Reader Mail

Rethink strategy on reactor restarts

The editorial in the Dec. 21 edition, “The stalled restart of idled reactors,” points to the lack of progress in restarting Japan’s idle nuclear reactors in 2019. Since public acceptance of nuclear power and political will, at both the national and prefectural levels, move at a glacial pace, even as Japan seeks to assert itself as a global leader (i.e. a seat on the U.N. Security Council), developments in the global debate on climate change and nuclear energy’s role — as a solution to counter the exponential rise in carbon dioxide concentration — have developed much faster than Japan’s restart record.

In fact, a young leader named Greta Thunberg has overshadowed Japan’s government in global discourse.

Over-constraining one of the world’s strongest commercial nuclear sectors, pre-3/11, with burdensome and costly post-3/11 regulatory requirements is, in effect, forcing the premature shutdown of Japan’s plants as a proven low carbon energy source. Additional requirements burden the inspection/review teams and ultimately do not address key lesson learned from the accident — a poor safety culture. In fact, the acquittal of Tepco executives is perplexing at best.

In brief, nuclear safety culture calls for external review and one based on solid use of probabilistic risk analysis. This is new to Japan. I urge engagement of small and medium-size enterprises in nuclear plant operations, rather than sustaining an insular approach.

Finally, the lackluster presence of the new environment minister since his appointment and at the disappointing COP25 conference seem like another opportunity lost. Japan and other nations using coal-based power plants are reluctant to set an aggressive time line to phase out coal and replace them with a diverse portfolio — in the case of Japan, nuclear restarts and emerging renewables. I urge Japan to look at Ontario’s example of shutting down coal power plants and making full use of nuclear and hydroelectric power, so that the carbon effluent level is at a low and exemplary.

AKIRA TOKUHIRO
DEAN OF THE FACULTY OF ENERGY SYSTEMS AND NUCLEAR SCIENCE, ONTARIO TECH UNIVERSITY

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.