The illusion of nuclear
power safety has been torn out by the root. The Fukushima nuclear disaster
that followed the great waves of March 11 last year made sure of that.
What, we wondered at the time, would happen if the reactor vessels exploded?
How far would the radioactive contamination spread? Even thinking of
it now, nearly a year on, makes one feel crushed....
First of all, the government has indeed begun to hammer out plans to
reduce the country's dependence on nuclear power, and there are no whisperings
that this will be overturned. On the other hand, we have yet to see
an overall vision or process on how the government will evaluate the
risks associated with nuclear power and advance policy to decouple our
economy from it.
And all the while, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano
alludes to how important it is to restart reactors now idled for regular
maintenance. He says these restarts can only go ahead after confirming
the state of electricity supply and demand, reactor safety, and with
local approval. Nevertheless, we cannot accept the push for reactor
If the government is going to talk up the necessity of getting reactors
back into operation, shouldn't it first lay out a mid- to long-term
plan to get Japan off nuclear power? The government must furthermore
analyze the risks of restarting reactors in this earthquake-prone country
versus the risks of keeping them shut down, and reveal to all of us
exactly how many reactors must be put back online in the short term.
That is, not only must Japan move toward reducing nuclear power, the
government must also rank the various risks involved. Even if it's a
given that all badly aging reactors and all reactors of the same model
as those at the Fukushima No. 1 plant must be shuttered, how are other
risks to be evaluated? The very criteria for making these decisions
are straying off course, and that is a problem....
There are more than 430 nuclear reactors in the world, and one by one
they will all reach the end of their service lives. Regardless of the
future paths of nuclear policies around the world, there will be plenty
of reactors that need to be shut down...The development of robots and
remote control devices for Fukushima could become Japan's trump card
in the global reactor decommissioning business. Furthermore, we can
turn Fukushima into a hub of nuclear research, including in the nuclear
safety, radioactive substance management and decontamination fields,
and attract foreign talent.