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Abe, ex-Prime Minister Kan go head to head in nuclear debate

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan at a Lower House Budget Committee session on Feb. 6
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and predecessor Naoto Kan had a rare face-to-face showdown at a Lower House Budget Committee session over their nuclear energy policies on Feb. 6.
Abe admitted that his Liberal Democratic Party shares partial responsibility for failing to prevent the Fukushima nuclear emergency, but slammed those who advocate abandoning nuclear power generation as irresponsible.
The triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, occurred when the now-disbanded Democratic Party of Japan was in power and Kan was prime minister. He is now a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
Most of the nation’s nuclear plants were built on the back of the LDP’s energy policy during the party’s long stints in power.
“The LDP did not give sufficient consideration to (safety issues of) nuclear facilities while it was in power (before the DPJ’s tenure), did it?” Kan accused Abe. “The LDP should admit its part in failing to prevent the Fukushima accident.”
Abe responded: “That is absolutely correct. The government and the nuclear plant operator were blinded by the safety myth (that nothing catastrophic could happen to a Japanese nuclear power plant), and that caused such tragedy.”
Abe also blasted the no-nuclear plant policy promoted by former LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and like-minded lawmakers from opposition parties, saying he “cannot recognize it as a responsible energy policy.”
In an argument over the true cost of nuclear power generation, neither Abe nor Kan would budge from their viewpoints.
Abe indicated he will continue to support restarting nuclear plants around Japan, saying “power bills paid by typical households rose by about 10 percent (on average) while many nuclear plants remained offline.”
Kan condemned Abe’s position as “calculating only what is convenient for yourself,” pointing out that the cost for dealing with the accident’s aftermath and radiation contamination has already more than doubled from what was initially expected.

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Abe apologizes over minister’s remarks on Fukushima evacuees

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) operates a drone in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, during his visit to see the area’s reconstruction from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster, on Saturday. At right is Masahiro Imamura, disaster reconstruction minister

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized Saturday over controversial remarks recently made by his disaster reconstruction minister, who implied that Fukushima nuclear crisis evacuees from areas where the government deems safe should fend for themselves.

The minister has already apologized himself but I want to straightforwardly express my apology,” Abe told reporters in the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, during his visit to see the area’s reconstruction from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster. The minister, Masahiro Imamura, was accompanying Abe.

Opposition parties have been calling for the resignation of Imamura, who told reporters Tuesday that the decision by people to remain evacuated from the areas outside the government-designated zones around the Fukushima Daiichi plant is their “own responsibility, their own choice.”

The government halted housing subsidies for such voluntary evacuees last month. But many are still unable to return home amid doubts over the government’s safety rhetoric and concerns over possible health risks.

Imamura was being asked by reporters about the government’s responsibility for supporting evacuees. He then told one of the reporters who kept asking questions to “shut up.”

Imamura later apologized and retracted his comment.

On Saturday, Abe underscored that rebuilding the disaster-hit areas is one of the priorities for his administration and apparently took his latest Fukushima visit as an opportunity to deliver his apology.

Nothing has changed in my administration’s policy to promote reconstruction by standing by the people in Fukushima and those affected by the disaster,” Abe said. “Without Fukushima’s reconstruction, there is no reconstruction of the Tohoku region. Without Tohoku’s reconstruction, Japan’s regeneration is impossible.”

Abe also visited a ranch in the town of Naraha which has resumed operations following temporary closure in the wake of the disaster. After drinking fresh milk there, he said, “I want to help remove damaging rumors and expand their sales route.”

https://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/abe-apologizes-over-ministers-remarks-on-fukushima-evacuees

April 9, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Could nuclear advocacy be Abe’s undoing?

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Nuclear foe: Ryuichi Yoneyama (center), a medical doctor who advocates anti-nuclear policies, raises his hands after he was assured of winning the gubernatorial election in Niigata Prefecture on Oct. 16.

Voters have elected anti-nuclear governors in Kagoshima and Niigata prefectures in recent months. These elections can be considered referenda on nuclear power because that issue was the main focus of debate in both campaigns. The results have put Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — and his plans to rev up the country’s fleet of nuclear reactors — behind the eight ball of public opinion and prefectural politics.

There will be a slew of gubernatorial elections in 2017 that will focus on nuclear energy, an issue where the Liberal Democratic Party is vulnerable because it was in charge when all of Japan’s reactors were built and was arguably complicit in the culture of complacency and regulatory capture that compromised public safety. The LDP owns the Fukushima disaster and thus the shambolic cleanup further discredits Abe’s party.

The media portrayed the victory of Ryuichi Yoneyama in Niigata over the “nuclear village” candidate, former construction ministry bureaucrat Tamio Mori as a major upset. Abe endorsed Mori, but his pro-nuclear advocacy proved his undoing. Mori toned down that message toward the end of his campaign but it was too late to fend off Yoneyama, who rode the wave of nuclear anxieties into office. He replaces another anti-nuclear governor who stymied Tepco’s plans to restart reactors in the prefecture in the aftermath of the Fukushima debacle and revelations of slack safety practices.

In 2007, the massive 8-gigawatt Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which consists of seven reactors, shut down after a strong earthquake struck Niigata. Local scientists had sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government for selecting a dangerous site for the world’s largest atomic power plant, arguing that it is built on an active fault line, but a judge dismissed their claims as baseless in 2005.

Mother Nature ruled otherwise. The reactors all shut down, but the land subsided, breaking water pipes so that fire-fighting was delayed. More importantly, the manager of the plant said during a subsequent NHK interview that first responders had been very lucky, explaining that he and his staff would have been helpless if anything had gone wrong, as they were all locked out of the command center where the reactor controls are located because the door to the room had jammed shut due to land subsidence. Improvising, they set up whiteboards in the parking lot and relied on their mobile phones, but they had absolutely no means to manage any reactor emergency if there had been one. This story is not forgotten in Niigata.

There is heightened concern among most Japanese about nuclear safety following the three meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. Three major investigations into the nuclear disaster have pinpointed human error as the main cause of the meltdowns, highlighting cozy and collusive relations between Tepco and nuclear watchdogs that compromised safety because regulations were not strictly enforced and regulators averted their eyes from serious breaches. They are also mindful that back in 2002 a whistleblower alerted authorities to Tepco’s systematic falsification of repair and maintenance records for all 17 of its reactors. A coverup failed and the media subsequently revealed that all of the utilities operating nuclear reactors had engaged in similarly shoddy practices, cutting corners to save money.

Have the lessons of Fukushima been learned and led to appropriate countermeasures to upgrade safety? Apparently voters are not convinced by the PR machine that touts stricter safety regulations and hardware upgrades, and they have been finding support among judges who have issued injunctions blocking reactor restarts that have been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. The NRA is the reincarnation of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which lost all credibility following post-Fukushima meltdown revelations of slipshod oversight. Alas, the Homer Simpsons of NISA now constitute the majority of NRA employees, undermining the credibility of the new nuclear watchdog agency.

The government and utilities are supposed to consult local opinion, but in practice they limit this to communities hosting reactors because these people have a vested interest in rebooting nuclear plants. Nuclear power plants don’t generate revenue and subsidies if idle, while restarting a reactor opens the spigots of cash that these remote communities are dependent on. Now that the evacuation zones have been expanded to 30 kilometers, extending into adjoining towns that shoulder the same risks without the benefits, it would make sense to give these communities a say in restarts. However, the central government opposes that because it fears that locals who have not been co-opted wouldn’t be in favor of restarts, especially since evacuation drills have been chaotic, revealing that the government is advocating restarts before it is properly prepared to deal with a crisis.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are operating and one of them is in Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, where another anti-nuclear governor won election. This reactor is not far from where the devastating Kumamoto earthquake struck in April, in a region that also features a number of active volcanoes spewing ash that could block roads and impede an emergency evacuation.

What are the chances of a simultaneous earthquake, typhoon, tsunami and volcanic eruption affecting a nuclear reactor? Probably not that high, but there was such a deadly combination of earthquakes, eruptions, landslide and tsunami with a 100-meter wave recorded in Kyushu in 1791 that killed 15,000 people. But no worries — that was on a different part of the island.

Exit polls from Niigata’s gubernatorial elections found that 73 percent of voters oppose restarting the Niigata plant and only 27 percent are in favor. A mid-October Asahi poll found that 57 percent of Japanese nationwide were opposed to nuclear restarts and only 29 percent were in favor. More importantly, the same poll found that 73 percent of Japanese favor a zero nuclear energy policy in the near future and just 22 percent are opposed to the idea.

What must worry Abe even more is that within the LDP, 45 percent of members oppose nuclear energy while just 42 percent support his nuclear advocacy. Thus former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi may be right with his recent assertion that Abe has a nuclear Achilles’ heel that may lead to his downfall.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/10/29/commentary/nuclear-advocacy-abes-undoing/#.WBYLfiTia-d

October 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan Political Pulse: A helping hand following radiation misfortune

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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)

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161003/p2a/00m/0na/021000c

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Japan PM accuses Abe of lying over Fukushima pledge

Junichiro Koizumi disputes current leader’s description of situation at stricken nuclear power plant as being under control

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Junichiro Koizumi is supporting US sailors and marines who claim they developed illness after being exposed to Fukushima radiation while helping with relief operations.

Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has labelled the country’s current leader, Shinzo Abe, a “liar” for telling the international community that the situation at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is under control.

Koizumi, who became one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders during his 2001-06 premiership, has used his retirement from frontline politics to become a leading campaigner against nuclear restarts in Japan in defiance of Abe, a fellow conservative Liberal Democratic party (LDP) politician who was once regarded as his natural successor.

Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires in September 2013 that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was “under control”, shortly before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.

IOC officials were concerned by reports about the huge build-up of contaminated water at the Fukushima site, more than two years after the disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

When [Abe] said the situation was under control, he was lying,” Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo. “It is not under control,” he added, noting the problems the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), has experienced with a costly subterranean ice wall that is supposed to prevent groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors, where it becomes highly contaminated.

They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. He went on to claim that Abe had been fooled by industry experts who claim that nuclear is the safest, cleanest and cheapest form of energy for resource-poor Japan.

He believes what he’s being told by nuclear experts,” Koizumi said. “I believed them, too, when I was prime minister. I think Abe understands the arguments on both sides of the debate, but he has chosen to believe the pro-nuclear lobby.”

After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said he had “studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power, and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies”.

Abe has pushed for the restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors, while the government says it wants nuclear to account for a fifth of Japan’s total energy mix by 2030. Just three of the country’s dozens of nuclear reactors are in operation, and two will be taken offline later this year for maintenance.

Koizumi, 74, has also thrown his support behind hundreds of US sailors and marines who claim they developed leukaemia and other serious health problems after being exposed to Fukushima radiation plumes while helping with relief operations – nicknamed Operation Tomodachi (friend) – following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In 2012 the service personnel launched a lawsuit accusing Tepco of failing to prevent the accident and of lying about the levels of radiation from the stricken reactors, putting US personnel at risk.

Most of the 400 plaintiffs were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that was anchored off Japan’s north-east coast while helicopters flew emergency supplies to survivors of the tsunami, which killed almost 19,000 people.

Medical experts, however, said the sailors would have received only small, non-harmful doses of radiation; a US defence department report published in 2014 said no link had been established between the sailors’ health problems and their exposure to low doses of Fukushima radiation.

Koizumi, who met several of the sick servicemen in San Diego in May, plans to raise $1m by the end of next March to help cover the sailors’ medical expenses.

I felt I had to do something to help those who worked so hard for Japan,” he said. “That won’t be enough money, but at least it will show that Japan is grateful for what they did for us.”

Despite his opposition to Abe’s pro-nuclear policies, Koizumi was complimentary about his performance as prime minister during his second time in office in the past decade.

As far as nuclear power is concerned, we are totally at odds,” Koizumi said. “But I think he’s reflected on the mistakes he made during his first time as leader and is doing a much better job second time around.”

In political longevity terms, Abe’s performance could hardly be worse. He resigned in September 2007 after less than a year in office, following a series of ministerial scandals, a debilitating bowel condition and a disastrous performance by the LDP in upper house elections.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/07/former-japan-pm-junichiro-koizumi-accuses-abe-lying-over-fukushima-pledge

Junichiro Koizumi

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi poses for photos as he arrives for a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. Koizumi is raising money for the hundreds of American sailors who say they got sick from radiation after taking part in disaster relief for the 2011 tsunami that set off the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

Former Japan Premier Accuses Abe of ‘a Lie’ on Fukushima Safety

Koizumi says situation at Fukushima plant not under control

After previously backing nuclear power, Koizumi now opposes it

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi blasted current premier Shinzo Abe’s stance that the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is under control.

It’s a lie,” an impassioned Koizumi, 74, told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. “They keep saying it’s going to be under control, but still it’s not effective. I really want to know how you can tell a lie like that.”

A spokesman for Abe’s office didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail requesting comment.

More than five years after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, the operator — Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. — continues to struggle to contain the radiation-contaminated water that inundates the plant. Tepco is using a frozen “ice wall” to stop water from entering the wrecked facility, but still about 300 metric tons of water flows into the reactor building daily, mixing with melted fuel and becoming tainted, according to the company’s website.

Company spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said by e-mail that a process to bolster the ice wall is beginning to have an effect, adding that the company believes no underground water is flowing into the sea without being treated. All radioactive materials are under measurable limits, he said.

Koizumi was speaking at an event to publicize his campaign to raise money to help U.S. servicemen who say they contracted radiation sickness while working on the cleanup after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and meltdown.

The former prime minister backed the use of nuclear power during his years in office from 2001-2006, but now says he regrets that he had been ignorant about its risks and is campaigning for its abolition.

When I was prime minister, I believed what they told me. I believed it was a cheap, safe and clean form of energy,” Koizumi said. “I’m now ashamed of myself for believing those lies for so long.”

Restart Roadblocks

Koizumi also blasted Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, saying that its chief, Shunichi Tanaka, gave permission to restart the Sendai reactor in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu despite having reservations about its safety.

The authority wasn’t immediately available to comment outside of business hours.

Local courts and governments have been one of the biggest roadblocks to restarting more reactors, crimping Abe’s goal of deriving as much as 22 percent of the nation’s energy needs from nuclear by 2030.

The Otsu District Court earlier this year made a surprise decision that restricted Kansai Electric Power Co. from operating two reactors in western Japan only weeks after they’d been turned back on.

On March 10, the eve of the fifth anniversary of the disaster, Abe said that Japan can’t do without nuclear power.

No Perfect Source’

Just three of the nation’s 42 operable reactors are currently online. Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai No. 1 and 2 reactors, which restarted last year, are facing opposition from the region’s new governor, who has twice formally demanded that they be temporarily shut for inspection.

There is no perfect source for electricity,” Dale Klein, an adviser to Tepco and a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an interview in Tokyo last week. “If there were a perfect source, we wouldn’t be having our energy debates. Wind has its problems, solar has its problems, coal has its problems. But at the end of the day, we need electricity. And I think nuclear is an environmentally viable way to produce electricity.”

Koizumi contested claims by Abe’s administration that the nuclear watchdog is imposing the world’s most stringent safety standards in the earthquake-prone nation. “If you compare the Japanese regulations to those in America, you realize how much looser the Japanese regulations are,” he said.

Abe knows the arguments on both sides, but he still believes the arguments for nuclear power generation,” Koizumi added.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-07/former-japan-premier-accuses-abe-of-a-lie-on-fukushima-safety?utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&cmpid%3D=socialflow-twitter-business

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Abe’s Fukushima ‘under control’ pledge to secure Olympics was a lie – former PM

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promise that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” in his successful pitch three years ago for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games “was a lie”, former premier Junichiro Koizumi said on Wednesday.

Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular premiers during his 2001-2006 term, became an outspoken critic of nuclear energy after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi plant, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Abe gave the assurances about safety at the Fukushima plant in his September 2013 speech to the International Olympic Committee to allay concerns about awarding the Games to Tokyo. The comment met with considerable criticism at the time.

