Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The Ghosts Of Fukushima & Japan’s Nuclear Turnaround

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 14: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s office on July 14, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. Kishida announces the countermeasures of recently surging COVID-19 cases, resumption of nuclear power plants to deal with energy crisis and state funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Sep 7, 2022,

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s announcement that Japan was going to revive nuclear power and invest in it as a solution to Japan’s energy woes, came as a 180 degree policy reversal after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. Kishida and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are investing a lot of political capital and their long-term industrial policy commitment in nuclear energy.

With Japan facing summer blackouts, and Russian gas supply in question after Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine politicizing natural gas exports, the Japanese government announced it was approving 33 nuclear projects for operation. 10 nuclear plants have already been restarted, with 7 more planned for Spring 2023 revival. These plants are spread in the Fukui, Miyagi, Shimane, Niigata, and Ibaraki prefectures and some are still pending local and safety approval. In addition, the Kishida administration is looking into increasing the lifespan of nuclear plants from 40 to 60 years. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings which accounts for 24.8% of Japan’s existing nuclear capacity is aiming to restart 2 of the 7 reactors for 2023 in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

The Japanese private sector, energy markets, and economy are ecstatic at the news. Japan’s three nuclear power plant general contractors: Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Hitachi have been developing nuclear technology including next-generation projects, small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), and nuclear reactor parts. Fusion energy is also on the horizon but not ready for commercial exploitation.

Other companies running and producing parts for nuclear plants include IHI Corporation, Kansai Electric Power, and Chubu Electric Power. Following the announcement of nuclear plant revivals, the share values of nuclear companies in Japan shot up and energy prices and futures stabilized. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHVYF) has been working with state-owned Japan Nuclear Fuel on the Rokkasho plant had its shares increase by 6.9%. IHI Corporation’s shares rose by 5.4%, and Hitachi’s climbed 1.9%. For the utilities sector, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ (TEPCO) share values increased by 10%, Kansai Electric’s 2.9% and Chubu Electric Power’s by 1.3%.

If any country has the “right” to fear nuclear power, it would be Japan. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster only solidified a long-running anti-nuclear Zeitgeist in Japanese society stemming back to the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the pacifism engrained in Japan’s constitution via Article 9 which outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes. So, why, and how, has Japan embarked upon such a drastic policy U-turn when many others, such as Germany, are wavering?

One would think that amid soaring energy prices and blackouts, the news of nuclear energy revival would result in a surge of popularity for the LDP, but instead it is facing mixed responses. Only a few weeks ago the LDP felt compelled to announce they had no plans to build new reactors even as the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) was drafting technology for nuclear plants . Even though the Japanese public is increasingly aware of its energy predicament, public support for building new nuclear reactors and replacing aging units only has a 34% approval rate and a 58% opposition rate. The Kishida administration may see the effects of ignoring public opposition to nuclear in the upcoming local elections. It clearly needs a powerful public information campaign to explain why Japan needs nuclear power.

Nevertheless, Kishida and the LDP are determined to bring the public to its side before the next general elections and show the benefits of their nuclear vision. They should recognize Japan’s structural weaknesses caused by the island’s dependency on imports for industrial inputs, geographic position requiring imports of fossil fuel from thousands of miles away, dependence on the historic foe Russia, the difficulty of employing renewables in Japan. Kishida-san would need to explain that all this is making nuclear a good choice for Japan.

Protesters stage a rally against the restart of a nuclear reactor, near Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office in Tokyo, Friday, July 6, 2012. A nuclear reactor in western Japan begun generating electricity, Thursday July 5, in the first restart since last year’s tsunami led to a nationwide nuclear power plant shutdown. The banner reads: “Against the restart of a reactor.”

Why can Japan make this embrace, against immediate public concerns, when so many other countries cannot? The most important component is long-term strategic thinking wherein political elites are willing to bear short-term political costs for future gains rather than weaponizing energy politics for partisan food fights as it is the case in Germany and elsewhere. Also vital is the public trust the Japanese Agency for Natural Resources and Energy enjoys, being under the auspices of Japan’s hallowed Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Japanese bureaucrats are capable of generating energy policy cognizant of national security demands and private sector capabilities. Flexible zoning laws which allow for dense urban-integrated energy infrastructure is also vital as this preempts NIMBYism and land-use problems found with many other energy projects. Lastly, the non-partisan nature of energy policy in Japan, where no political party clings to a specific energy initiative, is something to emulate in Berlin and elsewhere.

If densely populated, earthquake-prone Japan can step into a nuclear future, there is no excuse for the rest of the world. U.S., Germany, and others should learn from Japan on how to exorcise our own, far less rational, nuclear demons.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2022/09/07/the-ghosts-of-fukushima–japans-nuclear-turnaround/?sh=3bf1a8d15b41

September 12, 2022 - Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , ,

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