Former Japan PM accuses Abe of lying over Fukushima pledge — The Guardian; The Denver Post

The Guardian: ” Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has labelled the country’s current leader, Shinzo Abe, a “liar” for telling the international community that the situation at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is under control.

Koizumi, who became one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders during his 2001-06 premiership, has used his retirement from frontline politics to become a leading campaigner against nuclear restarts in Japan in defiance of Abe, a fellow conservative Liberal Democratic party (LDP) politician who was once regarded as his natural successor.

Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires in September 2013 that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was “under control”, shortly before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.

IOC officials were concerned by reports about the huge build-up of contaminated water at the Fukushima site, more than two years after the disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

“When [Abe] said the situation was under control, he was lying,” Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo. “It is not under control,” he added, noting the problems the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), has experienced with a costly subterranean ice wall that is supposed to prevent groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors, where it becomes highly contaminated.

“They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. He went on to claim that Abe had been fooled by industry experts who claim that nuclear is the safest, cleanest and cheapest form of energy for resource-poor Japan.

“He believes what he’s being told by nuclear experts,” Koizumi said. “I believed them, too, when I was prime minister. I think Abe understands the arguments on both sides of the debate, but he has chosen to believe the pro-nuclear lobby.”

After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said he had “studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power, and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies”.

Abe has pushed for the restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors, while the government says it wants nuclear to account for a fifth of Japan’s total energy mix by 2030. Just three of the country’s dozens of nuclear reactors are in operation, and two will be taken offline later this year for maintenance.

Koizumi, 74, has also thrown his support behind hundreds of US sailors and marines who claim they developed leukaemia and other serious health problems after being exposed to Fukushima radiation plumes while helping with relief operations – nicknamed Operation Tomodachi (friend) – following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In 2012 the service personnel launched a lawsuit accusing Tepco of failing to prevent the accident and of lying about the levels of radiation from the stricken reactors, putting US personnel at risk.

Most of the 400 plaintiffs were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that was anchored off Japan’s north-east coast while helicopters flew emergency supplies to survivors of the tsunami, which killed almost 19,000 people.

Medical experts, however, said the sailors would have received only small, non-harmful doses of radiation; a US defence department report published in 2014 said no link had been established between the sailors’ health problems and their exposure to low doses of Fukushima radiation.

Koizumi, who met several of the sick servicemen in San Diego in May, plans to raise $1m by the end of next March to help cover the sailors’ medical expenses.

“I felt I had to do something to help those who worked so hard for Japan,” he said. “That won’t be enough money, but at least it will show that Japan is grateful for what they did for us.”

Despite his opposition to Abe’s pro-nuclear policies, Koizumi was complimentary about his performance as prime minister during his second time in office in the past decade.

“As far as nuclear power is concerned, we are totally at odds,” Koizumi said. “But I think he’s reflected on the mistakes he made during his first time as leader and is doing a much better job second time around.”

In political longevity terms, Abe’s performance could hardly be worse. He resigned in September 2007 after less than a year in office, following a series of ministerial scandals, a debilitating bowel condition and a disastrous performance by the LDP in upper house elections. ”

by Justin McCurry

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Japan business lobby says Abe govt can’t rely on nuclear energy — Reuters

” TOKYO, July 22 (Reuters) – Japan’s use of nuclear power is unlikely to meet a government target of returning to near pre-Fukushima levels and the world’s No.3 economy needs to get serious about boosting renewables, a senior executive at a top business lobby said.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policies, nuclear is supposed to supply a fifth of energy generation by 2030, but Teruo Asada, vice chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, said Japan was unlikely to get anywhere near this.

The influential business lobby has issued a proposal urging Tokyo to remove hurdles for renewable power amid the shaky outlook for nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The move shows how business attitudes are now shifting as reactor restarts get held up by legal challenges, safety issues and public scepticism.

“We have a sense of crisis that Japan will become a laughing stock if we do not encourage renewable power,” said Asada, who is also chairman of trading house Marubeni Corp.

Long dependent on imported fossil fuels, Japan’s government and big business actively promoted nuclear energy despite widespread public opposition.

The government wants nuclear to make up 20-22 percent of electricity supply by 2030, down from 30 percent before Fukushima. So far, however, only two out of 42 operable reactors have started and the newly elected governor of the prefecture where they are located has pledged to shut them.

Renewables supplied 14.3 percent of power in the year to March 2016 and the government’s 2030 target is 22-24 pct.

“In the very long term, we have to lower our dependence on nuclear. Based on current progress, nuclear power reliance may not reach even 10 percent,” said Asada, adding the association wanted measures to encourage private investment in renewables and for public funding of infrastructure such as transmission lines.

The influential business lobby has a membership of about 1,400 executives from around 950 companies.

Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo focusing on energy issues, said the push signaled “a profound change in thinking among blue-chip business executives.”

“Many business leaders have clearly thrown in the towel on nuclear and are instead openly lobbying for Japan to vault to global leadership in renewables, efficiency and smart infrastructure.”

When asked about the association’s proposals, an industry ministry official said the government was maintaining its nuclear target.

“The Japanese government will aim for the maximum introduction of renewable energy but renewable energy has a cost issue,” said Yohei Ogino, a deputy director for energy policy.

But three sources familiar with official thinking told Reuters in May that Japan will cut reliance on nuclear power when it releases an updated energy plan as early as next year.

Following the nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011, Japan has had some success in overcoming one of the world’s worst peacetime energy crises, partly due to lower oil prices and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices.

Japan has also promoted renewables but most investment has been in solar and in recent years it has cut incentives.

“There are too many hurdles for other sources of renewable power,” Asada said. ”

by Osamu Tsukimori and Aaron Sheldrick; edited by Ed Davies

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Japan’s nuclear energy choices — Kathleen Araujo, The Japan Times

Read Kathleen Araujo analysis of Japan’s energy policy. She is an assistant professor at Stony Brook University, specializing in national decision-making on energy-environmental systems, and science and technology policy. This article is copyrighted by The Diplomat and distributed by Tribune Content Agency. You can read the article via The Japan Times.

Japan committed to nuclear power despite Fukushima fiasco — The New York Times

” TOKYO — With the pull of a lever, control rods were lifted Tuesday from the reactor core at a plant in southern Japan, ending a ban on nuclear power following meltdowns at Fukushima in the northeast that forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes, most of them for good.

Crowded, energy-scarce Japan remains committed to nuclear power despite the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and its messy aftermath, for economic, environmental and political reasons.

Polls show that most Japanese don’t want nuclear power, but public opinion has been trumped by leaders who say keeping the country’s 43 workable reactors offline forever would be too damaging economically.

Though two other nuclear reactors briefly resumed operations after the Fukushima meltdowns, Japan has gone completely without nuclear power for nearly two years under tighter new regulations. Reactors remained idle pending safety inspections.

Nuclear plants had provided nearly a third of power generation before they were taken offline, so Japan ramped up use of coal, oil and gas to compensate. That has increased energy costs and slowed Japan’s progress toward reducing emissions. Utility companies, meanwhile, face mounting costs from keeping nuclear plants idle.

Nuclear power is “indispensable,” industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa said Tuesday, pledging to put safety first as the Sendai No. 1 reactor resumed operations.

“It would be impossible to achieve all these three things simultaneously: Keep nuclear plants offline, while also trying to curb carbon dioxide and maintain the same electricity costs,” he said. “I hope to gain the public’s understanding of the situation.”

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was in office at the time of the 2011 Fukushima accident, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people. On Tuesday, he stood shouting outside the gates of the Sendai plant, along with about 300 other protesters.

“Accidents are unpredictable; that’s why they happen. And certainly not all the necessary precautions for such accidents have been taken here,” Kan said.

The Fukushima disaster, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, revealed dire problems within the nuclear industry, including lax contingency planning and inadequate precautions against tsunami, earthquakes and other natural disasters at some plants.

Water is still being pumped into the Fukushima reactors to prevent further meltdowns, and huge amounts of it, now radioactive, have leaked out of the damaged containment chambers and into other parts of the buildings. Some has leaked outside and into the sea. Meanwhile, removal of melted fuel from three of the plant’s six reactors — the most challenging part of the 30-to-40-year cleanup process — will not begin until 2022.

Japan’s 126 million people live smack on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active region studded with volcanos and riven with major geologic faults.

But the country invested heavily in nuclear power to help alleviate its nearly complete reliance on imported fuel, and many communities rely on tax revenues and jobs associated with the plants. Though its nuclear fuel recycling program at Rokkasho, on the northern tip of the main island of Honshu, is stalled by technical problems, Japan also faces pressure to use up its stockpile of more than 40 tons of weapons-grade plutonium — enough to make up to 50 nuclear weapons.

After taking office in late 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rolled back a pledge by his predecessor’s government to phase out nuclear power by 2030. The government’s goal is to have nuclear power meet more than a fifth of Japan’s energy needs by 2030, a target that would require 30 working reactors. Up to 18 reactors are needed to burn the plutonium stockpile.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, itself restructured after Fukushima, affirmed the safety of the Sendai reactor and one other at the same plant last September, under stricter safety rules. The reactor that restarted Tuesday is expected to start generating power on Friday and reach full capacity next month. The second Sendai reactor is due to restart in October pending final approval.

