« 教育委員会改革 首長との連携生かす仕組みに | トップページ | エネルギー計画 「原発活用」は現実的な戦略だ »

2014年4月13日 (日)


April 12, 2014
EDITORIAL: New basic energy plan offers no convincing vision for Japan’s future

The government formally decided its new basic energy plan on April 11 with Cabinet approval of the primary energy policy document.

This is the first revision to the government’s basic energy plan since the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

The revision was a great opportunity to demonstrate the government’s commitment to tackle the challenges created by the disaster. It was a chance to clarify where the problems lay and how it intends to translate changes in the public’s attitude toward nuclear power generation into its energy policy.

But even though it includes a large variety of ideas, the new plan can by no means be considered a convincing message about the energy future of Japanese society.

Although the plan calls for lowering Japan’s dependence on atomic energy, it simultaneously expresses concerns about the growing imports of fossil fuels due to a nationwide shutdown of nuclear reactors, indicating the government’s intention to maintain nuclear power generation into the future.

While quietly changing the purpose of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor and promising to promote the program to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system, the document stresses “flexibility in medium- to long-term policy efforts” in an apparent attempt to dodge criticism.

All this waffling is part of the devious game the Abe administration has been playing in regard to its energy policy. Its strategy is designed to avoid touching off a public backlash by hiding or soft-pedaling its real intentions.

Three years have passed since the worst nuclear accident in Japanese history. By now, electric utilities must have realized that they can no longer continue relying on nuclear power.

Obviously, the government’s job now is to act swiftly to work out a well-focused and practical strategy for phasing out nuclear power generation in this nation.

The basic energy plan describes nuclear power as “low-carbon and quasi-domestic energy” and a “base-load” power source that should be used for continuous, around-the-clock power generation.

If it really intends to make Japanese society less dependent on atomic energy, the government should promote the development of power sources that can substitute for nuclear power, such as geothermal and hydraulic power generation and high-efficiency coal-burning thermal power stations, instead of seeking to build or expand nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power generation can never be free from the risk of severe, large-scale accidents that entail devastating consequences. It is unacceptable for the government to press for early restarts of idled reactors when sufficient safety measures to prevent serious accidents have yet to be put in place.

To be sure, the problem of rising costs due to increasing imports of fossil fuels should not be taken lightly.

But the government's claim that growing fuel imports are causing Japan to lose 3.6 trillion yen ($35 billion) worth of national wealth every year has raised doubts about the calculation formula among various experts.

Electric power companies have accumulated relevant data for three years. Instead of using a simple macroeconomic estimate, it is vital for the government to obtain accurate data concerning amounts and prices of imported fuels from utilities. Then, it should take steps to deal with the problem based on objective data assessments and factor analyses.

Restarting offline reactors could serve as a strong disincentive for new entries into the power market and investment to develop new power sources.

Unless the government quickly offers a medium- and long-term road map to a future less dependent on nuclear power, there will be no substantial progress in the efforts to re-energize the power market.

The new basic energy plan points out the need to create a system that allows the public to become involved in the entire process of developing and executing the energy policy.

The March 11 disaster has made us painfully aware of how the closed nature of the process in which the nuclear energy policy was developed and implemented contributed to the enormity of the damage.

We clearly need a system for public participation in the policy process to ensure that more than halfhearted efforts are made to provide information to the public and listen to the voices of the people.

The government needs to match its words with action.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 12


« 教育委員会改革 首長との連携生かす仕組みに | トップページ | エネルギー計画 「原発活用」は現実的な戦略だ »





« 教育委員会改革 首長との連携生かす仕組みに | トップページ | エネルギー計画 「原発活用」は現実的な戦略だ »