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Koizumi’s call to end nuclear power shows clear lack of perspective
Publication Date : 09-10-2013
Junichiro Koizumi’s recent comment calling for ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear power generation lacked the insight expected of a former prime minister. The last thing the country’s nuclear policy needs is more confusion.
In a recent lecture meeting, Koizumi asked the government to put forth a zero nuclear energy policy by calling for establishment of “a recycling society based on natural resources and that does not rely on nuclear power generation.” Koizumi said his view on this matter changed after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Koizumi’s statement on nuclear power generation contradicts the nuclear policy of the government and the Liberal Democratic Party. This cannot be brushed off even though Koizumi has already retired from politics.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to restart nuclear reactors following confirmation they are safe to operate, as he seeks to revise the Democratic Party of Japan-led government’s policy of ending the use of nuclear power generation. The LDP, for its part, incorporated a policy of promoting the restart of reactors in its campaign platforms for the two most recent national elections.
Koizumi said finding substitute energy sources for nuclear power would “certainly be worked out by wise people.” We think this statement is overly optimistic and irresponsible.
Thermal power generation is currently filling the shortfall created by the loss of nuclear power generation. As a result, utility bills continue to rise due to higher fuel import costs. If this situation goes unchecked, the impact on household budgets and economic activity will be significant.
Thermal power generation is a major cause of accelerated global warming because it discharges a huge amount of carbon dioxide.
Renewable energy sources that utilise sunlight and wind have the disadvantage of being affected by weather conditions. As such, there is no prospect that they will become principal power sources. It is necessary to seek a balanced composition of electricity sources in which nuclear and thermal power account for the lion’s share.
If the government adopts a zero nuclear energy policy, it will become impossible to secure sufficient engineers capable of handling such work as decommissioning reactors at the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Location of disposal site vital
Koizumi said his reasoning was based on doubts over how radioactive waste produced at nuclear plants is handled. “It is more irresponsible to promote nuclear power generation without ascertaining the likelihood of securing a nuclear waste disposal site,” he emphasised.
The technical aspects of methods for disposing of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste produced in this process have already been resolved.
Experts say radioactive material can be disposed safely if it is buried in stable layers of earth. Japan and some other countries have decided to adopt this method. Construction of such a facility has already started in Finland.
Radioactivity becomes weaker as time passes, and declines by 99.95 per cent after 1,000 years have elapsed. This differs from waste materials of heavy metals such as mercury that remain toxic permanently.
The fly in the ointment is that a final disposal site to bury radioactive waste in Japan has not been found. The government and electric power industry have invited bids for candidate sites, but they have not done enough to convince local governments and affected residents to support such a project.
The government’s dereliction, it may be said, is partly to blame for the failure to secure a disposal site. Part of the responsibility rests with Koizumi, who served as prime minister until several years ago. Discussions on selecting a disposal site need to be moved ahead.