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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 February 5 - 11  > Reactivation of nuclear reactors is illusion: energy policy professor
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2014 February 5 - 11 TOP3 [NUCLEAR CRISIS]

Reactivation of nuclear reactors is illusion: energy policy professor

February 5, 2014
The Industry Minister on January 15 approved the New Comprehensive Special Business Plan of Tokyo Electric Power Co. created by the utility company itself and the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund (NDF). The new plan calls for the reactivation of nuclear power plants operated by TEPCO and an increase in government funds for the company from five trillion yen to nine trillion yen. The following is an Akahata interview with Oshima Ken’ichi, professor of energy policy at Ritsumeikan University:

The new business plan argues that nuclear energy is the important power source for a low-cost and stable supply of electricity.

The plan is an illusion as it still has such a recognition of nuclear power generation. It fundamentally lacks awareness of the fact that the utility has not been able to procure enough funds to pay for the damages caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident and to bring the severe accident under control. It is based on the premise that TEPCO needs to be maintained to assure a stable energy supply.

TEPCO plans to start in July restarting the operations of Nos.1, 5, 6, 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant was affected by the 2007 earthquake in the Chuetsu region in Niigata Prefecture. However, its operator (TEPCO) has yet to install any effective measures against quakes and tsunamis. The latest plan fails to provide a persuasive reason why the utility promotes nuclear power generation after its disaster at Fukushima.

The plan suggests that electric rates need to be increased by fall 2014 if reactivation of nuclear reactors is delayed.

It is illogical to only raise citizens’ financial burdens. The very cause of the issue is the government’s failure to nationalize TEPCO in the first place. Financial institutions, which are the utility’s shareholders and money lenders, have also evaded their financial responsibilities.

Amounts of compensation paid to victims are not enough as TEPCO wants to keep down the prices and end the payments as early as possible. In an attempt to restore its own management, the payments are insufficient compared with the actual damage caused by the nuclear accident.

Democratic reform in electricity system

Why can the plan refer to nuclear power as an effective source of cost reduction?

Comparing only fuel costs, the new business plan claims that nuclear energy is a lower-cost source of energy. Assuming that nuclear power facilities will operate at 85% of their capacity, which is impossible in reality, the plan emphasizes the cost-reduction aspect of nuclear energy.

Abandoning nuclear energy will put an end to the enormous operating costs of nuclear power plants, but on the other hand, an increase in fuel consumption by thermal power plants will cause a rise in fuel costs. It is, therefore, necessary to take into account the rationalization of operations of thermal plants and a possible price hike in thermal fuels before projecting in detail what zero-nuclear power will bring about.

The general public is being asked to choose between a society with nuclear energy and a society without nuclear energy. However, the new business plan gives no estimate to electricity charges under a zero-nuclear society.

While calling for a prompt implementation of compensation for Fukushima nuclear damages, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund (NDF) says it will smooth the way for businesses regarding the operations of nuclear reactors. It is the same as threatening the public by saying, “no reactor operations, no compensation.”

What changes are envisioned?

TEPCO itself should be subject to a severe check on its appropriateness to the public. The NDF should release all related information and listen to citizens’ opinions in a bid to determine what should be done with TEPCO.

If a democratic reform in the electricity system is desired, power generation and transmission operations should be separated from each other so that every electric power producer can connect to the transmission system. To ensure a fair and free competitive environment, it will be important to establish a powerful regulatory organ free from state power. The need is to release all data and create the most socially appropriate power-supply system.

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