Utilities are seeking approvals for restarts of 23 other reactors, including the second at Sendai. Two others are under construction. But many communities don’t want their reactors back online, and experts say idled plants deteriorate quickly.

Even with little to no nuclear power, Japan has managed to avoid power rationing and blackouts. Industries have moved aggressively to avoid disruptions by installing backup generators and shifting to new sources, such as solar power.

Ultimately, nuclear power is a stopgap, medium-term solution for Japan’s energy needs. Even if more nuclear plants are allowed to restart, many will soon reach their 40-year operating limits, with a maximum potential extension to 60 years, raising the issue of whether and how they will be replaced. Meanwhile, the disposal and security of nuclear waste are issues yet to be resolved.

While Abe and other officials say Japan’s new safety requirements are the world’s toughest, critics say this is untrue because evacuation plans are not mandatory requirements.

Tomas Kaberger, chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, notes that the peak output of Japan’s nuclear power industry was in 1998. Power companies have since pulled back from major new investments in atomic power due to rising costs and technical difficulties in operating the reactors, though Japanese manufacturers are eager to sell their nuclear equipment and expertise overseas.

“The problems for the Japanese nuclear industry started long before the Fukushima accident,” he said. ”

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Nobel-winner Oe slams Abe, urges nation to follow Germany and quit nuclear power — The Japan Times

” Nobel-winning author Kenzaburo Oe said Tuesday that the nation’s push to restart some nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster could lead to another crisis, and urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to follow Germany’s example and phase out atomic energy.

Oe’s remarks to reporters came a day after visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had decided to end her country’s use of nuclear energy by 2022 because the Fukushima crisis convinced her of its risks.

Abe, at a joint news conference on Monday with Merkel, reiterated that Japan still needs nuclear power as a stable energy source and said it now has top-level safety standards based on lessons learned from the disaster.

Oe said he saw a stark contrast between the two leaders. “It was very symbolic,” he said. “Japanese politicians are not trying to change the situation but only keeping the status quo even after this massive nuclear accident, and even if we all know that yet another accident would simply wipe out Japan’s future.”

Three reactor cores at the Fukushima plant melted following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, spreading radiation outside the compound and forcing more than 100,000 people to relocate. Massive amounts of contaminated water at the plant are hampering the decommissioning effort, which is expected to take decades. New leaks of highly radioactive water from the plant’s drainage systems, including one that its operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not reveal for months, have renewed public distrust.

Oe, 80, said his life’s final work is to strive for a nuclear-free world.

“We must not leave the problem of nuclear plants for the younger generation,” he said.

The winner of the Nobel literature prize in 1994, Oe has campaigned for peace and anti-nuclear causes, particularly since the Fukushima disaster, and has often appeared in rallies. ”

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Protests erupt after Japan local government OKs first reactor restart — SBS

” More than three years after the Fukushima disaster, the final obstacle to restarting two nuclear reactors in Japan was removed Friday when local politicians granted their approval for a plant in the south to go back online.

The green light from the assembly and governor of Kagoshima prefecture, in the south of the country, marks a victory for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which has faced significant public opposition to its drive to re-fire nuclear power.

“I want to inform the economy, trade and industry minister about my understanding of the government’s policy to push for restarting nuclear power plants,” Governor Yuichiro Ito told a news conference, adding he had considered “various situations comprehensively”.

Ito’s finely parsed statement, which offers apparently reluctant support for a policy that is out of his hands, is typical of Japanese politicians dealing with the hot potato of nuclear power in a country now largely hostile to it.

The local go-ahead came after the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) said in September it believed the two units at Sendai met toughened safety standards introduced after the Fukushima accident.

The actual restart, however, is likely to be delayed until next year as technical procedures are still under way, including more NRA approvals for remedial work at the site.

Japan’s entire stable of nuclear power stations were gradually switched off after the tsunami-sparked catastrophe at Fukushima, when the breakdown of cooling systems sent reactors into meltdown.

Two were briefly restarted in 2012 but their power-down last September heralded an entirely nuclear-free Japan.

While Prime Minister Abe’s government and much of industry is keen to get back to atomic generation — largely because of the soaring costs of dollar denominated fossil fuels to an economy with a plunging currency — the public is unconvinced.

Communities living right next door to nuclear plants, who often enjoy grants from utility companies and depend on the power stations for employment, are frequently sympathetic to restarts.

However, there is hostility from those living further afield who enjoy no direct benefits but see themselves as in the firing line in the event of another accident like Fukushima.

Permission from local representatives will be good news for pro-nuclear Abe, who has set his heart on persuading his wary electorate that the world’s third largest economy must return to an energy source that once supplied more than a quarter of its power.

Fukushima was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. It forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, with many of them still displaced amid warnings some areas might have to be abandoned forever. ”

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