Told not to discuss issue before Tokyo election

Scholar quits NHK over nuclear power hush-up

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

A noted professor who regularly provides commentary on an NHK AM radio show has resigned from the program in protest over the public broadcaster’s demand that nuclear power not be discussed until after the Feb. 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election.

Toru Nakakita, a professor of economics at Toyo University in Tokyo, said the director of the “Radio 1″ morning news program told him Wednesday to change the subject of his commentary, after he had submitted an outline for a segment to air the following day.

The segment, “Business Tenbo” (“Business Outlook”), which is broadcast every weekday morning, features guest commentary from academics in the fields of business and economics. For the Thursday morning edition, Nakakita was planning to talk about the rising operating costs of nuclear power worldwide, in light of a recent surge in insurance premiums and safety costs. He was also intending to discuss the fact that in Japan the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants is not adequately reflected on the utilities’ balance sheets.

After reviewing his draft, the director of the news program told him to wait until after the election, on grounds his comments “would affect the voting behavior” of the listeners, Nakakita quoted the NHK director as saying.

An official in NHK’s public relations department acknowledged the demand had been made. The public TV and radio network, the official said, has a responsibility to “ensure fairness by introducing both sides of the issues on a program-to-program or a series-to-series basis.”

The official said Nakakita’s commentary couldn’t be aired because NHK had determined it wasn’t possible to book another expert with an opposing view during Thursday’s segment, or on the same program before the end of the election campaign.

“Nuclear power is one of the issues in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, and we need to be especially careful about ensuring fairness,” the official said. “It could have been possible to feature another expert with a different viewpoint soon before or after (Nakakita’s) appearance, but because we received his draft the day before the scheduled broadcast, and because we have limited editions of the program during the campaign period, we decided it would be difficult to air a contrasting view.”

“Economists deal in all things in nature,” Nakakita told The Japan Times.

“The director kept insisting that people vote based on ‘impressions.’ But I wonder if it’s OK to say we can talk about (contentious issues) at length only after the election. What if I had talked about welfare? Wouldn’t that have affected the voting behavior?

“The media should choose various issues especially during the campaign,” he added. “If they don’t, voters will go to the polls with no information to base their judgments on. Isn’t it the mission of the news organizations to have the guts to give more information to the public?” he said.

Nuclear power came to the fore of the gubernatorial race when former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, a staunch opponent of nuclear power, announced his candidacy.

Last week, Peter Barakan, a freelance radio show host, revealed in his morning music and news program on InterFM that he had been pressured by “two broadcasting stations” not to touch on nuclear power issues until after Feb. 9. He didn’t identify the stations, but he works for NHK FM Radio and NHK World, as well as other private TV and radio stations.

  • thedudeabidez

    ““It could have been possible to feature another expert with a different viewpoint.”

    And what might that viewpoint be? That insurance and decommissioning costs don’t exist?

    • Michael Radcliffe

      I too wonder what kind of viewpoint it might be. Perhaps a viewpoint that suggests that nuclear fearmongering should be balanced against economic reality? Perhaps it might be worth remembering that it costs Japan $692 million each week the country’s nuclear power plants are shut down? That renewable energy sources are far more expensive than nuclear power?

  • Franz Pichler

    Fairness?! So so….!! Until now it hasn’t been presented fairly in japan! One has to account for Safery costs and te decommissioning! That would be fair! Thumb up to this professor!!! I admire this man!!!

  • GRLCowan

    I don’t think NHK’s antinuclear credentials can be doubted. So what must be happening is that they’ve decided a fake suppression of this scholar’s opinion will be more effective, if believed, than the opinion itself.

  • Conrad Brean

    Considering TEPCO’s track record of lies, inefficiency and negligence, I would argue that a team of baboons would do a better job.

    NHK is the mouth piece of Abe – its already said this. As a taxpayer, I am not interested in subsidizing the legitimization of silencing criminal negligence on an epic scale.

  • Franz Pichler

    All I say is, I have an Ma in Banking and Finance, worked 5 years for one of the biggest auditing firms in the world, yes I looked at their balance sheets, and yes, I know how to read a financial report…. so please, don’t tell me they account for the real cost of nuclear energy….. If they would do that, the price per energy unity would jump up like no tomorrow and it would not be competitive….
    I’m not very positive on nuclear but what I want them to do is factor in 100% of the decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal costs. I also know that you cannot “account” for all the risks! But, what they’re doing and have been doing is ludicrous! They should do the maths! After that we can start talking….. please don’t forget that TEPCO offloaded ALL its responsibilities (not only the moral ones) onto the national coffers…. It is not a secret that “the nuclear village” in Japan is “bribing” villages, local governments and universities to go for nuclear. Japan is full of nuclear waste and doesn’t have a clue where to dispose of it! The utilities don’t give a dime because they know that the final tap will be picked up by the tax payer!

  • GRLCowan

    Actually the very long time horizons involved are one of the good things about nuclear energy. This Google Maps image — http://goo.gl/maps/8hz6J — shows why. It includes the Alberta tar patch, which mines and upgrades enough tar to produce 2 million barrels of synthetic crude each day. A very large energy-producing operation, about 60 gigawatts if I recall correctly.

    It also contains the world’s largest uranium mine, around *80* gigawatts, but much smaller, of course, in financial terms. Find it if you can.

    The difficulty of finding it reflects the very large tonnage of oil, about 3000 tonnes, that it takes to give the same energy that now-a-days is extracted from a single tonne of high-grade uranium ore.

    How low would the grade of uranium ore have to be, for a uranium mine to be as visible on the landscape, and have the same only 80-percentish net energy yield, as the tar patch? About 4 parts per million; four grams per tonne of rock.

    This is barely over the average for the continental crust. Throwing ten darts at a printout of that image would find at least two or three places where a 60-GW uranium mine might be built in the very far future, when all deposits much richer than average rock have been mined out, and only in that very distant future — millions of years hence — would the environmental impact of the uranium mine equal that of the present-day tar sands operation.