 1997, Nippon Kaigi has strived to revise the constitution to restore traditional gender roles, increase imperial worshipping and put public interest before individuals. The group is believed to be behind Abe’s comeback in 2012 and has become increasingly influential.
Their grass-roots movement backed by Shinto shrines and other new religious groups has a growing membership that reportedly includes many of Abe’s Cabinet ministers and hundreds of national and local lawmakers.
The organization holds lectures and other events to spread its views and defends Japan’s wartime atrocities while accusing China and South Korea of lying or exaggerating their suffering. It also believes the U.S. postwar occupation brainwashed Japanese with guilt and that education since the war was self-degrading.
CHIBA – The Chiba Municipal Government on Tuesday filed for Environment Ministry approval to lift the radioactive designation for waste stored in the city that was contaminated by the Fukushima reactor meltdowns five years ago.
This marked the first application in Japan seeking to lift the radioactive designation for waste tainted by the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The move came after the city found that levels of radioactive materials in the designated waste are lower than the national designation standards of over 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.
At present, designated radioactive waste generated by the nuclear disaster is stored in 12 prefectures in eastern Japan, including Tokyo.
The ministry plans to judge whether to lift the designation for waste in Chiba in about one month.
In Chiba, 7.7 tons of designated waste is currently stored at a waste disposal center.
The lifting of the designation will allow the city to dispose of the waste the same way as general waste, but the city plans to continue storing the waste for the time being.
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