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Yujiro Oiwa

【#215】Koizumi’s Nuclear Phase-out Proposal Is Incomprehensible

Yujiro Oiwa / 2013.10.09 (Wed)

October 7, 2013

       Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is accelerating his proposal to phase out nuclear power plants. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has brushed off the Koizumi proposal, noting that various opinions are inevitable in the country where the freedom of speech is guaranteed. But I doubt if such proposal can be allowed to be made by the person who had been the most responsible person for promoting nuclear plants.
       I am appalled to see the performance of Koizumi being praised by Ichiro Ozawa who switched the energy policy of the Democratic Party of Japan to a pro-nuclear policy as its leader and now calls for a nuclear phase-out as leader of the People's Life Party and by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan who has advocated an unrealistic nuclear phase-out plan.

Koizumi had advocated a nuclear-oriented country plan
       Koizumi said he was shocked at an NHK TV program titled "Safety after 100,000 Years" following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and studied nuclear energy before reaching a conclusion that Japan should eliminate nuclear plants. In October 2005, however, then Prime Minister Koizumi and his cabinet adopted a nuclear policy guideline calling for expanding nuclear power generation. In June 2006, his government published a nuclear-oriented country plan and terminated subsidies for photovoltaic power generation.
       Koizumi said recently, "Nuclear plant promotion is irresponsible at a time when no assurance exists about the disposal of radioactive wastes." But the introduction of the fast breeder reactor around 2050, the intermediate storage of spent nuclear fuels and the disposal of radioactive wastes were addressed by the nuclear-oriented country plan report that was published on August 8, 2006, by the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee of the Electricity Industry Committee, suborgan of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy after its 13 meetings. How seriously has Koizumi read the report? He should pay cool attention to the technological potential of the integrated fast reactor and other safe fourth-generation nuclear reactors that are expected to fundamentally resolve the problem of radioactive waste disposal.

Global expectations placed on Japanese nuclear technology
       In a special speech on May 28, 2011, former Prime Minister Koizumi said, "It was wrong for Japan to send messages, believing in nuclear plant safety." Since then, he has publicly reiterated the nuclear phase-out proposal. But the abovementioned report noted that efforts to enhance safety at existing nuclear power plants were still halfway and should be continued. Nuclear plants' dangers and weak points have remained unchanged since before the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident. The problem is that the most responsible person has failed to recognize and address the dangers and weak points.
       International confidence in Japanese nuclear technology has remained unshaken even since the Fukushima accident. At a time when nuclear power generation plans are likely to expand in the world including emerging countries, the international community expects Japan to contribute to improving nuclear safety through its transfer of latest nuclear technology based on lessons learned from the latest nuclear plant accident.

Yujiro Oiwa is a JINF Planning Committee Member and Professor at Tokyo International University.