Japan’s crisis reignites nuke debate

05/08/2011
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TOKYO (majirox news) – Pro-nuclear parliament members have formed a new policy council within Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that will counter the public’s anti-nuclear mood. According to the Asahi Newspaper, the LDP is gathering members who support the use of nuclear energy. The LDP is the opposition party to the ruling Democratic Party Japan, DPJ.

Former Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) Akira Amari heads the LDP’s new council, which contains many pro-nuclear Diet members. Amari told those at their April 12 meeting that there are Cabinet members who believe TEPCO can simply be nationalized; Amari then handed out materials to participants.

Tokio Kano, a former House of Councilors member, a once senior executive of Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) and a current advisor to TEPCO, attended the meeting.

However, Taro Kono, an LDP member of the House of Representatives, criticized the council for having too many pro-nuclear members, but was ignored.

The LDP has supported nuclear energy as a national policy, with former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone acting as its leader. In 1955, the LDP formulated the Nuclear Energy Basic Law to move ahead on research and development of nuclear energy. In 1974, it also formulated the Dengensanpo, which provided heavy subsidies to local governments that accepted nuclear reactors.

The electric power companies provided the LDP with funding and electoral support. The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan paid the LDP about 6.5 billion yen (78.61 million dollars) over an 11-year period starting in the mid-1980s in the form of advertising in a party publication, reported Asahi.

During a March 17 news conference, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters that it would be “difficult under current circumstances to go ahead with nuclear energy.” However, a week later he had softened his stance, saying, “Not having a stable power supply creates problems for big electric power users, such as manufacturers.” Party insiders say Tanigaki’s change in views came about because of dissatisfaction among pro-nuclear members.

Debate on Japan’s medium-to long-term energy policy will begin after Golden Week. But council leader Amari has already started speaking out.

“We’re not citizen activists,” he said. “Natural energy costs are enormous and supply unstable, so saying we can just get by with them is irresponsible. The reality is that we cannot get by without nuclear power.”

On May 5, Kono and Kano debated the issue in the Asahi.

Pro-nuclear Taro Kano

Kano said that coming from TEPCO and being a former member of the Diet, he felt doubly responsible. “It hurts when I see messages posted on the Net like ‘You should be hanged,’ or ‘You’re an A-class war criminal.’ But it was not a mistake to have chosen to adopt nuclear power. Reactors were built because local residents strongly desired them, and it’s a fact they generated employment and income.”

Furthermore, Kano noted that there is a romance about expressions such as “solar energy or wind energy.” Without new reactors, it might not be possible to secure a stable energy supply. He asked if it would be possible to develop measures to control carbon dioxide emissions. When buying natural gas or oil from overseas, having nuclear capability also provides leeway in negotiations.

The nuclear option should not be discarded. In fact, Kano believes there’s still the option of using reactors 5 and 6 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Kano added that TEPCO should not be broken up because shareholders would lose their money and it would create significant confusion in financial markets and the stock exchange. The law concerning compensation for nuclear energy contains an escape clause “in the event of the occurrence of an extraordinary natural disaster.” Kano pointed out that if this not doesn’t qualify for that, what on earth would? But he wouldn’t say that TEPCO should be given total immunity.

Kano believes that some people overreacted to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant incident. “Some researchers say that low-dose radiation is good for your health,” he said. “It’s a persuasive argument. I have a colleague whose illness got better after being treated with low-dose radiation. Maybe we’re over-reacting?”

Anti-nuclear Tokio Kano

On the other hand, Tokio Kono takes an anti-nuclear stance. He says the biggest problem is that there is nowhere in Japan to dispose of nuclear waste like spent nuclear fuel rods with high levels of radiation.

Kono said that electric power companies make up a majority of the membership of the Tsunami Sub-Committee of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers’ Committee of Civil Engineering of Nuclear Power Facilities. He pointed out that they acted arbitrarily among themselves when it came to the tsunami and then tried then to get away with saying that the tsunami that struck was bigger than they expected.

He noted that the myth that nuclear energy is safe was created by the LDP, METI and electric power companies.

“The LDP received money from the power companies and created a system that readily subsidized local governments that accepted reactors,” he added. “METI set up public companies, and its bureaucrats would retire to join them. Manufacturers such as Toshiba Corp. or Hitachi Ltd. joined in, and industry, such as the construction industry, also gave its backing to building nuclear reactors. They created academics who would say only what they wanted them to say.”

He explained that paying out large advertising sums toned down criticism from the mass media which then began sleeping with the enemy. A five-pronged spear made up of politicians, bureaucrats, industry, academia and the media created the safety myth.

Kono said Akira Amari’s council proves his point because it is full of pro-nuclear members. “They’ve even dragged out the retired Tokio Kano,” he said. “Those members will have to be dropped before the next election. Citizens need to see this. The festering sores that had been patched up became visible after March 11.”

He believes the LDP should apologize because it created a nuclear administration for its own purposes. The government contained Kaoru Yosano, who was very close to former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who promoted nuclear energy policies, and Yosano’s comments were clearly aimed at protecting TEPCO.

Kono added that people have not been given the correct information. If one takes time and phases out nuclear power, the effects on citizens’ lives will be minimal. Nuclear energy is not environmentally friendly.

“Overseas, use of reusable energies is growing, but Kano and his like have quashed them in Japan, saying they interfere with nuclear energy,” Kono said. “But if METI provided information, which it has shown no inclination to do, public opinion would change.”

Finally, Kono said that any compensation TEPCO gives to victims would be added on to power charges. “If citizens are going to have to foot the bill, then the condition should be that TEPCO could no longer exist. TEPCO should be made to pay compensation, even if it’s made to bleed dry.”

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