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Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012

EDITORIAL

Pressing Mr. Noda on nuclear power

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Aug. 22 met with representatives of the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, which organizes a rally every Friday evening near the prime minister's official residence. Mr. Noda once condescendingly described the cries of rally participants as "loud sound."

Given such an attitude, one might think he deserves praise for meeting with citizens opposed to nuclear power generation. But in light of what he said to them, the meeting should be viewed as just a political performance by Mr. Noda.

During the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, the rally organizers said that Mr. Noda should listen to the voice of the people and abolish all nuclear power stations as soon as possible. They called for the immediate shutdown of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power station which were restarted in July. They pointed out that nuclear power is not safe and that the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has not been overcome yet.

They raised good points. Government-sponsored opinion studies, which offered three options — zero percent, 15 percent and 20 to 25 percent in terms of the weight of nuclear power in Japan's power generation, show that the largest percentage of people chose zero percent: 81 percent in surveys at public hearing at 11 cities, 46.7 percent in "deliberative polling," and about 87 percent in some 89,000 public comments sent to the government.

Safety procedures used for the restart of the Oi reactors are based only on provisional standards written without the completion of a full study of the Fukushima disaster and on a stress test, which is simply computer simulation whose results can vary depending on the computer program and data fed into it.

Kepco has yet to install filters that can remove any radioactive materials vented from reactor cores during an emergency or establish a seismically isolated emergency command center.

But the rally organizers appear to have failed to point out the long-term environmental problems caused by high-level nuclear waste. They should point out that no technology can guarantee the safe disposal of such nuclear waste, that the radiation of such nuclear waste takes 100,000 years to diminish to safe levels, and that nobody can predict with precision what will happen to the materials used to contain such waste 100 years or 1,000 years from now.

Mr. Noda spoke for only a few minutes during the meeting. He said that the government came to the decision to restart the Oi reactors "after comprehensively considering various angles, including safety and the impact on people's lives."

As for the direction of the government's new energy policy, he said, "I will take your opinions as a reference point and come to a decision after hearing various views."

Mr. Noda's tactic is to refrain from addressing the issue in concrete terms. Despite the severity of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis, he has refused to develop a time-bound road map to reduce the nation's reliance on nuclear power and eventually end it altogether.

All citizens who disagree with the present official stance on nuclear power should continue to apply pressure on the Noda administration and the government to adopt an energy policy that reflects the severe lessons of the Fukushima crisis.



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