The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Many people in the public opinion polls are opposed to the idea, and briefings are being held in various regions… but the Cabinet decides to promote nuclear power plants, ignoring the voices of “grave danger to future generations”

February 11, 2023
The government’s basic policy, which includes measures to promote nuclear power plants, such as rebuilding them and operating them for more than 60 years, received nearly 4,000 opinions (public comments), many of which were against nuclear power. However, the Cabinet decision was made on April 10 without changing the main outline of the policy. The major change in nuclear policy less than six months after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s order to study the issue has consistently failed to address the voices of the public. (The Cabinet decision was made on October 10, 2011, without any change in the major nuclear policy.)

◆Consideration of voices within the ruling party

The TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident proves that humans have no control over nuclear power plants,” and “It invites grave danger to future generations.
 The results of the public solicitation of opinions announced by the government after the cabinet decision were lined with requests for the government to reconsider its decision. A total of 3,966 opinions were received in the public solicitation, which was conducted for about a month from the end of December last year, after the basic policy was decided at the government meeting. The government has clarified the contents of 356 opinions and their responses by summarizing similar opinions.
 The government’s response to the negative opinions on nuclear power emphasized that the stable supply of electricity is in crisis due to changes in the energy situation caused by the crisis in Ukraine. The government reiterated its explanation that it will utilize nuclear power along with renewable energy and other energy sources that have decarbonizing effects.
 Since the end of the public comment period, there has been only one major revision to the basic policy, related to nuclear power. Regarding the reconstruction of nuclear power plants, which had not been envisioned by the government after the Fukushima accident, the target location was elaborated from “nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned” to “within the premises of nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned. This is a strong indication that the government took into consideration the opinions of the nuclear power prudent within the ruling party.

Not listening to the voice of the people, “They are making fun of the victims.
 The basic policy was discussed by a number of METI experts. Although a number of committee members who are negative about nuclear power plants called for a national debate, the public’s voice was not heard before the policy was decided.
 After deciding on the basic policy at the end of last year, METI began holding explanatory meetings in mid-January in 10 cities across Japan where METI and other bureaus are located. So far, they have been held in Nagoya, Saitama, Osaka, and Sendai, and will continue until early March.
 Ruiko Muto, co-chairperson of the Liaison Association of Organizations Affected by the Nuclear Power Plant Accident in Miharu-machi, Fukushima Prefecture, commented at a press conference on March 10, “I don’t understand what the meetings are for. It is ridiculous that the meeting was not held in Fukushima Prefecture, a disaster-stricken area, and that they are making fun of the victims of the disaster.

It’s conclusory, forced, and unacceptable as a method of policy making.” It is unacceptable as a method of policy making.
 Opposition to the policy is also smoldering among regulators. The basic policy stipulates that the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will conduct rigorous examinations and regulations as a precondition for utilizing nuclear power plants. At a regular meeting of the regulatory commission on August 8, Akira Ishiwatari, a member of the commission, opposed the transfer of the 40-year operating period, with a maximum of 60 years, stipulated in the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law, to a law under METI jurisdiction, saying that it is not necessary. It became unclear whether a new regulatory system could be decided upon.
 At a press conference following the cabinet decision, METI Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura explained, “The basic policy was put together from the perspective of nuclear energy utilization policy and does not include safety regulations, so there is no problem,” and expressed his intention to continue with procedures such as amending related laws. Hajime Matsukubo, executive director of the NPO Nuclear Information and Documentation Office, who also served as a member of METI’s expert panel, commented, “They are forcibly proceeding with the conclusion that they are promoting nuclear power without listening to opposing opinions. This is unacceptable as a method of policy making.

People opposing the Cabinet decision on the basic policy in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Nagatacho, Tokyo, on March 10.

◆Attack on the Prime Minister’s Office
On January 10, about 100 people protested in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Nagata-cho, Tokyo, after the cabinet approved a basic policy that includes measures to promote nuclear power plants. In the cold rain, they called for “No new nuclear power plants” and “Don’t forget Fukushima. (Nozomi Masui)
 The event was organized by the Executive Committee for 10 Million People’s Action to Say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants, a citizens’ group. Members of six organizations, including environmental groups and labor unions, took the microphone.
 Natsuka Mitsuda, 55, secretary general of FoE Japan, an international environmental NGO, said, “In order for the nuclear industry to survive, future generations will have to bear a heavy burden and risk of accidents. We are firmly opposed to the cabinet decision that ignores the will of the people. Taeko Fujimura, 68, vice chairperson of the National Trade Union Liaison Council, said, “We have learned nothing from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The operation of aging nuclear power plants is absolutely unacceptable.


February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cabinet adopts policy of using nuclear reactors beyond 60-year limit

The No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power’s Mihama nuclear power plant in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, the first nuclear reactor in Japan to operate beyond 40 years.