“Mr. Abe’s ‘under control’ remark, that was a lie,” Koizumi, now 74 and his unruly mane of hair turned white, told a news conference where he repeated his opposition to nuclear power.

“It is not under control,” Koizumi added, citing as an example Tepco’s widely questioned efforts to build the world’s biggest “ice wall” to keep groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors and getting contaminated.

“They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. Experts say handling the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water stored in tanks on the Fukushima site is one of the biggest challenges.

Koizumi also said he was “ashamed” that he had believed experts who assured him that nuclear power was cheap, clean and safe and that resource-poor Japan had to rely on nuclear energy.

After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said, “I studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies.”

All Japan’s nuclear plants – which had supplied about 30 percent of its electricity – were closed after the Fukushima disaster and utilities have struggled to get running again in the face of a sceptical public. Only three are operating now.

Abe’s government has set a target for nuclear power to supply a fifth of energy generation by 2030.

The meltdowns in three Fukushima reactors spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air. More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/abe-s-fukushima-under-control-pledge-to-secure-olympics-was-a/3108276.html

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Despite dwindling momentum, Koizumi pursues anti-nuclear goals

While Japan’s once-charged anti-nuclear movement struggles to retain its momentum five years after the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi remains doggedly determined to attain his goal of ending the country’s reliance on atomic energy.

On Wednesday, he renewed his pledge to help ill U.S. veterans whose conditions they claim are linked to the release of radioactive plumes from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Koizumi, who is opposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear stance, said it was an “outright lie” when Abe said during Tokyo’s final presentation for the bid to host the 2020 Olympics that the contaminated water situation at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is under control.

Koizumi also said Japan can be put on a sustainable path without atomic power.

The nuclear power industry says safety is their top priority, but profit is in fact what comes first,” Koizumi told an audience of more than 180 who had gathered for his news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “Japan can grow if the country relies more renewable energy.”

As part of his anti-nuclear push, the 74-year-old former leader set up a fund in July to help U.S. sailors with conditions such as leukemia that they say was caused by radioactive fallout from Fukushima No. 1. He said the fund has raised about ¥40 million so far, with a goal of topping ¥100 million by next March 31.

In May, Koizumi visited Carlsbad, California, to speak to several veterans with health conditions who had taken part in Operation Tomodachi while aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Those veterans had provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Tohoku region after quake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, at the request of the Japanese government.

After talking to the sailors, I thought it would not be enough for me to simply say ‘I’m sorry’ and leave,” Koizumi said, explaining the impetus for setting up the fund.”Words alone would not be enough and I thought that I had to do something.”

Currently, about 400 U.S. veterans are taking part in a class-action lawsuit in California against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the stricken plant. The lawsuit says that some suffer from leukemia, testicular cancer and thyroid problems, or have experienced rectal and gynecological bleeding.

However, a 2014 report by the U.S. Defense Department determined that there was no causal relationship between radiation exposure during Operation Tomodachi and their illnesses.

Koizumi noted that while expressing sympathy for the veterans, a Foreign Ministry official had even said that there was nothing the Japanese government could do.

I’m not a doctor, but using common sense one can infer their conditions were caused by radiation, since strong and healthy sailors just don’t find tumors or suffer from conditions like nasal hemorrhages,” Koizumi said.

He was a backer of nuclear power while leader between 2001 and 2006.

But Fukushima changed all that.

After the disaster, he became one of the most outspoken opponents of atomic energy, calling the often-repeated mantra of “clean, safe, cheap” nuclear power a lie.

With the shift, he set up a foundation with former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 2014 to call for an immediate phasing out of nuclear power to be replaced with a renewable energy policy.

Yet, Abe’s government sees nuclear energy as a key plank in his bid to export infrastructure and hopes to restart the nation’s reactors so that nuclear can supply 20 to 22 percent of Japan’s electricity by 2030.

Currently, two reactors at the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and one reactor at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture are operating.

On Wednesday a request by Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono to suspend power generation at the Sendai plant was snubbed by operator Kyushu Electric Power Co.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/07/national/politics-diplomacy/despite-dwindling-momentum-koizumi-pursues-anti-nuclear-goals/#.V9BHrzVbGM8

September 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Abe rules out possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons

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Abe rules out possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons

HIROSHIMA — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ruled out the possibility on Aug. 6 that Japan will arm itself with nuclear weapons in the future.

“There is no way that Japan will either possess nuclear weapons or consider possessing such arms,” Abe told a news conference in Hiroshima.

At a press conference on Aug. 3, newly appointed Defense Minister Tomomi Inada stopped short of denying the possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons in the future.

“Under the Constitution, there are no restrictions on the types of weapons that Japan can possess as the minimum necessary,” she said.

Regarding the defense minister’s remarks, Prime Minister Abe said, “Her statement is consistent with the government’s policy. I’d like her to do her best as a member of the Abe Cabinet to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.”

As for constitutional revisions, the prime minister called for rational discussions on the issue. “I hope that the matter will be seriously discussed in the calm environment of the commissions on the Constitution (of both houses of the Diet), and lead to national debate.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160806/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

Abe: Japan will never consider possessing nukes

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the country will never possess, or even consider possessing, nuclear weapons.
Abe spoke to reporters after a memorial ceremony for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Saturday.
He was asked about remarks by new Defense Minister Tomomi Inada that Japan should not consider the possession of nuclear arms at the moment.
Abe said that Inada’s comment is consistent with the government’s policy.
He said Japan, as the only country to have experienced atomic bombings, firmly upholds its 3 non-nuclear principles.
Abe said, “It is our responsibility to make continuous and determined efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons.”
Abe was also asked about the possibility of the constitution being revised. He said the matter should be discussed in a quiet environment, referring to Diet panels reviewing the constitution. He said lawmakers, regardless of their party affiliation, should express their views in serious discussions, leading to a national debate.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160806_19/

Abe calls for nuclear-free world in Hiroshima

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he is resolved to pursue a nuclear-free world and will do his best to achieve permanent peace.
The prime minister spoke on Saturday at a ceremony in Hiroshima to mark 71 years since the US atomic bombing of the city.
He referred to the visit in May of Barack Obama as the first incumbent US president to come to Hiroshima.
Abe said the leader of the sole nation to have used nuclear weapons saw the reality of the atomic bombing and urged nuclear powers to have the courage to achieve a world without such arms. Abe said he is sure that Obama’s speech gave hope to people around the world.
He said Japan, as the sole nation to have suffered atomic bombing, will adhere to its 3 non-nuclear principles of not having, not making and not bringing in nuclear arms. He said Japan will continue to stress the importance of maintaining and bolstering the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Abe said he will call for cooperation from both nuclear and non-nuclear powers in an effort to create a nuclear-free world. He added he will urge world leaders and young people to learn about the misery caused by atomic bombing.
He pledged continuing support for Japan’s aging atomic bomb survivors.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160806_12/

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

How rights and liberties may be downsized under the LDP

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A revisionist path: Men walk past a poster for the July 10 Upper House election with the image of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leader of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo. The slogan on the poster reads: ‘Forward with strength this path.’

 

During a recent TV program, the vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party, Masahiko Komura, insisted “there is zero possibility” that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would revise war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution even if the ruling coalition wins a two-thirds majority in the upcoming Upper House elections. But why believe him? Abe has made clear his intentions of promoting constitutional revision. Until he publicly pledges not to do so, voters are right to be wary.

Komura wants to bamboozle voters because he understands that public support for revising the Constitution is weak. An NHK poll in June indicated only 26 percent of Japanese citizens support his plans and only 11 percent think it is a priority. This lack of enthusiasm is also evident in a Kyodo poll in June indicating that 46.6 percent of all Upper House candidates oppose revising the Constitution, while only 34.6 percent support doing so. Broken down by party, 72.1 percent of the LDP favors revision while no candidate from coalition partner Komeito does, and only 28 percent of Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) candidates support revision. Virtually all the candidates of the Democratic Party and all of those fielded by the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party oppose revision.

Significantly, despite Abe’s enthusiasm, only 11.7 percent of all candidates think constitutional revision is a priority, according to the Kyodo poll.

