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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 September 16 - 29  > Collapsed policy of promoting nuclear power generation should be abandoned
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2020 September 16 - 29 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Collapsed policy of promoting nuclear power generation should be abandoned

September 18, 2020

Akahata ‘editorial’

Hitachi Ltd., whose chairperson Nakanishi Hiroaki also serves as Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) chair, recently decided to pull out of a project to construct a nuclear power plant in Britain. The former Abe government promoted projects of NPP construction abroad as part of its strategy to export Japan’s NPP-related technologies to other countries. All of the Abe government-driven NPP projects including Hitachi’s have ended in failure. It is obvious that nuclear energy has no future in the world as it is both costly and dangerous. The government led by Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide should not only withdraw from the dead-end policy of nuclear power promotion but also give up exporting NPP-related projects abroad and reactivating offline NPPs in Japan.

Money-losing, unsafe NPP-related projects

Hitachi in 2012 acquired a British nuclear power company with the aim of constructing two nuclear reactors in Anglesey, Wales. Criticizing the plan as environmental destruction, local residents stood up and kept on fighting.

As the total project cost ballooned to three trillion yen, 50% more than initially foreseen, Hitachi judged that the Anglesey NPP plan will not pay off. The company intended to establish a framework to receive financial support from the U.K. government but failed. Hitachi in January 2019 decided to freeze the NPP construction project “in the context of economic rationality” and finally pulled out of the project.

The PM Abe led-government focused on foreign exports of NPP-related technologies as a key item in its growth strategy. PM Abe, in the name of “top-level sales”, hustled to sell Japan’s nuclear power plants to other countries. After the 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Abe government-driven NPP construction projects in many countries faced local opposition. Hitachi in 2016 decided to freeze the NPP construction in Lithuania after the project was rejected in a national referendum.

In Vietnam, financial difficulties and public concern over safety aroused public opposition to nuclear power. In reaction, the government cancelled its plan to introduce Japan’s nuclear power plants to Vietnam. In addition, Toshiba’s U.S. subsidiary in the nuclear power business collapsed and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry dropped its plan to build a NPP in Turkey. As shown by these developments, the Abe government’s NPP export policy has failed.

Regarding Hitachi’s NPP export to the U.K., which was promoted in collaboration with the government, an increase in safety-related expenses was required which resulted in an unexpected increase in project costs. The introduction and use of renewables has now become popular worldwide, and the power-generating costs of renewables have decreased. In sharp contrast, the cost of nuclear power plants is increasing year after year. It is obvious that nuclear energy projects are financially reckless.

According to international energy company BP plc., electricity produced from renewables in the world and its share have been on the rise in recent years, and renewable electricity output globally exceeded that of nuclear power in 2019. However, Japan promotes the exportation of nuclear power technology as a key pillar of the country's growth strategy. This policy runs counter to the global trend.

Nevertheless, the Abe government maintained that export policy. The government, in its FY2020 infrastructure and economic cooperation strategy, included the overseas expansion of infrastructure systems as well as exports of nuclear power plants. Regarding nuclear power generation at home, the government in its 2018 basic energy policy stated that nuclear energy is an important baseload energy source and announced the resumption of operations of nuclear facilities. It is irresponsible for the government to refuse to open its eyes to the failure of its nuclear energy policy.

Gov't should listen to voices in opposition to restart of nuclear reactors

Many polls show that majority opinion is either against the reactivation of NPPs or against nuclear power itself. In a Yomiuri survey conducted in January and February, 56% of respondents expressed opposition to their resumption of operations. A survey carried out by the Kyodo news groups' research center in February and March also shows that those who hoped Japan would be nuclear-energy free either "right now" or "in stages" accounted for more than 70% of the respondents. The government led by new Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide should take these survey results seriously.

The cancellation of resumption of operations is simply reasonable, and the construction of new plants is out of the question. The four opposition parties jointly submitted to the Diet a bill to withdraw from nuclear power generation and to enable a transition to renewable energy. The bill should be discussed immediately in order to establish a Japan without nuclear energy.

Past related articles:
> JCP Kasai criticizes Abe for clinging to failed policy to promote nuclear power plant exports [February 14, 2019]
> Hitachi decides to 'freeze' nuclear power plant project in Wales [January 18, 2019]
> Abe-driven shipment of NPP projects to overseas flounders [December 18, 2018]
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