Feb 10, 2023

The Cabinet formally adopted a policy on Friday that will allow for the operation of nuclear reactors beyond their current 60-year limit alongside the building of new units to replace aging ones as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions while ensuring adequate national energy supply.

The government’s “green transformation” policy features extensive use of nuclear power along with renewable energy and marks a major policy shift for the country, which suffered a devastating nuclear disaster in 2011. The Cabinet decision follows a meeting in late December at which the policy was agreed upon.

The government also plans to raise about ¥20 trillion ($152 billion) through the issuance of green transformation bonds to boost investment in decarbonization projects, as it estimates public and private investment of over ¥150 trillion will be necessary over the next 10 years.

Bills necessary to implement the new policy were submitted to parliament Friday.

The new policy will effectively extend the amount of time reactors can remain operational beyond 60 years by excluding time spent on inspections and other periods they are offline from consideration when calculating their total service life.

The policy also calls for developing advanced reactors, regarded as safer than conventional ones, and only allowing them to be built within the premises of reactors destined for decommissioning. The government aims to begin operating next-generation reactors in the 2030s.

It also states the central government is responsible for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste created through nuclear power generation. The issue has been a source of concern among the public and a challenge in advancing nuclear policy.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a news conference after the Cabinet meeting that the government hopes to expand the areas in which it will conduct first-stage surveys as part of the selection process for the final disposal site.

The new policy stipulates government support for local governments which accept the survey.

Public sentiment turned sour over the use of nuclear power as a national source of energy following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster in March 2011 that was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The government had repeatedly said it was not considering building new reactors or replacing existing ones.

But since Russia launched a major invasion of Ukraine in late February last year, a sharp rise in global energy prices has threatened the stable supply of energy for Japan, a resource-scarce country that heavily relies on fossil fuel imports, prompting officials to look into greater use of nuclear power.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed the government last summer to look into how the country can maximize the use of its nuclear energy facilities most effectively.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Cabinet decides on a policy of “maximum utilization” of nuclear power plants, a major shift from “reducing dependence on nuclear power plants,” enabling nuclear power plants to operate for more than 60 years and promoting rebuilding

Prime Minister’s Office

February 10, 2023
On February 10, the cabinet approved the government’s basic policy for decarbonization, which includes rebuilding next-generation nuclear power plants and extending their operational life beyond 60 years. In addition to renewable energy, the policy also specifies “maximum utilization” of nuclear power plants. After the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the government has been advocating a reduction in dependence on nuclear power, but the worsening environment for procuring energy resources due to the crisis in Ukraine and other factors have led to a major shift in energy policy.
 The decision was made in the form of the “Basic Policy for the Realization of GX (Green Transformation). Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura stated, “The public and private sectors will work together to accelerate efforts toward the realization of GX.
 After the compilation of the policy in December of last year, a public comment period was held, and approximately 3,300 opinions were received.
 The period of operation of nuclear power plants, which after the Fukushima accident was set at “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” will be extended to allow operation for more than 60 years, excluding from the calculation the period during which the plants are shut down to respond to the screening process for restarting. The company will also work on the development and construction of next-generation nuclear power plants on the grounds that this will increase safety. (Kyodo)

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Cabinet approves a major change in nuclear power plant policy, including new construction and operation beyond 60 years.

Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Mihama Town, Fukui Prefecture, September 16, 2022; photo by Satoru Iizuka from an Asahi Broadcasting Corporation TV helicopter.

February 10, 2023
On February 10, the Kishida administration approved the “Basic Policy for Realization of GX (Green Transformation),” which includes allowing new construction and operation of nuclear power plants for more than 60 years, at a cabinet meeting. The change in nuclear power policy since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant became an official government policy. Related bills will be submitted to the ordinary Diet session.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at the GX Executive Conference. Second from the front is Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry. In the back is Akihiro Nishimura, Minister of the Environment = 2:59 p.m., December 22, 2022, Prime Minister’s Official Residence, photo by Koichi Ueda.

Public comments on the draft of the basic policy presented in December of last year included many objections to the nuclear power policy, but no major revisions were made.
The basic policy mainly lists policies that should be taken over the next 10 years toward the realization of a decarbonized society in 2050. It clearly states the “maximum use” of nuclear power plants as well as renewable energy. After the accident, the government had stated that it did not envision the construction of new nuclear power plants at this time, but it has now shifted to a policy of working toward this goal.

 Specifically, the government will “work on the development and construction” of improved nuclear power plants, which it calls “next-generation innovative reactors,” and will rebuild them on the sites of nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned. The government will also “consider” building nuclear power plants in areas where there are currently no nuclear power plants.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Reviving Japan’s nuclear power industry will not be easy

People holding placards as they march on the street during a demonstration in downtown Tokyo to denounce the Japanese government’s plan to resume nuclear power use, in October 2012.

