Regarding the June 19 article “Meltdowns haven’t killed anyone: LDP bigwig“: Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Sanae Takaichi’s comment that the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant “have not claimed the lives of any people,” however technically accurate, was deservedly criticized for downplaying the social and health effects of the Fukushima crisis.
But the biggest problem was not noted: People are dying because Japan runs thermal power plants to cover for idling nuclear ones. Coal power alone causes at least 13,200 premature deaths in the United States, 100,000 in India and 18,200 in the European Union. Local soil and air pollution (including PM2.5 particles) from thermal plants raise the risk of heart attacks, cancers, birth defects and asthma, costing as much as ¥70,000 per person per year, studies show. This is before accounting for the damage of recklessly belching carbon dioxide when the climate teeters on tipping levels.
Fossil-fuel power is targeted by the International Energy Agency, governments, public health and environmental campaigners worldwide. In Japan, we lack research not to mention public discussion on the risks of thermal power. This is an even bigger taboo than nuclear power was before Fukushima.
Coal replacing nuclear in times of shutdown is a direct result of Japan’s nuclear policy, which was green-washed into a pseudo-climate policy. In reality, it required building more thermal plants, stalled investment in sustainable energy and made Japan dependent on the most dangerous and polluting forms of energy.
Thus insisting on keeping all nuclear reactors shut off this summer only raises the death toll. It would be better to agree to temporary use of nuclear power — under the condition that the government take immediate aggressive measures to reduce energy consumption and, in the medium term, cover the majority of energy needs with sustainable energies. This is the only ethical option to protect citizens’ health and build a resilient economy.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.