Consumers Union of Japan submitted the following opinions on 1 October 2021, in response to the Japanese Government Agency for Natural Resources and Energy’s call for opinions on the formulation of the Sixth Basic Energy Plan.
Opinions on the Draft Basic Energy Plan
Please change “(6) Restructuring of nuclear power policy” in “(5) Policy responses toward 2030 with a view to 2050” to “(6) Transformation of nuclear power policy” and state “Immediately stop restarted nuclear power plants and realize zero nuclear power plants.
The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has completely destroyed what has become known as the “safety myth” of nuclear power. It also revealed that the accident was a “man-made disaster” caused by the fact that TEPCO’s management knew in advance about the danger of tsunami, but neglected to address it.
In fact, everyone is well aware of the dangers of nuclear power plants, including local residents, citizens who call for zero nuclear power plants, and even residents of the so-called “nuclear village.” Even if a major accident does not occur, it is hard to argue that nuclear power plants are economically viable when decommissioning and other expenses are factored in.
Looking back at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, it is clear that the world has come to recognize that we cannot coexist with nuclear power plants, especially in Japan, a country of frequent earthquakes.
The Sixth Basic Energy Plan has as its key theme to show the path of energy policy toward the realization of carbon neutrality in 2050.
As climate change is occurring around the world, efforts to create a decarbonized society are accelerating, and more than 120 countries, including Japan, have already declared zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Renewable energy sources account for 70-80% of the electricity generated in Austria, Denmark, and Sweden, and more than 40% in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, in France, where the percentage of nuclear power plants is high, it is only over 20%. As for Japan, where the percentage is still around 18%, it is clear that Japan is lagging behind, even though solar power generation has been increased in recent years.
For example, in Germany, which relied on nuclear power for nearly 30% of its electricity in 2000, and renewable energy accounted for only 5-6% of its electricity. It has since reached the 40% level and has decided to go “zero nuclear” by 2022.
Japan also had no nuclear power plants immediately after the Fukushima nuclear accident, so it has already proven that it can sufficiently meet its electricity demand without relying on the restart of nuclear power plants. It is appropriate to follow the example of European countries and raise the renewable energy target for 2030 to 36-38%, and achieve zero nuclear power plants.
In 2016, the total deregulation of electricity retailing led to a shift from the 10 major power companies to new municipal power companies and small local power companies. By decentralizing and bottoming up the energy system, this movement will lead to the revitalization of local communities by establishing “lifestyles suited to one’s size” (local economic zones) through local production for local consumption. In order to achieve this, it is desirable to have the participation of residents, and the key points are involvement and participation in the decision-making system politically (secured by ordinances, etc.) and involvement in the business as economic participation (investment, etc.).
Energy-saving lighting and heating/cooling in offices and houses, building insulation, switching to electric vehicles, using public transportation and bicycles in urban areas, are among the efforts needed to make it possible to achieve 100% renewable energy for local low-voltage electricity in the near future.
At the prefectural level, Akita Prefecture, with its large amount of hydroelectric power generation, Kagoshima, Gunma, and Miyazaki Prefectures, with their large amount of solar power generation, and Oita Prefecture, with its large amount of geothermal power generation, have already achieved about 50% self-sufficiency in electricity from renewable energy sources.
By municipality, it is said that more than 100 municipalities in Japan have a regional energy self-sufficiency rate of more than 100%.
While it is true that the formation of regional economic zones based on local production for local consumption faces various challenges, the power shift is becoming more widespread in Japan through the various efforts of each region.
Thanks to the power of these regions, the shift away from nuclear power and toward renewable energy is steadily progressing in Japan, albeit belatedly.
The draft of the Basic Energy Plan assumes dependence on nuclear power plants, stating, “Nuclear power plants will be used on the necessary scale in a sustainable manner. Consumers Union of Japan notes that the draft of the Sixth Basic Energy Plan assumes that Japan will depend on nuclear power plants, but such reasoning will probably be overcome by reality sooner or later.