Jan 3, 2023

Japan is facing its most severe energy crisis in decades and wants to speed up the revival of its nuclear energy industry to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels.

But restarting more nuclear reactors remains controversial, more than a decade after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

What does the government want?

All the country’s reactors were shut down for safety checks after the Fukushima meltdown, and there are currently 33 considered operable.

By mid-December, nine were generating electricity, meeting a target set by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida this summer to help counter energy shortages and cover around 10% of Japan’s winter power consumption.

The national nuclear safety watchdog has approved the restart of seven other reactors in principle, but such moves often face fierce opposition from local communities.

In August, Kishida called for these seven reactors to come online by summer 2023 and said Japan should also consider building next-generation nuclear reactors.

He also said authorities would discuss extending the service life of existing reactors beyond the current 60-year limit if safety can be guaranteed.

Before the Fukushima disaster, nearly a third of Japan’s power generation came from nuclear energy, but in the fiscal year to March 2022, the figure stood at around 7%.

The government is aiming for nuclear power to account for between 20% and 22% of electricity production by 2030, part of efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

What are the obstacles?

The success of these nuclear power ambitions lies with Japan’s independent Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which must give a green light to the plans before they go ahead.

“It will be a challenge” to get existing reactors going again, because some have been “stalled for quite a long time,” said Tom O’Sullivan, a Tokyo-based energy consultant at Mathyos Advisory.

Bringing nuclear plants online could also be complicated by “nervousness about anti-terrorism issues,” he added, pointing to concerns around plants caught in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Given what’s happening with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, I think the NRA is probably more sensitive nowadays to potential terrorist attacks.”

Surveys show that reticence among the Japanese public toward a nuclear power revival has eased since the war in Ukraine triggered a steep rise in energy prices last year.

But opposition from people living near the plants will remain a sticking point, while reports of security breaches at one large plant in recent years have added to public unease, said analyst Hiroe Yamamoto of Moody’s Japan.

How quickly the government’s nuclear power revival hopes can become reality depends on local authorities but also Kishida’s popularity this year, said Nobuo Tanaka, chair of the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum steering committee.

The prime minister is currently “in trouble,” with his approval ratings dragged down last year by scandals, Tanaka said at a recent news conference.

So “just saying we need (more reactors online) because of high energy prices — this kind of argument may not be sustainable,” and the government must also address issues such as waste disposal, he said.

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

Nuclear plant hosts split over Japan’s reversed energy policy

An anti-nuclear rally is held near the prime minister’s office building in Tokyo on Dec. 16.

December 23, 2022

The government’s return to reliance on nuclear energy sparked both anger and joy among municipalities that host nuclear power plants.

The Fumio Kishida administration, in a sweeping reversal of the nation’s nuclear energy policy, says it intends to make “maximum use” of nuclear power to secure a stable energy supply and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are still struggling to rebuild our community,” said Hisato Iwamoto, a member of the Futaba town assembly. “The central government must have forgotten the Fukushima disaster.”

The town co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Iwamoto’s family was forced to move from one place to another in the prefecture following the disaster.

In fact, all residents of Futaba were told to evacuate their homes.

As a member of the town assembly that had endorsed nuclear power, Iwamoto said he feels responsible.

“It had never occurred to us that an accident could happen at the plant because we constantly asked the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to ensure the plant’s safety,” he said. “I now know there is no such thing as ‘absolutely safe’ no matter how advanced nuclear plants become in the future.”

Since the 2011 triple meltdown, Iwamoto has consistently sounded warnings that a serious accident could occur at any nuclear plant when he attended meetings of assembly members of municipalities hosting nuclear plants across the country.

But their reactions have been lukewarm, according to Iwamoto.

Iwamoto, 65, noted that politicians opposed to nuclear energy would have difficulty winning elections in areas whose economies rely largely on nuclear plants.

His father, Tadao, was a good example.

Tadao was first elected to the Fukushima prefectural assembly in 1971 and began activity opposing nuclear plants. That opposition resulted in three straight election losses since 1975.

Even in the 1979 election, which followed the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the United States in March that year, he gained the least number of votes among candidates.

After he switched his position and accepted nuclear power, he was elected Futaba mayor. He served five terms at the post.

Evacuees from Futaba were allowed to return to live in their hometown in August.

But Futaba is now a far cry from what it used to be, said Iwamoto, who still lives in evacuation in Iwaki in the prefecture.

“Community ties have never been restored,” he said.

Ritsuko Yanai, a 44-year-old mother who evacuated to Aizuwakamatsu in the prefecture, said she suspects the central government is “trying to wipe the slate clean.”

She is from Okuma, the other co-host of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

She fled the disaster with her 1-month-old son. Her parents’ home was dismantled to make space for and interim facility to store debris and waste from decontamination work.

There is no clue on when decommissioning of the plant will be completed. And the release into the sea of tons and tons of treated water stored at the plant is expected to begin in spring.

“The nuclear accident is not over yet,” Yanai said.

But in Mihama, a town hosting the Mihama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, the central government’s decision on nuclear power was mostly welcomed.

The prefecture facing the Sea of Japan hosts 15 reactors, the most in the nation. Seven of them, including two prototype reactors and two reactors at the Mihama plant, are in the process of decommissioning.

“The central government finally took action,” said Jitaro Yamaguchi, a former mayor of the town. “Nothing can serve as an alternative to nuclear energy.”

Yamaguchi, who was Mihama mayor for 20 years until he stepped down in 2019, had lobbied Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the Mihama nuclear plant, to build more reactors in the town, with a population of about 9,000.

His pro-nuclear power stance remained unchanged even after the Fukushima disaster.

“We need nuclear plants when we think about environmental issues and power supply,” he said. “They have benefitted the local economy.”

The Mihama nuclear plant is called the “heart” of the local economy, sending “blood” to every corner of the town.

More than half of the town’s initial budget of 8.6 billion yen ($65 million) for fiscal 2022 is funded by revenues from nuclear facilities.

Since retiring as mayor, Yamaguchi, 79, has served as head of an organization promoting nuclear power.

He said he is pleased with the government’s new policy to replace retired reactors with new units. Previous governments had refused to commit to such projects following the Fukushima accident.

The town now has better prospects for construction of brand-new reactors–and more money.

“Nuclear power plants are an integral part of the local industry,” he said. “They should be built seamlessly.”

But the town is not without opponents of new reactors as well as advocates for a shift to renewables.

“A nuclear plant is akin to a drug addiction that you cannot break,” said Teruyuki Matsushita, a 74-year-old assemblyman. “Once a huge sum of money from a nuclear project is poured in the town, you are increasingly less likely to give serious thought on how to build the future of the town.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Keitaro Fukuchi, Nobuyuki Takiguchi and Tsunetaka Sato.)

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

VOX POPULI: Shame on you, prime minister, for your blatant about-face

JR Namie Station, upper right, in Fukushima Prefecture is surrounded by vacant land in March 2019, after homes and shops damaged by the 2011 nuclear disaster were demolished.

December 24, 2022

Mariko Sato of the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, said in March 2011: “Explosions at the nuclear power plant have forced me to evacuate twice already. What’s going to happen in the days ahead?”

“I’ve lived a bit too long. I saw something I didn’t want to see,” noted 102-year-old Fumio Okubo in April before he took his own life in front of his home in the village of Iitate.

One year later, 6-year-old Toya Matsuoka spoke of his dream: “I want to be rich when I grow up. I’m going to buy a big house that won’t be washed away by tsunami, so my entire family can live there.”

And Kunio Omori, 81, recalled his temporary return to his home in the town of Tomioka: “There were beautifully ripe, yellow fruits on apricot trees in my yard. But I couldn’t even pick them, let alone eat.”

Those are among comments by Fukushima residents who survived the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 that triggered a nuclear disaster to tell their stories to The Asahi Shimbun.

Trying to remember what kind of future our nation sought back then, I re-read the clippings, placed side by side on my desk with stories that ran in yesterday’s paper.

And I was overcome with shocked disbelief: How could anyone completely forget something of such magnitude after only 11 years?

The Kishida administration on Dec. 23 announced a new policy to make “maximum use” of nuclear power.

The government will proceed with the hitherto “unanticipated” reconstruction of old facilities, will consider building new facilities and extend the life span of reactors to beyond 60 years.

The about-face is so total, I feel cheated.

And yet, the language of the new policy is shamelessly replete with lofty “assurances” such as, “Fukushima’s reconstruction is the basis on which (the nation’s) energy policy is to be pursued” and “the sobering lessons we learned from the accident will never be forgotten, not even for a second.”

A guilty heart is said to turn one’s ears red. And that is why the kanji for “haji” (shame) is made up of two radicals that stand for “ear” and “heart,” according to kanji scholar Shizuka Shirakawa (1910-2006), the author of “Joyo Jikai” (translated into English as The Keys to the Chinese Characters).

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida boasts about his “ability to listen.” I wonder if his new energy policy has made his ears turn red, even if for just a second.

If not, it’s just too sad.

January 5, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2022, Fuk 2023 | , | Leave a comment

Japanese panel approves return to nuclear power as disaster memories fade

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of his “green transformation” panel at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

Dec 22, 2022

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s advisory panel approved a plan to extend the lifespans of nuclear reactors beyond 60 years and build new units to replace those that are decommissioned, reversing policies put in place after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The step reflects a shift in public opinion, as the import-reliant country struggles with the threat of blackouts amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and extreme weather. While massive demonstrations calling for the abolition of atomic power were a regular occurrence in the wake of the meltdowns, recent polls indicate growing support for restarting idled plants.

The government is aiming to present legislation to parliament during the next session to put the basic plan into action, Kishida told a meeting of his “green transformation” panel, which is made up mostly of business executives and academics, on Thursday. The proposal will be opened for public comment and could gain Cabinet approval by February, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Japan is joining a global shift back to nuclear energy after the prices of natural gas and coal shot to records this year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended markets. The Kishida administration is also turning to nuclear to help curb emissions and hit Japan’s 2050 net-zero target.

A survey by the Yomiuri newspaper in August found 58% in favor of restarting idled reactors, the first time a majority approved of the idea in that poll series since the question was initially posed in 2017. A separate survey by public broadcaster NHK earlier this month found 45% approved of the panel’s plan, while 37% opposed it.

The government still faces some opposition from local residents over nuclear restarts and lawsuits related to safety concerns still keep many reactors offline. Only a third of Japan’s operable reactors have restarted since the 2011 disaster.

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

After the Fukushima disaster, Japan swore to phase out nuclear power. But not anymore

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is seen on March 17. Japan on Thursday adopted a new policy promoting greater use of nuclear energy to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and reduce carbon emissions — a major reversal of its phaseout plan since the Fukushima crisis.

December 22, 2022

TOKYO — Japan adopted a plan on Thursday to extend the lifespan of nuclear reactors, replace the old and even build new ones, a major shift in a country scarred by the Fukushima disaster that once planned to phase out atomic power.

In the face of global fuel shortages, rising prices and pressure to reduce carbon emissions, Japan’s leaders have begun to turn back toward nuclear energy, but the announcement was their clearest commitment yet after keeping mum on delicate topics like the possibility of building new reactors.

Under the new policy, Japan will maximize the use of existing reactors by restarting as many of them as possible and prolonging the operating life of aging ones beyond a 60-year limit. The government also pledged to develop next-generation reactors.In 2011, a powerful earthquake and the ensuing tsunami caused multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant — a disaster that supercharged anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan and at one point led the government to promise to phase out the energy by around 2030. But since then, the government has recommitted to the technology, including setting a target for nuclear to make up 20-22% of the country’s energy mix by the end of the decade.

Still, restart approvals for idled nuclear reactors have come slowly since the Fukushima disaster, which led to stricter safety standards. Utility companies have applied for restarts at 27 reactors in the past decade. Seventeen have passed safety checks and only 10 have resumed operation.

According the paper laying out the new policy, nuclear power serves “an important role as a carbon-free baseload energy source in achieving supply stability and carbon neutrality” and pledged to “sustain use of nuclear power into the future.” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he planned to get the Cabinet to approve the policy and submit necessary bills to Parliament.

As part of the new policy, the Economy and Industry Ministry has drafted a plan to allow extensions every 10 years for reactors after 30 years of operation while also permitting utilities to subtract offline periods in calculating reactors’ operational life.

The plan was endorsed on Wednesday by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan’s nuclear watchdog. New safety inspection rules still need to be put into law and approved by Parliament.

The regulation authority’s commissioner, Shinichi Yamanaka, told a news conference the new safety rules requiring operational permits every decade after 30 years will be safer than a current one-time 20-year extension option for 40-year-old reactors. But experts cast some doubt on that.

Some experts question extending the lifespan of older reactors

Takeo Kikkawa, an economics professor at the International University of Japan and an expert on energy, said utility operators under the new policy could keep using old equipment instead of investing in new technology or renewables.

“Naturally, we should aim for newer technology and use it safely. Therefore, extending reactors’ lifespans is an undesirable move,” Kikkawa recently told a talk show.

Most nuclear reactors in Japan are more than 30 years old. Four reactors that have operated for more than 40 years have received permission to operate, and one is currently online.

Under the new policy, Japan will also push for the development and construction of “next-generation innovative reactors” to replace about 20 reactors now set for decommissioning.

Kenichi Oshima, a Ryukoku University professor of environmental economy and energy policy, said some of what the government calls “innovative” reactors are not so different from existing technology and that prospects for nuclear fusion and other next-generation reactors are largely uncertain and not achievable anytime soon.

Thursday’s adoption of the new policy comes less than four months after Kishida launched the “GX (Green Transformation) Implementation Council” of outside experts and ministers to “consider all options” to compile a new policy that addresses global fuel shortages amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Japan’s nuclear energy goals may be out of reach

Nuclear energy accounts for less than 7% of Japan’s energy supply, and achieving the government’s goal of raising that share to 20-22% by 2030 will require about 27 reactors, from the current 10 — a target some say is not achievable. The new policy also does not help address imminent supply shortages because reactors cannot be restarted quickly enough.