DP leader Katsuya Okada has pointed out that Abe doesn’t seem to understand the role of the Constitution, which is to restrain state powers and protect the people’s civil liberties.

Where would Okada ever get that idea? Perhaps he glanced through the LDP’s 2012 draft constitution or the Q&A pamphlet the party distributed to explain its plans.

Indeed, the LDP seeks to fundamentally shift the relationship between the people and the state, imposing duties on citizens while lifting curbs on state powers. The LDP pamphlet asserts that there are “big” and “small” rights after a state of emergency is declared. The prime minister can declare a state of emergency in the event of a natural disaster, an armed attack by external forces or social disorder due to domestic turmoil, and the Cabinet could then suspend these small rights if they are deemed a threat to the undefined “public interest and public order.” So-called big rights are specified as those related to lives, bodies and property. Exactly what the mingy freedoms are is left to our imagination, but the implication is that they are a trivial but necessary sacrifice that must be made in service of the indispensable.

The LDP has cited the recent Kumamoto earthquake as an example of why it would be useful to have such a provision to facilitate relief and recovery efforts, but it is not clear that any problems in such operations had anything to do with the government’s inability to temporarily suspend civil liberties and human rights, or to concentrate power in the Cabinet. A state of emergency provision means that the government would have authority to suspend constitutional rights and bypass the Diet.

Good idea? Well it is troubling that the LDP believes that certain rights not only trump others, but can suspend them. The LDP is arguing that it may be necessary to sometimes put the Constitution on hold and, other times, to enforce it.

How would restrictions on human rights help in an emergency and what civil liberties might get in the way? This raises more questions: What are the criteria for deciding, and who gets to decide, that social turmoil has reached the tipping point for suspension of civil liberties and constitutional freedoms?

In the May 26 edition of the Mainichi Shimbun, the LDP says, “Some are of the opinion that fundamental human rights should not be restricted even in times of emergency. But we believe that it is possible that in order to protect big human rights, such as people’s lives, bodies and properties, we could be forced to place restrictions on smaller human rights.”

The notion that “small” human rights exist in the Constitution and can be violated with impunity is a novel concept. Constitutional scholars do not differentiate between rights by privileging some over others and distinguishing the vital from the inconsequential. Such a regressive view is antithetical to constitutionalism because it means that the government decides on an ad hoc basis what counts and what doesn’t, whereas a constitution is supposed to establish the legal foundations and rules through thick and thin.

Freedom of expression is likely one of the smaller rights that would be jettisoned in a state of emergency. This is the basis of press freedom in the Japanese Constitution. It is hard to imagine how a functioning democracy can exist without freedom of expression or how that small right would be detrimental in an emergency. How would its sacrifice protect property rights and lives? How would freedom of expression threaten such rights?

The LDP’s concern about pesky civil liberties like freedom of thought and conscience or freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution reflects discomfort with the Western values and notion of “natural rights” that the U.S. wrote into the text in 1947. The LDP is eager to claw back rights for the state that the current Constitution bestows on citizens. The foreign DNA of the current Constitution rankles conservatives, but even former prime minister — and longtime pro-revision politician — Yasuhiro Nakasone now believes that, during the decades since it was written, the spirit and text have been assimilated by society. He sees no pressing need for revision.

Essentially, the only thing that the proposed state-of-emergency proviso allows the state to do that it can’t do now is suspend constitutional rights and effect what amounts to a coup d’etat. It is about boosting powers of the state in the name of protecting big human rights and suppressing dissent or criticism of the state. Rather than Western “natural rights,” the LDP is pushing “natural duties” that are allegedly in line with Japanese traditions and values. It means writing the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights out of the Constitution by renouncing the preamble of Japan’s current Constitution, which states:

“Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded.” Further on, it reads, “laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations.”

Preserving these commitments and derailing the LDP’s revision juggernaut seem reason enough to vote, but my guess is that low turnout persists because citizens find politics in Japan so uninspiring and dispiriting. With a supermajority in both houses, Abe will seek to revise the Constitution without being able to claim a mandate to do so.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/07/09/commentary/rights-liberties-may-downsized-ldp/#.V4GqCVNXkrB.facebook

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment