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Many Fukushima mayors reluctant to take stand on nuke energy shift

The crippled No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

March 4, 2023

Several mayors of the three prefectures hardest hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami showed a reluctance to voice an opinion about the government’s return to a reliance on nuclear power. 

The recent Asahi Shimbun poll showed the sensitivity of the issue particularly in areas that still have not completely recovered from the twin disasters.

In December, the government made a dramatic shift in nuclear energy policy that would allow for construction of new reactors and the extension of the operating life of those already built.

The Asahi Shimbun polled mayors of 37 municipalities along the Pacific coast in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures along with five others in Fukushima where evacuation orders were issued following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In addition, mayors of three municipalities lying within a 30-kilometer radius of the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture were also asked their views.

Of the 45 mayors, 19 were somewhat or totally opposed to a reversion to nuclear energy, while 14 were somewhat or totally in favor.

But the mayors of six municipalities that either host the Fukushima No. 1 plant or are in close proximity to the plant did not take a clear stand on any of the questions in the survey.

When the mayors were contacted individually, many said with so many residents still living as evacuees away from their municipalities, expressing a clear opinion on nuclear energy would only further divide those with differing views.

One mayor had in the past voiced clear stands on the central government’s reconstruction policy, but that led to letters sent to the municipal government criticizing those comments.

“I always feel internal turmoil about whether criticism directed at me and the municipal government will also not be turned on the evacuees” who live in various parts of Japan, the mayor said. 

Another mayor said, “I do not want residents to feel troubled by my comments about the central government’s nuclear energy policy.”

With part of the municipality still designated a “difficult-to-return zone” and the population and infrastructure nowhere close to the levels before the disasters, the mayor said, “Now is the time to put every effort into reconstruction.”

The mayor said taking a clear stand on nuclear energy issues might create division among local residents.

Toshiyuki Kanai, a professor of local public administration at the University of Tokyo, said it was understandable why the mayors were reluctant to take a clear stand because municipalities had to seek the cooperation of the central government for their reconstruction efforts.

“It is important that effects on local governments in such policy areas as reconstruction do not arise because of their opposition to nuclear energy policy,” Kanai said.

Eight Fukushima mayors did say they were either somewhat or totally opposed to returning to a reliance on nuclear energy.

The only Fukushima mayor who was somewhat in favor of nuclear energy was Ikuo Yamamoto of Tomioka.

But in response to questions from The Asahi Shimbun, Yamamoto recalled the difficulties he faced with discussions about a final storage site for low-level radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear accident. 

“In my heart, I am opposed,” he said. 

But Yamamoto added that in general terms he understood that nuclear energy was effective in preventing global warming and was also instrumental at a time when fuel prices for thermal power generation were surging.

The mayors were also asked if they thought the Kishida administration had done an adequate job of explaining to the public why a move back toward nuclear energy was needed.

Thirty-one mayors said they felt either somewhat or totally negative about the government’s efforts. Even nine mayors who favored reverting back to nuclear energy felt the Kishida administration had done a poor job of explaining the reason for doing so.

(This article was written by Wataru Netsu, Shoko Rikimaru, Keitaro Fukuchi and Takemichi Nishibori.)


March 5, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , , | 1 Comment

CNIC Statement: We Protest the Cabinet Decision on the Nuclear Power Promotion Bundle Bill

by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center · February 28, 2023

Today the Kishida Cabinet made a cabinet decision to proceed with a bundle of bills (the GX Decarbonization Power Supply Bill), including legislation to extend the operational periods of nuclear power plants and to promote the use of nuclear power. We firmly protest this decision, which totally disregards the lessons of Fukushima.

What “careful explanation”?

The Government has repeatedly stated that it will make “careful explanations” to address the public’s concerns regarding the utilization of nuclear power plants since the GX policies were announced. However, this bill seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Basic Law, the Electricity Utilities Industry Law, the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law, the Reprocessing Law and the Renewable Energy Special Measures Law all at once. How can so many revisions with so many points of contention possibly be “carefully explained”? Even at the stage of deliberations leading up to the drafting of the bill, discussions were hasty to say the least. Why must nuclear policy be changed immediately? The situation in Ukraine and resource prices are cited as reasons, but these have nothing to do with extending the operational period or building new nuclear power stations, let alone restarting them. We can only assume that the government are trying to take advantage of the crisis to promote their nuclear policy.

