Articles Comments

Finance GreenWatch » 8.Eathquake & Nuclear accident, unclassified » LDP must not overturn zero-nuclear policy (Mainichi)

LDP must not overturn zero-nuclear policy (Mainichi)

explosion at Fukushima Nuke No.3 at 3/11 2011

explosion at Fukushima Nuke No.3 at 3/11 2011

Newly appointed Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has announced that he “will make a political decision” over additional construction of nuclear reactors “after accumulating sufficient expert knowledge.”

His remarks suggest that the new Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-led government will upend its Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) predecessors’ policy against reactor construction, and hint that it may even green-light new reactors. Motegi has also clearly stated that the previous administration’s move to end nuclear power in Japan by the 2030s will be reviewed.

The minister’s position is, however, a far cry from implementing the coalition agreement between the LDP and New Komeito, which advocates a maximum possible reduction in Japan’s dependence on nuclear power.

During its campaigns for the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election, the LDP pledged to work out a sustainable energy mix within the next 10 years, without mentioning how the party will handle nuclear energy in the medium- and long-term. If the LDP is to use its landslide election victory to grease the rails for an immediate examination of new reactor construction, we will see it as a variation on the iron fist in the velvet glove, except the cold metal being concealed is “promotion of nuclear power.” The metaphor is all the more apt as public sentiment is set so firmly against atomic energy.

The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has demonstrated the grave consequences of a severe accident and the danger of hosting nuclear plants in this quake-prone country, on top of the government’s shoddy nuclear regulation in the past.

Those factors were the very reason why most of the participants in public hearings and deliberative polling conducted by the government this past summer called for zero nuclear power, and why no party in the recent general election advocated a complete embrace of nuclear power — not even the LDP. We cannot tolerate any move by the LDP to disregard everything said thus far and venture additional reactor construction. New Komeito has good reason to be concerned that the government would not be able to gain public support for more reactors.

For the time being, the main focus will be on whether to reactivate existing reactors suspended in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns. The new administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking to put those reactors back online after their safety has been confirmed by the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Doing so will not be easy.

The NRA is scheduled to have new nuclear plant safety standards drawn up by July next year, including strengthened earthquake and tsunami countermeasures, as well as countermeasures against severe accidents like the Fukushima disaster. Preparing additional measures will require time, and some reactors may face decommissioning if they fail to meet the new standards.

The recent series of on-site surveys by the NRA on active fault lines running under the nuclear plants have raised questions over the legitimacy of surveys and safety screenings conducted by power companies and government regulators in the past. The new administration will also need to examine how to gain understanding from local governments hosting nuclear plants.

For example, the Hakodate Municipal Government in Hokkaido is opposed to restarting construction of Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power)’s Oma Nuclear Power Plant in Aomori Prefecture across the Tsugaru strait. It appears unlikely reactor restarts will work out the way the new administration desires.

We call on the government to seek out an energy policy that will not force us to rely on nuclear power in the short-, medium- or long-term.


Filed under: 8.Eathquake & Nuclear accident, unclassified