LDP alone in fighting nuclear power exit

JIJI, Kyodo

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party was the sole opponent of abolishing nuclear power in a policy debate involving the secretaries-general of nine major political parties Saturday.

While the representatives of the eight other parties backed ridding Japan of atomic energy generation, LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said lawmakers should not mislead the public by calling for a zero-nuclear option. Ishiba said the LDP will aim to reduce the nation’s dependence on atomic energy but underscored his party’s plans to push for a restart of idled reactors once they are deemed safe.

“If we don’t (suggest) ways to reduce dependence on nuclear power, it is not responsible politics,” said Ishiba. “(Other parties) should not delude the public by using phrases like ‘zero nuclear power.’ “

But Ishiba found himself in a minority of one, as the secretaries-general of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, and opposition groups including the Democratic Party of Japan and Your Party voiced support for the elimination of all nuclear power plants.

During the debate, held in Osaka ahead of the Upper House election, the secretaries-general were asked to hold up a board with either a circle or a cross to indicate their support or opposition for the zero-nuclear power goal. Ishiba was the only one to hoist a cross in the air.

Among the proponents, Japanese Communist Party Secretary-General Tadayoshi Ichida said it would be inconceivable to restart reactors or export Japan’s nuclear technologies given that the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant has yet to be resolved. His Your Party counterpart, Kenji Eda, said it would be irresponsible to bring reactors back online when locations for disposal facilities for spent nuclear fuel have yet to be decided.

Among other issues likely to dominate campaigning for the July 21 House of Councilors poll, the party representatives debated Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposed constitutional revision and his government’s promotion of nuclear-related exports.

On Abe’s plan to water down Article 96 to make it easier to amend the Constitution, the LDP’s Ishiba and his Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) counterpart voiced support.

But DPJ Secretary-General Goshi Hosono slammed Abe and said efforts should be made to retain the two-thirds majority requirement needed in both chambers of the Diet for any constitutional amendment, as currently stipulated by Article 96.

New Komeito’s Yoshihisa Inoue supported him, saying that altering the charter should not be proposed before the public has thoroughly debated the issue.

  • Of course the other parties oppose nuclear – they are not responsible for dealing with the enormous economic costs and rise in emissions as Japan imports vast amounts of fossil fuels to burn when they could be using clean, low cost nuclear energy. The idled reactors have to be proved safe – that much is obvious – but then they should be restarted.

    • nelsonsurjon

      “The enormous economic costs” ? Are you joking ? How much do you think is this disaster costing Japan. “Nuclear” clean, low cost ?

      • Starviking

        How much do you think the disaster is costing Japan?

  • Paldo

    Nuclear is clearly the choice. Deaths due to nuclear power stations are much much less than suicide, car accidents etc.

    But the trouble is, Tepco is a corrupted and incompetent corporation that nobody, repeat, nobody can trust. Besides, Abe’s agenda is to have more nuclear power stations and thus more reserve for plutonium for his (or the LDP’s) nuclear weaponry plan in mind.

    • “Deaths due to nuclear power stations are much much less than suicide, car accidents etc.” More to the point, deaths due to nuclear power are infinitesimally rarer than deaths due to almost any other form of power generation. Thousands die every year from accidents and pollution related to the burning of fossil fuels. Many thousands more are being affected by the broader climactic effects of greenhouse gases. Supposedly more workers have been injured or killed working on wind farms than have been injured or killed working at nuclear power plants. However, while I agree with your assessment of Tepco, your assessment of Abe’s true motives is pure fantasy.

  • Beppe

    When including costs for subsidies and used fuel storage nuclear is more expensive than fossil. No nuclear reactor is safe, especially in an earthquake prone country like Japan. There is no such a thing like “proving” that a reactor is safe and Fukushima demonstrated it.

    • Starviking

      Fossil fuels are cheaper than anything, until you factor in the climate damage.

      • Beppe

        Nuclear power is 3-5% of total power usage (including non-electric). Nuclear power contribution is largely irrelevant to climate change.

      • Starviking

        And it could be said that solar power, or wind power are only 3 to 5% of total power use. Do you see them as irrelevant to climate change?

  • Beppe

    Nuclear is not cheap, not after you accounted for 500 billion (5000 oku) yen of subsidies every year and the cost of storing exhausted fuel. As to being clean and safe, Fukushima has proved it is not clean nor safe.

    • Starviking

      And Onnagawa has shown that it can be clean and safe.

      As for Fukushima’s safety: no deaths from radiation yet, 2-plus years and counting.

      • Beppe

        Thank for being silent on the cost. As to safety:

        Fukushima 1, Chernobyl and TMI have proved it is not safe — big time.

        Fukushima 2 too has proved it is not safe (according to its head it might have gone the same way Fuku1 did if the quake happened on a weekend or during night time, when he did not have 2000 workers on site)

        Tokai suffered relevant damages too.

        One month later, Higashidori barely survived another quake as only one out of its four emergency generators managed to do its job (save being found to be leaking a few hours after external power was restored)

        Onnagawa was also slightly damaged and is suspected to have leaked radioactive contaminants.

        The Niigata quake caused damages to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa that required two (2) years of repairs (including plant foundations).

        And the list goes on an on… way too many accidents and too many near misses to call it safe. In fact, nuclear industry propaganda was telling us it was expecting 1 severe accident every 100,000 years but in reality we are at six reactors gone down the drain in sixty years.

        As to health effects, people in Chernobyl are still affected more than 25 years after the accident and we already have thyroid cancer cases in Fukushima — not to mention other non-radiation deaths related to the accident. You are aware that even industry sponsored NPOs like ICRP admit that there is no safe dose, aren’t you?

      • Starviking

        Ok, on the cost – 430 billion yen in 2010, for 284 terrawatt hours gives around 1.5 yen per kwh subsidy.

        Factoring in nuclear accident costs and subsidies, a government panel gave the cost of nuclear at 8.9 yen per kwh – cheaper than coal, LNG, wind and solar.

        TMI proved that hype will win over reason – no deaths from it.

        Chernobyl showed what happens when a plant is poorly designed. Fukushima showed what happens when a plant gets hit by an unexpected disaster.

        These are all lessons learned.

        Higashidori was in maintenance shutdown during the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, and has remained so. Cooling was lost to the fuel pools. No imminent disaster there.

        As for Onagawa – the radiation release initially attributed to it is assumed to be from Fukushima.

        And Kashiwazaki-Kariwa was not closed for 2 years because of damage. It was closed as the unexpected earthquake showed the need to reassess the seismic safety standards of the plant’s design. Also, an IAEA inspection found that the plant was in good condition, because the plant was constructed much stronger than needed.

        I’m sure we could extend your list – but we’d need more facts in it.

        As for Chernobyl, the major health effects were due to coverups allowing the population to drink and eat contaminated food. As for thyroid cancer case in Fukushima – you seem to be pretty sure they are related to the accident. You might want to consider what happens to detection rates when an inaccurate method (feeling for tumours) gets replaced by a very accurate method (ultrasound).

        Lastly, the ICRP is not an industry-sponsored NPO: It only gets 8% of its funding from industry, 66% from government departments and research institutes, 4% from profesional bodies, and 21% from Inter-governmental bodies. See http://www.icrp.org/images/char2.png

        They support the Linear No-Threshold model of radiation dose, and so do I. You have to understand the risks at low levels of exposure are minute. If you do not believe so, I must tell you that there are no safe roads too…

  • Casper Steuperaert

    Japan with it’s technology should invest the money they usually invest in nuclear energy in green energy and a smart grid. it could be the first nation to implement one.

    • Japan should invest in green energy, particularly geothermal. However it will take a couple of decades for that investment to pay off – and we need electricity NOW.

    • Bob Wallace

      I don’t think green energy and a smart grid could economically replace existing and paid for nuclear reactors. Not turning these reactors back on will impose a economical burden on Japan, and will set their industries back.

      Despite being the minority the LDP will win because economics are on their side and the safety record for nuclear in reality is not at all deplorable, but rather exemplary.

    • Starviking

      The key word being “could”. They could also be the first nation to discover that smart grids and green energy are too expensive, or too unreliable, or not really green, etc.

  • GRLCowan

    Since 3-11 it has seemed to me that reports of antinuclearism on the part of the Japanese populace must be lies, that there must be a large, perhaps majority segment that supports the nuclear industry without having any connection with it except as electricity users.

    But English-language Japanese media have been reporting the opposite, majority antinuclearism, and blaming nuclear power’s tenacity on business interests. It seemed to me that to do this, dishonest polling techniques were required.

    So I wasn’t surprised on the recent occasion when only two of Japan’s power reactors were in service and one paper ran a poll offering four choices of timetable for discontinuing this, one choice of continuing it, and none of increasing it.

    But the *election* allowed Japanese to vote for the least antinuclear party, and they did. The LDP is courageous, and I think they are truly representing Japan’s environmentally concerned citizens, and will continue to benefit electorally.

  • Okan Zabunoğlu

    Japan had about 50 nuclear units in operation before the accident; and has a good deal of experience in nuclear electricity generation (several thousands of
    reactor-years). The cause of the accident, as far as is known, was a chain of historically disastrous events (tsunami following the earthquake).

    So, if Japanese really think that the cause is exceptional, I do not see any material reason for nuclear power exit. Do Japanese believe that nuclear power
    was OK until the never-expected disaster, but now it is not? Do they think that for so many years they lived arm-in-arm with such an unacceptable risk? I do not think so.

    They used nuclear power efficiently and safely, to improve their standard of living, to feed their industry, to take good care of the environment, etc. At this point, to abandon nuclear power would be like denying the past merits of it. I think that the scientific (and the Japanese) approach would be to continue utilizing the nuclear power, with added safety features learned in the
    lessons from Fukushima.