Safety in the back seat

There are a number of problems with each of the bills. For example, the revision bill for the Atomic Energy Basic Act states that “safety first “ should be the approach for the use of nuclear energy and that the value of nuclear energy use, such as its contribution to stable supply and green transformation, will be clarified. We disagree that nuclear power is useful for stable supply and decarbonisation, but before that, there is a serious problem. The proposed revisions transfer the regulation of the operation period of nuclear power plants from the Reactor Regulation Act to the Electricity Business Act, and also changes the operation period from 40 years in principle, allowing a maximum of 20 years extension on a one-time basis of the operation period, which is supposed to adjust for shutdown periods.

While assuring “safety first”, the government is trying to transfer the operation period regulation, a safety regulation introduced based on the lessons learnt from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, from the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law, which is under the jurisdiction of the regulatory authority (the Nuclear Regulation Authority-NRA), to the Electricity Utilities Industry Law, which is under the jurisdiction of the utilizing authority (the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry-METI). This in itself can only be described as a setback for nuclear safety regulation. Furthermore, METI’s Nuclear Energy Subcommittee’s summary also contemplates allowing further extensions in the future. Such discussions would not be possible if utilization did not take precedence over regulation.

The proposed revision to the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law will also legislate on the assessment of ageing nuclear power plants, which was previously a rule of the NRA. The Government and the NRA state that this will lead to stricter regulations, but that the substance of these stricter regulations will be discussed in the future. This in itself is a clear indication of the government’s attitude that nuclear power must be promoted according to their timetable and compared to this, nuclear safety is of secondary importance.

The NRA explains that the degradation status of a reactor can be assessed at any point in time. However, there are no nuclear power plants in the world that have been in operation for more than 60 years to begin with, and the older a reactor gets, the more its operating history will differ from the deterioration state of the reactor due to the characteristics of the materials. Even if an inspection is carried out, it is only an inspection at that point in time and cannot be said to prove safety in the future. In fact, on 30 January this year, Takahama Unit 4 automatically shut down due to a problem, but on 25 November last year, Kansai Electric Power Company had just announced that it had carried out an equipment integrity assessment (number of devices covered: approximately 4,200 devices/units) based on the assumption of a 20-year extension and ‘confirmed that there were no problems’.

Blurring the lines between operators and regulators

A major lesson of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was that the operators of nuclear power plants must be separated from those who regulate them. Twelve years after the accident, this separation is now in great danger. We believe that the right option is to move away from nuclear power, but strict regulation is a minimum requirement for both the operation and the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. However, the regulations which are supposed to be enforced by the NRA, are limited by the framework of promoting the use of nuclear energy. In recent times, very few suspension orders have been issued and no reactor licenses have ever been revoked. Remedies are also sought through “guidance and suggestions” from the reviewing authority. With such a form of regulation and the integration of regulation and promotion, is there any hope for strict regulation? Although it is said that deterioration can be assessed at any point in time, there are no clear boundaries in the deterioration of nuclear power plants. We can only make engineering decisions under great uncertainty. Under these conditions, can the regulations be trusted to always side with the safer option?

In the current nuclear policy changes, regulation and promotion have been shown to be one and the same. Several members of the NRA have expressed their discomfort that the discussions had to conform to a fixed schedule.

Before discussing the issue of extension of the operating period, it is the state of nuclear regulation that must be questioned. If the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is the starting point for nuclear policy, the GX Decarbonisation Power Supply Bill must be scrapped, and we must consider how to ensure that nuclear regulation and promotion are kept totally separate, and how strict regulation can be achieved. Without this, we can never put an end to the “safety myth” and it will be impossible to realize the most basic condition for the use of nuclear power.


March 5, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Kishida says statement by five former prime ministers ‘inappropriate’: Thyroid cancer caused by Fukushima nuclear accident

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left foreground) speaks at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives in the afternoon of February 2.

February 2, 2022

 Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized a statement issued by five former prime ministers, including Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa, at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Wednesday, saying that the statement was inappropriate because it included the suggestion that many children are suffering from thyroid cancer due to the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

He was responding to a question from Yasushi Adachi of the Japan Restoration Association. The prime minister cited the fact that there is an assessment by experts that “at this point it is difficult to believe that this is an effect of radiation.
 The other five former prime ministers are Naoto Kan, Yukio Hatoyama, and Tomiichi Murayama. The statement, dated Jan. 27 and addressed to European Union (EU) Commission President VONDE ALAEN, objected to moves within the EU to promote nuclear power. The statement objected to moves in the EU to promote nuclear power generation, saying that “many children are suffering from thyroid cancer and an enormous amount of national wealth has disappeared” due to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

February 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment