« 自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を | トップページ | 反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか »

2012年9月17日 (月)

エネルギー選択 「原発ゼロ」は戦略に値しない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 16, 2012)
Responsible govt should never adopt zero nuclear goal
エネルギー選択 「原発ゼロ」は戦略に値しない(9月15日付・読売社説)


It was extremely irresponsible of the government to set out a "zero nuclear power" policy without illustrating the details of how the nation is supposed to secure a stable supply of electricity.

The government should retract the zero-nuclear policy and instead propose a feasible energy strategy.

The government's Energy and Environment Council adopted an "innovative energy and environmental strategy" with a target of "zero nuclear power plants operating in the 2030s."

Under the strategy, the government will not allow the establishment of any new nuclear power plants and will strictly enforce the rule of decommissioning nuclear reactors after 40 years of operation to achieve the goal, the council said.


At a press conference held Friday, Motohisa Furukawa, state minister for national policy, stressed the importance of the strategy. "We have shown our stance of earnestly tackling the problems associated with nuclear power without shelving them," Furukawa said.

However, Furukawa failed to provide an overall picture of the future composition of the energy supply, which the government has pledged to drastically review in light of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Such a sloppy, immature scheme is totally unworthy of a national energy policy.


Vital details lacking

The strategy stated a goal of increasing the proportion of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, from the current 10 percent to 30 percent by 2030. However, the council postponed revealing measures to achieve the plan until year-end.

The government's decision to achieve zero reliance on nuclear energy in about 20 years without working out the details of how to secure viable alternatives looks slipshod.

Was this the result of a calculated decision that it would help the Democratic Party of Japan if the government clarified its antinuke stance ahead of the next House of Representatives election? It is natural to suspect the government had already reached a conclusion on this matter ahead of discussions.

Another problem of the new strategy is its lack of response to the results of an expert panel tasked with examining this issue, as well as indications from the business community.

It is estimated that vast sums of money would be required to achieve zero reliance on nuclear energy--50 trillion yen to increase the amount of renewable energy and another 100 trillion yen for energy-saving measures.

The nation's gross domestic product would likely fall by 50 trillion yen, and the number of jobless people is expected to increase by 2 million.

However, the new strategy only stated that the government would "devote all necessary resources possible" to deal with the problems, without stating specific measures.

Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), strongly criticized the zero-nuclear policy. "Industrial circles, which have been doing everything possible to maintain the level of employment, can never approve such a policy. It's a total contradiction to the government's growth strategy," Yonekura said.

Yonekura's remark reflects concerns that the zero-nuclear policy could threaten the people's livelihood by causing electricity shortfalls and driving up production costs, which would likely accelerate companies' moves to shift their production bases abroad.


Policy laden with contradictions

Currently, 48 of the nation's 50 reactors remain unable to resume operations in spite of the end of their regular safety checkups.

Fuel costs for thermal power generation have shot up by 3 trillion yen a year compared to their level before the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

If things stay as they are, it will be inevitable for other electricity companies to raise their electricity charges, following TEPCO.

If the ratio of thermal power generation rises in the nation's energy source mix, Japan's dependence on the politically volatile Middle East for much of its energy sources will continue.

The new energy strategy is right in pointing out that the nation should make use of nuclear reactors as important sources of power generation if their safety is guaranteed.

To ensure stable supplies of electricity, the government must redouble efforts to realize the restart of currently idled reactors.

However, the government's trumpeting of its "zero nuclear power" policy makes it all the more difficult to obtain local residents' consent to restart nuclear plants in their areas. The government is at cross-purposes with itself.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, who gave the go-ahead to the reactivation of the Oi nuclear power plant of Kansai Electric Power Co. in his prefecture, has understandably expressed a sense of distrust regarding the government's shifting energy policy.

To pursue the goal of reducing reliance on nuclear energy to zero while at the same time preserving Japan's nuclear fuel recycling program cannot be called anything but an obvious contradiction.

Given this situation, nuclear fuel to be produced through the fuel cycle will not serve any purpose.

In Aomori Prefecture, which has long cooperated with the central government's nuclear fuel recycling program, some are calling for the prefecture to refuse to accept any new spent nuclear fuel. The anger there over the central government's treacherous handling of nuclear policy is quite understandable.

If Aomori Prefecture refuses to take in any more used fuel from nuclear complexes around the nation, there would be no place for storage of spent nuclear fuel, meaning nuclear power plants across the country would sooner or later be forced to halt their operations.

Furthermore, the newly adopted policy would lead to drastic declines in the number of people pursuing careers as nuclear experts, jeopardizing enhancement of the nation's nuclear safety technologies and the future decommissioning of reactors.


Japan-U.S. ties in jeopardy

Britain and France, to which Japan has entrusted the task of spent fuel reprocessing, and the United States, which has put high hopes on nuclear technologies held by Japanese companies, have shown strong anxieties over the government's policy switch.

The United States has acknowledged Japan's reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel as a special right on the basis of the Japan-U.S. Cooperation Agreement on Nuclear Energy.

Japan could lose the reprocessing right on the grounds of its new "zero nuclear power" policy.

There also is concern that the international status of Japan, which the United States has so far deemed as its key partner in pursuing nuclear security policy in the Asian region, may decline.

Should this country break completely away from nuclear power, the stature of China and South Korea, which have both been keen to boost construction of nuclear power plants, would be bolstered in East Asia. Such a development would inevitably damage the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The government must be well aware of the fact that Japan's energy policy cannot be formulated without paying due attention to its implications in the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2012)
(2012年9月15日02時00分  読売新聞)


« 自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を | トップページ | 反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか »





« 自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を | トップページ | 反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか »