25 March 2015

Tokyo Weekender (Japan): Despite Popular Resistance, Nuclear Reactors to Reopen in June

Despite Popular Resistance, Nuclear Reactors to Reopen in June

Tokyo Weekender, News & Views - March 25th, 2015

Although it has been four years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, many Japanese citizens are still steadfastly opposed to reactors being reopened in the region. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, is turning a deaf ear to those concerns.

Deutsche Welle reports that the government has announced plans to reinstate several nuclear reactors by June. Those officials insist that imports of oil, coal and natural gas—which have been compensating for the dearth of nuclear power since the Fukushima disaster—have bogged down the economy and led to spikes in smog and pollution. Despite the current drop in oil costs, many nuclear proponents say those prices are bound to eventually get steeper. For instance, Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, says the government’s “first concern is energy security and even though prices for oil and natural gas are at low levels at present, there is no doubt that prices will go up again. And we have no idea what will happen in future in the Middle East.”

Critics have dismissed those claims. Among the most vocal detractors is environmentalist Aileen Mioko-Smith of the Kyoto-based NGO Green Action Japan, who was quoted as saying: “They are pushing ahead with this despite the opinion polls consistently showing that a solid 70 percent of the Japanese public want nuclear energy to be phased out.” She went on cite studies that indicate that the repairs and upgrades required to rekindle Japan’s nuclear sector would be far more costly than renewable energy. She added: ”We do not believe the lessons of Fukushima have been learned. For example, the Nuclear Regulation Agency is not following its own guidelines on the risk associated with a volcano near to the Sendai plant.”

Mycle Schneider, a nuclear policy expert who authors an annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report was quoted by Deutsche Welle as saying that the world is in the midst of a “revolution” that will render nuclear power obsolete, adding that he believes nuclear energy is growing increasingly dangerous and unprofitable. Public opposition was further reinforced when RT reported that 750 tons of radioactive water leaked from Fukushima yesterday, despite the UN watchdog IAEA’s recent claims that Japan’s nuclear sector has made “significant progress.” The IAEA’s praise was curtailed by reminders that there is still a “radioactive threat, and a very complex scenario at Fukushima.”

—Kyle Mullin