While public opinion on nuclear energy has softened since Fukushima, opponents still argue atomic power is not flexible and not even cheaper than renewables when final waste management and necessary safety measures are considered — and that it can cause immeasurable damage in an accident.

Ruiko Muto, a survivor of the Fukushima disaster, called the new policy “extremely disappointing.” She added: “The Fukushima disaster is not over yet and the government seems to have already forgotten what happened.”

The regulation authority came under fire Wednesday after revelations by a civil group that a few of its experts had discussed details with industry ministry officials before the watchdog was officially asked to consider a rule change for aging reactors, despite their compulsory independence.

Prime Minister Kishida also said Thursday that the government will do more to find candidate sites for a final repository for high-level nuclear waste that Japan does not yet have. Preliminary studies have begun in two small towns in Hokkaido, angering some residents.

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

Bad move to prolong the life of an industry with no growth potential: Official Decision to Operate Nuclear Power Plants for More Than 60 Years, With the Goal of Restoring the Nuclear Power Plant Accident Unseen

Prime Minister’s Office

December 22, 2022
 On the afternoon of December 22, the government will hold a meeting of the Green Transformation (GX) Council at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss industrial transformation to realize a decarbonized society, and will formally decide on a basic policy that includes measures to utilize nuclear power plants, focusing on operating them for “more than 60 years” and rebuilding (replacing) them.
After the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011, the government had legally limited the operating period of nuclear power plants to “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” and had stated that it “does not envision” rebuilding or adding new plants, but 11 years and 9 months after the accident, the government is making a major change in its nuclear policy.
 According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, nuclear power plants will be allowed to operate for more than 60 years, excluding the period of suspension due to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s examination and judicial decisions for restarting operations. The revised bill is expected to be submitted to the ordinary Diet session next year.
 In addition, the company will move forward with concrete plans to rebuild nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned with next-generation nuclear power plants, based on the assumption that safety is ensured and that the local governments in which the plants are located have their understanding. The construction of new nuclear power plants is estimated to cost more than 1 trillion yen, and the government will also consider financial support measures to help electric power companies bear the initial costs.
 The basic policy will also include the development of the power grid to maximize the use of renewable energy.
 At the end of July, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed relevant ministries and agencies to advance discussions on overcoming the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the GX as one, and to specify items requiring a political decision.
◆ While uninhabitable areas still remain and compensation for the affected people is still ongoing
 Prime Minister Kishida is calling it a “political decision” to change the nuclear energy policy. While the GX’s cause of reforming the socioeconomic system to combat global warming has been raised, the maximum utilization of nuclear power plants is a bad move, a measure to prolong the life of an industry that is not expected to grow.
 There are two pillars of the government’s decision to utilize nuclear power plants: The first is to cut to the bare bones the rule of “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years” for operation, effectively allowing operation “beyond 60 years.
 Ensuring the safety of old nuclear power plants requires an enormous amount of manpower, money, and time. Nuclear power plants, which the government has promoted as an “inexpensive power source,” would impose a tremendous double-digit trillion-yen burden on electric power companies if even one severe accident were to occur. The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 11 years and 9 months ago brought this to light.
 The other pillar of the plan is to rebuild the decommissioned nuclear power plants with next-generation nuclear power plants. Although it is touted as the introduction of new technology, the number of human resources in the industry has decreased since the Fukushima accident, and there is an undeniable lack of personnel and technical capabilities. Nuclear power plant construction has long ceased, and nuclear power plant exports, promoted as a growth strategy by the Shinzo Abe administration, the longest in the postwar era, have failed at every turn.
 At the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, located 220 kilometers from Tokyo, the goal of restoration work remains elusive. Uninhabitable areas remain in the vicinity of the plant, and compensation for the victims is still ongoing. There is no hope for political decisions that do not face reality. (Shinichi Ogawa)

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

Government policy change, considering new and additional nuclear power plants, restarting 7 additional reactors, and extending operating periods

Prime Minister Kishida (screen) addresses the GX Executive Conference online on the afternoon of August 24 at the Prime Minister’s Office.

August 24, 2022
On August 24, the government announced its policy to consider the construction of next-generation nuclear power plants to ensure a stable supply of electricity in the future. This is a shift in the basic policy of the previous energy policy, which did not envision the construction of new nuclear power plants or the rebuilding of existing ones. It will also consider extending the operating period of nuclear power plants, which had been set at a maximum of 60 years. It will also aim to restart an additional seven nuclear power plants that have already passed the new regulatory standards screening process from next year onward. The government is prepared to promote nuclear power plants in order to ensure a stable power supply while promoting decarbonization.
 This was put forth at the “GX Action Council” held at the prime minister’s office to realize a decarbonized society. A conclusion will be reached by the end of the year. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized that “the government will take all possible measures in the forefront to restart nuclear power plants.

August 28, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Ironic for Tokyo to caution others on nuclear issue despite Fukushima plan

Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida speaks at the start of the tenth annual review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at UN headquarters on August 01, 2022 in New York City.

Aug 03, 2022

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged all nuclear countries to conduct themselves “responsibly” in non-proliferation efforts on Monday when he spoke at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the United Nations in New York.

The NPT Review Conference is held regularly to have discussions focused on the three pillars of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The issue of releasing nuclear contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station is also on the agenda. In his speech, Kishida, who already foresaw related discussion unfavorable to Japan, was giving the runaround to avoid being criticized due to Japan’s extremely irresponsible plan to release contaminated water. In fact, the review conference will be between August 1-26, but Kishida is scheduled to return to Japan on August 2 after delivering his speech on the first day of the conference, at a time when specific discussion of issues on the agenda have not yet begun. No one will be able to find Kishida when the issue of releasing nuclear contaminated water is on the table.

Since its entry into force, the NPT as an international framework has guided various countries to use nuclear science and technology for peace and development. Peaceful use of nuclear energy is allowed, but it’s appalling that Japan decided to discharge nuclear contaminated water into the ocean. But how serious the consequences will be after the actual dump? It will be unpredictable and irreversible.

It’s ridiculous that Japan’s actions, which may have far-reaching impact on the world, have been “approved” and tolerated by the US. In contrast, the leakage of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union is still strongly criticized by the US. This is undoubtedly a double standard. Wang Guangtao, an associated research fellow at the Center for Japanese Studies, Fudan University, believes that geographically speaking, although the US is also a Pacific country, judging from the flow direction and diffusion trajectory of ocean currents, nuclear contaminated water discharged by Japan will first affect Japan’s neighboring countries, not the US on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

Japan is the only country that experienced the nuclear attack. The US has been reluctant to criticize Japan over the release of nuclear contaminated water because of the sense of guilt and its own dark history in terms of nuclear radiation.

Japan and the US maintain close communication based on the alliance, and the US is bound to side with its Asian ally, rather than listen to the opposition of neighboring countries such as China and South Korea. The possibility that the US and Japan may have reached a deal under the table cannot be ruled out, as Japan, an East Asian country, first informed the US when it decided to release the nuclear contaminated water into the sea. The report released by Japanese expert panel which calculated anticipated radiation dose to the locals after discharging all the water to the sea was soon endorsed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in which the US is quite influential. This undoubtedly mirrors the hypocrisy of “rules-based international order” the US has vaunted.

Covered up by the US, Japan has been brazenly manipulating the nuclear issue. On the issue of nuclear safety, it is ultimately Japan that should be responsible for the health and safety of all humankind, rather than urging others to act “responsibly” when it’s on the verge of discharging nuclear contaminated water into the ocean.

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kishida to call for nuke-free world in historic address at U.N. treaty conference

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui (center, left) in Tokyo on Wednesday.

July 31, 2022

In a year in which nuclear disarmament hopes have been dented by not-so-subtle references by Russia to its own arsenal following its invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to make history as the first Japanese leader to address the United Nations’ nuclear nonproliferation treaty review conference, which begins in New York on Monday.

Kishida, who represents a district in Hiroshima, is expected to call for a world without nuclear weapons and for greater transparency among nuclear powers regarding their stockpiles and capabilities. His message will refer to Japan’s experience as the only country to have been attacked with an atomic bomb. The leader will also stress that all countries should neither use nuclear weapons nor threaten to use them.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Friday, the prime minister said it was important to link the treaty’s ideals with current geopolitical realities.

“The debate on nuclear disarmament is atrophying,” Kishida said, and he announced he would present a plan at the conference that would hopefully serve as a roadmap toward reaching a world without nuclear weapons.

The prime minister sees Japan’s role at the nearly monthlong conference, which will focus on keeping the buildup of nuclear weapons under control, as one of helping to bridge the differences between nuclear powers and nonnuclear states. Kishida is hoping to promote talks between China and the United States on nuclear disarmament and arms control. He’s also expected to call on the international community to work toward North Korea’s denuclearization.

In addition, Kishida will attend a side meeting of foreign ministers of 12 nonnuclear states that make up the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI).

Co-founded by Japan and nine other nations in September 2010, the NPDI works within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on steps to increase transparency efforts on nuclear disarmament.

But the last NPT review conference in 2015 ended in failure. And the establishment of a separate treaty banning nuclear weapons is supported by nonnuclear weapons states frustrated with the lack of progress at the NPT toward the disarmament goal. In that context, reaching a final agreement among the 191 NPDI member states will be a challenge.

Long-held objectives

The NPT entered into force in 1970 with the objective of preventing the buildup of nuclear weapons and related technology. It also supported the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and had the goal of eventually achieving complete disarmament. Treaty signatories include five declared nuclear weapons states — United States, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia — all of which are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates there were 12,705 nuclear warheads in existence worldwide as of January, of which about 9,440 were in military stockpiles available for potential use. An estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, and around 2,000 — nearly all of which belonged to Russia or the U.S. — were kept in a state of high operational alert. China had 350 warheads, Pakistan had 165 and India had 160.

India and Pakistan, which have declared their nuclear weapons programs, have not joined the NPT. Israel maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity on its nuclear weapons’ program and has not joined either, although it reportedly has 90 warheads. North Korea, believed to have at least 20 nuclear warheads, withdrew from the pact in 2003.

The tenth review conference is expected to consider a number of issues: universality of the Treaty; nuclear disarmament, including specific practical measures; nuclear non-proliferation, including the promoting and strengthening of safeguards; measures to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy, safety and security; regional disarmament and non-proliferation.

NPT member states meet every five years, with this year’s conference having been postponed since 2020 due to the pandemic.

A shift in focus?

The 2015 conference failed to produce a substantial outcome due to differences over a proposal to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The U.S. criticized the Arab League over the lack of progress, while Egypt and Russia blamed the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.

Differences over a deadline for the process and individual requirements for reaching that goal sunk the deal, which would commit 27 Arab League members and observers, plus Iran and Israel, to ban nuclear weapons. Discussions on the issue may resume this year, but it’s likely that the Middle East will take a back seat amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We have to deal openly and honestly with threats to the treaty, in particular the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its reckless behaviors that impact each of the treaty’s central tenets. I have no doubt that Russia’s actions will affect the climate at the conference,” said Adam Scheinman, U.S. special representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, at a news conference on July 26.

Marianne Hanson, an international security and arms control expert at the University of Queensland, said that one way conference participants could deal with fears about nuclear warfare in Ukraine is to issue “no first use” statements. But she is pessimistic about that coming to fruition.

“Members should issue no first-use statements — China is the only one of the treaty’s nuclear weapons’ states to do so. It would be a concession that would please the nonnuclear weapons’ states. But former U.S. President Barack Obama’s attempt to issue a no first use statement was halted by Japanese and South Korean objections. I don’t expect we will see any more NFU statements at this conference,” she said. The two U.S. allies were concerned such a statement would lead to a weakening of the nuclear deterrence provided by the U.S.

Japanese lawmakers and citizens will also be watching to see how NPT members handle the Russia issue and the role the prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party will play at the conference.

“Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. It’s important to forge a path toward agreement (on the principle of no first use) after the joint statement is confirmed — an agreement that includes Russia,” Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, said at a news conference July 26. “I hope that Prime Minister Kishida will play a leading role in this process.”

‘Rival’ treaties

Another main issue the NPT conference will have to deal with is how to reach agreement in the context of the newer United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a separate agreement which went into force in January 2021.

Member states of the 2021 treaty have agreed to not develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The treaty prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory and the provision of assistance to any state in the conduct of prohibited activities. Sixty-six states have ratified the treaty so far, while another 23 have signed but not ratified it. All, however, are nonnuclear states.

The nuclear power states all refused to join the prohibition treaty, calling it incompatible with the current security environment realities.

“As a final step on the long path to eventual nuclear disarmament, the world will need a verifiable, enforceable treaty, one that is consistent with security conditions in the world and helps generate the security necessary to prevent war,” Scheinman said. “That’s not how I would characterize the TPNW. We’ll either have an NPT-based system for reducing nuclear risks or we’ll have no treaty-based system at all,” he added.

Japan’s position on the TPNW is that, while it is an important step toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, it is weakened by the fact that no nuclear weapons state is a member. Given the current international situation and Japan’s reliance on the U.S. nuclear security umbrella, Tokyo believes a more realistic approach like the NPT, which includes nuclear weapons states, is still needed.

Hanson noted, however, that while nuclear weapons states have only derided the TPNW, the fact that members met in June for the first time since the treaty went into force might push them to tone down their remarks about it at the NPT review conference.

While none of the nuclear weapons states were at the June meeting, NATO allies Norway, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Australia, participated as observers.

“I suspect that the nuclear weapons states, especially the U.S., the U.K. and France, will acknowledge that the TPNW exists and that it is ‘useful,’ even though they’ll continue to prioritize the NPT. But at least that would be better than the previous hostile statements about it,” Hanson said.

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Apr 27, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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