While the new French government tries to give the impression
that nuclear power will have a new future in the country after the recent
elections, the situation in Japan is getting increasingly controversial.
The major national daily Asahi Shimbun wrote in a recent editorial (see
hereunder): "The future of nuclear-power generation in this country
remains uncertain." And the Governor of the powerful Fukushima
Prefecture wonders in an interview: "Is nuclear power really cheap?"
The full text of the interview with Fukushima Governor
Eisaku Sato and the editorial of the Asahi Shimbun, originally published
in Japanese on 11 June 02 and published in English on 30 July 02.
(Thanks to Green Action, Kyoto, for transmitting this
INTERVIEW / Eisaku Sato: Public kept
in dark on nuclear power plans
needed for parties to discuss nuclear concerns
/ Eisaku Sato: Public kept in dark on nuclear power plans
The Asahi Shimbun, June 30, 2002
The plutonium-thermal project, which forms the mainstay of the Japanese
government's nuclear fuel cycle policy, has come to a standstill after
Fukushima and Niigata prefectures overturned their decision to accept
it. Fukushima Governor Eisaku Sato, who remains at odds with the government
and the electric power industry over the proposed project, says he finds
the government plan unacceptable because it lacks a clear future vision.
Excerpts from a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun follow:
Q:After your refusal to give
the green light to the pluthermal project, you organized a panel to
review energy policy. Why?
A:The government distributed flyers that said if Japan continued to
accumulate plutonium, it would be a target of international criticism.
The flyers also carried slogans saying the pluthermal process is effective
in preventing global warming and is important in ensuring energy security.
That's what prompted me to start the panel to verify the claims, one
Q:What did you feel after
discussing the issue for a little more than a year?
A:For example, international meetings on global warming do not positively
evaluate nuclear power generation. Imports of uranium can last about
70 years. Why make haste to start the pluthermal project now? Is nuclear
power really cheap? The government has yet to show accountability in
squarely answering these questions.
Q:What is your stand on nuclear
A:There are 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture and I don't
feel negative about nuclear power. But if we are going to spend trillions
of yen for pluthermal generation, I think it would be wiser to spend
1 trillion or 2 trillion yen to develop natural energy.
Q:Why are you distrustful
of the government?
A:An interim report of the policy review panel points out that without
the fast-breeder reactor Monju and Oma Nuclear Power Station in Aomori
Prefecture (a planned project that would use plutonium-uranium mixed
oxide, or MOX, fuel), stockpiles of plutonium will continue to rise.
A lecturer who spoke to the panel also urged an end to the practice
of leaving policy-making to bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki. I think it's
time we changed the policy-making process to one in which everyone takes
Q:There are signs that the
government is changing. For example, it indicated that it would clarify
plans to use plutonium. What do you think?
A:The government's grand design concerning the nuclear fuel cycle remains
unclear. What are we going do to with fast-breeder reactors? Are we
going to store spent nuclear fuel without reprocessing it? Brochures
of the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy do not carry illustrations
of fast-breeder reactors. The government should disclose information
on what can and cannot be done.
Q:Fukushima Prefecture is
considering raising the nuclear fuel tax. Does it have to do with acceptance
of pluthermal generation?
A:The two are completely different problems that cannot be bartered.
Revenues from the nuclear fuel tax (which is renewed once every five
years) came to a total of about 28 billion yen during peak years. However,
in the five years leading up to the current fiscal year, the revenues
are expected to drop to about 14 billion yen, which is about half of
what they used to be. Since it is a tax that can be used for such purposes
as improved public welfare and disaster prevention, we wish to raise
the level to what it used to be.
Q:Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture,
which has a nuclear power plant, is supporting the pluthermal project
and is demanding the governor improve relations with Tokyo Electric
Power Co. How would you respond?
A:It is also demanding the building of additional nuclear power plants.
But the number of farmers in the planned site decreased because they
quit farming to take up jobs in the construction industry related to
nuclear power plants. Futaba already has two nuclear power stations
and it is questionable whether we need to build another one. No matter
how much money the government spends, it won't lead to activating the
local economy after construction is completed.
Q:What should be done with
the approximately 30 tons of plutonium that has already been reprocessed
A:That is something for the government to think about. If it needs
to push ahead with the pluthermal project in a hurry, the government
should work hard to campaign for it and implement it in an area that
agrees to do it.
Referring to storage and disposal of spent fuel, a government bureaucrat
once called it ``a problem for the governors of Aomori and Fukushima
prefectures to discuss.'' Is such an irresponsible national policy acceptable?
Q:When is the panel due to
come up with a conclusion?
A:We don't know. We could make a proposal after we see the conclusion.
We could make a declaration to freeze the pluthermal project or decide
some measures by ordinance. We have no definite plans yet.(IHT/Asahi:
Forum needed for parties to discuss nuclear concerns
The Asahi Shimbun, June 30, 2002
By Keiji Takeuchi and Toru Sasakoshi
Pluthermal nuclear power generation involves using plutonium extracted
from spent nuclear fuel that is combined with uranium oxide to create
mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. Last year, Fukushima Governor Eisaku Sato withdrew
his support last year, having earlier championed Tokyo Electric Power
Co. (TEPCO) using the pluthermal process at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear
power station in 1999.
Part of the reason for pulling the plug on the project was growing
anxiety over falsified data concerning MOX fuel that was supposed to
be used at a nuclear power plant operated by Kansai Electric Power Co.
An announcement by TEPCO that it was freezing the construction of additional
thermal power plants in Fukushima Prefecture also caused him to turn
against the project.
TEPCO also has drawn up plans for pluthermal nuclear power generation
at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.
But the program suffered a major setback after residents of Kariwa Village
voted against it in a referendum last year.
Based on initial agreements, TEPCO has already delivered MOX fuel to
the nuclear power plants in Fukushima and Niigata prefectures. Japan
already has a large amount of plutonium stockpiled that was reprocessed
in Europe at Japan's request. What to do with the stockpile has become
a pressing problem.
The central government and TEPCO are unhappy with the refusal by Fukushima
and Niigata prefectures to make good on their agreements. Officials
fear similar situations could arise in future if local governments are
allowed to ``veto'' initial agreements.
That caused Fukushima Prefecture to set up an independent panel to
review the government's nuclear policy. It pointed out problems not
only with the pluthermal plan but with the government's ``grand design
of nuclear fuel cycle.''
This has resulted in a substantial delay in plans to maintain a balance
between supply and demand of plutonium. One reason for this was a sodium
leak in 1995 at Monju, a prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture.
The accident caused the plant to be shut down. While the electric power
industry wants to promote fast-breeder reactors as the mainstay of the
nuclear fuel cycle, the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy is less
eager. The future of nuclear-power generation in this country remains
A yawning gap exists between the government and the electric power
industry and Fukushima Prefecture. Although it is not easy to bridge
the gap, the government and the Atomic Energy Commission should take
the initiative to set up an open forum for all parties concerned to
exchange views.(IHT/Asahi: June 30,2002)