Cease promoting nuclear power

Meeting in Tokyo on June 7, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande agreed to cooperate on the development of a nuclear fuel cycle and the export of nuclear power technology. Mr. Abe’s decision to push forward with nuclear power technology is deplorable given the damage caused by the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Mr. Abe and Mr. Hollande also agreed to launch talks between their countries’ foreign and defense ministers on the joint development of defense equipment. This decision, which could lead to use of weapons jointly developed by Japan and France in military conflicts, shows that Mr. Abe has little respect for the Constitution’s no-war principle.

Mr. Abe’s decision to move forward with the development of nuclear power technology represents his cynical disregard for the victims of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Some 150,000 Fukushima residents still cannot return home due to radioactive contamination and many others live in fear of exposure to radiation released by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In May, Mr. Abe signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Turkey to enable the export of Japanese nuclear technology to them. At a joint news conference with Mr. Hollande, he said, “Japan will respond to expectations about Japan’s nuclear power technology from the viewpoint of enhancing the world’s safety level (in nuclear power generation).” If the prime minister seriously considered the ramifications of the Fukushima disaster, he could not have made such a statement.

The timing of the prime minister’s misguided plan could not have been worse. On June 7, Southern California Edison announced that it will permanently shutter two reactors built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at its San Onofre nuclear power station after discovering that their steam generators have dangerous defects that could cause a nuclear accident.

In an attempt to resurrect Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle endeavor, Mr. Abe and Mr. Hollande have agreed to jointly develop a new type of fast reactor based on the same type of concept used in Japan’ Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, the core component of Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle project. They also agreed to cooperate on starting “the safe and stable operation” of the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, another important component of the project.

But the project, for which Japan has spent nearly ¥10 trillion, is almost bankrupt. The Monju reactor has been inoperative for most of the past 19 years while Rokkasho reprocessing plant’s full operation has been postponed 19 times due to a series of problems. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of Monju, failed to inspect nearly 10,000 reactor components in and after 2010, and the Nuclear Regulation Authority ordered the JAEA not to prepare to restart the trouble-plagued Monju until it improves its safety management.

Mr. Abe should stop promoting nuclear energy. Even if the Rokkasho plant becomes fully operative, the resulting plutonium production will increase the danger of nuclear proliferation. If Japan and France wish to cooperate on nuclear energy, they should focus their efforts on cleaning up the areas contaminated by the Fukushima disaster and decommissioning the damaged reactors.

  • forsetiboston

    I would suggest, Japan – much like the US sit back and watch while China blows by the rest of us. It’s impossible to think you will maintain any kind of manufacturing and/or research base without steady, reliable energy. Instead of tackling the hard questions, like “nuclear power has drawbacks, but with the given (baseload) alternatives, gas, coal, etc., will we be better off?”

    Specifically in Japan which has little to no natural resources to for power production to speak of. I know, I know, “solar!” “wind!” I can hear the fan boys already. Easy question for them, to replace 1000’s of baseload MWs how much land area do you suspect we would need? How much for battery backup – or do you just keep relying on imported fuels to cover that small gap in generation we call “night?”

    This opinion is just that, one view, with no indication of which camp this person comes from. It has some facts, and some misleading opinions but as I like to say to my favorite summertime Greenpeace interns on the street when they ask me to sign. “How do you plan to replace that nuclear generation?” How will we replace the 24/7 – 365 always on type of power coming from the nuclear plants? I know, I know fan boys, I heard you already “solar!” “wind!” I get it, we’ve been saying it for decades but this time it’s different!

    So before you go buying into a biased opinion like this, I would suggest you look at who truly are the ones who gain from all this type of lopsided opinion. The nuclear “mafia” that many people like to paint with a broad brush, or the oil (natgas) and coal profiteers? Doesn’t take a rocket “surgeon” to sort that one out. Once again, I know, we don’t need any of them, “solar!” and “wind!” to save the day. Thanks, I got that memo in the 70’s.

  • Guest

    Is it now the Japan Times’s editorial policy to publish a new anti-nuclear editorial every few days? It looks like at a minimum 2-3 times a week there is a new editorial or article or feature decrying nuclear power. It’s honestly getting quite tiring.

    Have you considered some balance in your coverage? If it were easy, safe and feasible to move from nuclear to generate Japan’s power requirements then we would have done so already. The switch away from nuclear has led to increased carbon emissions and degradation of air quality – what are the health impacts of this? What about the economic impacts of having to import so much fossil fuels to run these old plants? These are not minor considerations, you know.

    Fukushima Daiichi was a horrible tragedy with long-term repercussions – we should do everything possible to minimize the chance of something like it happening again. But let’s not act like turning away from nuclear power is going to make everyone’s lives happy and healthy again. Look at coal-fired plants in the US – the American Lung Association estimates that 24,000 premature deaths occur EVERY YEAR in the US due to the pollution from these plants – that is a constant tragedy. Is nuclear worse than this?

    So please, respect the intelligence of your readers – don’t just say “Down with nuclear!” but kindly propose some real solutions to Japan’s energy problems. Solutions we can use NOW – not “Let’s switch to renewables in 30 years”

    • GRLCowan

      I think you’ll find the natural gas interests have no difficulty asserting that renewables are totally competitive right now. Indeed, that assertion is a dead giveaway.

    • Bob Wallace

      The other thing to note is that not a single fatality occurred due to radiation at Fukushima, and future deaths are predicted to be at an “undetectable level” by the World Health Organization.

      Nonetheless we should not allow such an accident to occur again, and if one is informed about nuclear technology information rather than just prey to propaganda, then one can surmise that nuclear can in fact be safe even in the worse-case of an earthquake and tsunami.

    • kyushuphil

      ” . . . respect the intelligence of your readers?”

      OK, Masa. Can we factor in the lingering poisons from nukes that will last thousands of years? That is, there is no way safely to store the nuke residues — the toxic waters, the toxic cells — none, zero.

      How “intelligent” do you suppose we may be who wonder how many governments 500 years from now, 1,000 years from now, will be happy to pay for our poisons?

    • Sister Jane

      The Japan Times probably would not do anti-nuclear editorials if there had never been one of the worst Nuclear accidents in recorded history in Fukushima. (They still have not contained the disaster, and they still would like to reopen and restart some of these plants.) People are planting rice and food produce in the effected areas, also the fish in the area are contaminated, you go to the Super and you cannot tell what’s good and bad anywhere in Japan now, at times the produce does not say where it came from even. When Tepco and the government really seem serious about this tragedy, then perhaps the anti-nuclear stance well cool down, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the seriousness of the issue to sink in.

  • Felicity Electric

    Great to read an editorial that makes sense for once. Monju and other nuclear reactors make no sense – economically, energy-wise and especially not health wise!

  • Osaka48

    What did we learn from Fukushima? IMO, that the plant could survive the worst case earthquake…but that “too optimistic” thinking put the emergency generators in “harms way” of a tsunami of such magnitude…that it overwhelmed them, and knocked them out.

    This (to me) doesn’t indicate a “problem” with nuclear power…it represents a “problem” with nuclear power plant backup systems, and “worst case scenario” thinking. With nuclear power plants, can one be “too cautious”?

    If the Fuskushima emergency generators were less “vulnerable” to the tsunami, we wouldn’t have this crisis.

  • Estim8z

    It has been proven that the thorus didn’t survive the earthquake. The reactors failed. And Utterly failed. Eastern Japan is contaminated and uninhabitable at least and the pacific ocean is buoying up dead and diseased animals on the California coast. Just because it didn’t create a catastrophic explosion doesn’t mean it is benign. This well get worse and worse for centuries and then we will realize whose comments were right and what the US Government and Japanese government was covering up. It takes 20 generations for radiation induced DNA damage to manifest itself, this has been established and understood by biological engineers for decades. We still have 18 more generations until we see the full effect of Chernobyl, and Fukushima has released 30 times more cesium, and probably 30 time more of plutonium, tritium, xenon, thorium, lead, krypton, etc, etc,etc, and other Trans-Uranic isotopes. At least you can turn coal off when you want to!!