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Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2011
Backing off from the nuke phaseout
In a high-level United Nations meeting on nuclear safety and security held Sept. 22, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda delivered a speech and said, "Japan is determined to raise the safety of nuclear power generation to the highest level in the world."
He also said, "Japan will disclose to the international community all the information related to this accident (at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant), in both a swift and accurate manner."
These points are quite reasonable in themselves. But it is regrettable that Mr. Noda did not use the meeting as an occasion to declare that Japan will phase out nuclear power. Instead, he said, "Japan stands ready to respond to the interest of countries seeking to use nuclear power generation" — an expression of his eagerness to push export of nuclear power-related technologies.
Phasing out nuclear power may be a difficult path, but Japan, which is already suffering from radiation from the Fukushima plant, is susceptible to strong quakes.
Spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants is piling up at storage facilities and they will be filled up in the not-so-distant future. Even these few factors show that phasing out nuclear energy and promoting renewable energy are a reasonable path Japan should take.
It must be pointed out that Mr. Noda even refrained from the simple act of repeating what he had said in his policy speech before the Diet — that in the middle and long run, Japan will lower its dependence on nuclear power as much as possible.
It must not be far-fetched to say that he tried to use the U.N. meeting as a chance to put a brake on moves in Japan to reduce reliance on nuclear power.
As to the Fukushima nuclear fiasco itself, Mr. Noda said: "At a minimum, there is little doubt that we had overestimated the ability of our preparations for tsunami. It is clear that electrical power supplies for emergency use and pumps should not have been situated in locations that could be submerged by tsunami."
His statement was apparently intended to turn people's attention away from the damage the March 11 earthquake itself has caused to the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the serious damage future quakes would cause to other nuclear power plants.
People should be watchful of this kind of manipulation by a national leader and bureaucrats.