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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 July 4 - 10  > Abe gov’t energy plan disregards domestic and global trend toward departure from nuclear power generation
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2018 July 4 - 10 [POLITICS]

Abe gov’t energy plan disregards domestic and global trend toward departure from nuclear power generation

July 4, 2018

Akahata editorial

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has approved the government’s fifth basic energy plan which outlines the direction of nation’s mid- and long-term energy policy. When the draft revision underwent the public comment procedure, the major opinion sent to the government was that the plan should be drastically changed so that Japan will stop depending on nuclear power generation and expand the use of renewables. However, in the approved plan, the government maintains its stance to increase the share of nuclear power in total electricity generation to more than 20% in 2030 and designates nuclear power as an “important base-load” energy source. Regarding renewable energy, the government has effectively turned its back on the worldwide shift to promote the use of renewable energy sources. The plan should be withdrawn as it goes against Japanese public opinion and the global move to renewables.

Dependence on nuclear power is backward move

The basic energy plan is set to be revised every three to four years. The previous plan was approved in 2014. At that time, without reflecting on lessons learned from the nuclear meltdown accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Abe government proclaimed nuclear power as a “base-load energy source”, declaring its intent to go forward into the future with nuclear power generation. The recently approved plan follows this position and speeds up the policy to reactivate off-line nuclear reactors. The 20-22% target for nuclear energy in the nation’s energy mix in 2030 means that the government aims to restart all nuclear reactors, including those which have already exceeded the 40-year operational lifespan limit. Tokyo Electric Power Company recently announced its plan to resume the construction of the Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture. In addition to this facility, the government also intends to include nuclear power stations under construction in its reactivation scheme.

Once a serious accident occurs at a nuclear power plant, the damage continues spreading through time and space. This extraordinarily dangerous nature of nuclear power generation was revealed by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster which has yet to be brought under control. Enormous cost is required to deal with the Fukushima nuclear accident as shown by the government estimate of 21.5 trillion yen. To keep relying on nuclear power is a regressive policy which makes no sense.

The basic plan sticks to promoting the nuclear fuel cycle policy. This is a big problem. When a nuclear reactor operates, it will inevitably produce spent nuclear fuel which contains plutonium. On the other hand, as shown by the fact that the fast breeder reactor “Monju” was declared to be decommissioned, the nuclear fuel cycle policy has failed. Japan has around 47 tons of weapons-grade plutonium stored both at home and abroad, which is tantamount to possessing 6,000 atomic bombs. The international community has expressed concern over this situation. The government should abandon its policy to move forward with the reactivation of off-line reactors because it will lead to more spent nuclear fuel. In addition, the government should abandon its reliance on the nuclear fuel cycle.

Now, the world is seeing a rapid increase in the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. The 2015 Paris climate agreement has accelerated the trend toward the departure from fossil fuels.

The basic plan states that the government aims to make renewable energy one of Japan’s major energy sources. However, the target in the plan is too modest: natural energy sources will generate 22-24% of electricity in 2030. Many countries have set targets of 40-50% renewable by 2030. Japan is falling behind the rest of the world. In addition, the basic plan persists in designating coal-fired thermal power as a basic energy source and seeks to promote the use of this highly carbon-intensive power source as well as its export to other Asian countries through joint efforts between the government and business world.

Create a government that listens to people’s voices

In total defiance of public opinion and signatures calling for the departure from the dependence on nuclear power and for the greater use of renewable energy sources, the government approved the basic plan without taking account of public opinion. This clearly reveals the government’s outrageous stance of ignoring public opinion. The urgent need now is to create a government that reflects public demands. It is necessary for opposition parties and concerned citizens to step up efforts to enact a bill calling for zero nuclear power generation which was proposed by four opposition parties and create a forward-looking society without reliance on nuclear power generation.

Past related articles:
> Abe gov’t must withdraw from nuclear fuel cycle [December 7, 2016]
> Environmental NGOs raise protest against Abe’s basic energy plan [April 12, 2014]

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