Category Archives: Energy

Do Not Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

The Japanese government is planning to charge all electricity consumers with the cost of the nuclear power plants that the power companies with nuclear power plants should primarily shoulder. Consumers Union of Japan is requesting the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to withdraw the introduction of the new system.

We are also starting a campaign to collect signatures to support our message: “Please do not shift the costs related to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident to our electricity bills.” Please cooperate and spread the word among friends and acquaintances. You can download the pdf file with the signature campaign appeal form here (J). The government’s plan seems to be to submit this bill during the ordinary session of the Parliament, so the deadline for Consumers Union of Japan’s signature campaign is January 31, 2017.

 

Withdraw the proposed new system to shift nuclear power plant related costs to our electricity bills

On December 22, 2016, Consumers Union of Japan sent a letter to Hiroshige Seko, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. We pointed out that the new system proposed by the government would spread the financial burden of nuclear accident compensation and reactor decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant to new electricity suppliers, who would likely pass on their share of these costs to their customers. The government now estimates the total cost for reactor decommissioning plus Fukushima nuclear disaster compensation at some 8.3 trillion yen.

We oppose this proposal because energy problems are important issues that concerns our lives deeply. It is unacceptable that the Parliament will not properly deliberate Japan’s future energy plan in a democratic way, instead sticking to nuclear power generation. The proposal to relieve the current energy power companies of their responsibility goes against all common sense. We urge the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to not include nuclear power in the base load power supply, and instead focus on renewable and sustainable energy sources.

Five Years after the Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima

Epidemiological Studies Show a Rapid Increase in the Occurrence Rates of Thyroid Cancer

CUJ interviewed Okayama University professor Toshihide Tsuda, who published an epidemiological study on the occurrence rate of thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture in October, 2015. Dr. Tsuda is known for his expert opinions on a range of pollution related cases, including the Minamata disease. He held a press conference on October 8, 2015 to discuss the findings of his team, revealing a rapid increase of 20-50 times in the rate of thyroid cancer among infants in the disaster-stricken prefecture compared to national levels. While media in other countries published reports about his concerns, the Japanese press did not seem to take his warnings seriously.

Q: What can you say about the health risks associated with the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011?
A: It hasn’t been reported much, but a risk assessment was done in 2013 by the World Health Organization (WHO). They noted that the health risks involve thyroid cancer, leukemia, breast cancer and other types of cancer. We have now reached the incubation stage when it would not be strange or surprising to begin to observe the frequent occurrence of thyroid cancer or leukemia.

When we calculated the rate of thyroid cancer that was found in medical examination of infants and children younger than 18 years old in Fukushima prefecture, there is a large area, excepting the north-eastern towns, where the occurrence rates are 20-50 times higher than the national average. We also note that this is happening at a faster pace than we had expected. Also, from the Chernobyl accident, we know that the rates continue to increase beyond when people reach 18 or 19 years old, so we can expect the same for Japan in the years to come. In my view, since the rates are already high in the southern parts of Fukushima prefecture, we also ought to examine children in neighboring Ibaraki prefecture.

Q: Meanwhile, the government is saying that it is difficult to conclude that the nuclear accident is the cause of the frequent occurrence.
A: It is clearly proven that radioactive Iodine easily gets concentrated in the thyroid gland and that it is a major cause of thyroid cancer. It is also clear that radioactivity can cause other health problems and diseases. But for each case, we won’t have the actual proof until people start dying, which is obviously too late. I don’t know what the people in charge should be doing or saying. I suppose it is best to follow the same protocol as when we have a large-scale food poisoning case. We should be defending the health of the people; that is the first rule. So, while we assume that damage has already been done, I think we need to do more.

Q: What can we do as citizens?
A: Even if you can’t move away from the areas in question, there are ways to reduce the exposure as much as possible. It is important to be aware of the amounts of radioactivity in the place you live. It seems that right now, there is not so much sharing of ideas going on. But as time goes by, with a continued increase in occurrences, we may even run out of operation equipment. At present, about one student in every high school in Fukushima prefecture is diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but there are places where it is as high as three students already. Soon that number could be one child in each class.

When we are talking of probabilities, there is a huge difference after you have been told that you have cancer. Then your number is 100%. It is also true that while people rarely die from thyroid cancer, you will have a scar for life after the operation, and you will have to take medicines. The problem is not that it can be removed through surgery. What we should do is to prevent the frequent occurrence of this disease through proper measures.

Read more:

The Mainichi: Experts divided on causes of high thyroid cancer rates among Fukushima children

The Japan Times: New report links thyroid cancer rise to Fukushima nuclear crisis

PBS Nova: Study Suggests That Children Exposed to Fukushima Accident Are Developing Thyroid Cancer

 

(Interview by Yoko Sugiura. Article first published in CUJ’s newsletter  Shouhisha Report No.1582 Feb 20, 2016)

Urgent: Do Not Approve Restart Of Old Sendai Nuclear Plant!

On August 4, 2015, Consumers Union of Japan participated in the meeting in the Japanese Parliament on the issue of the restart of the Sendai Nuclear Plant No. 1 reactor in Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan.

Mr. Naoto Kan, the former Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant accident in 2011, attended the meeting where two officials from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) were invited by Mr. Kan to answer questions between 1:30 and 5:00 PM.

It is 31 years since the Sendai Nuclear Plant’s oldest reactor first began operating on July 4, 1984. Construction started in 1979. Japan now has rules that state that nuclear plants that have been operating for over 30 years must go through thorough checks, and the company operating nuclear reactors must submit reports when a reactor reaches that limit. That has not been done properly until now in the case of Sendai. For example, the owner is required to draw up long-term measures to ensure the safety of equipment, which NRA said can be done later… Also, in the report just submitted by Kyushu Electric, there are parts that have been blacked out for “corporate secrecy” reasons!

Even so, today on August 5, the NRA approved the restart of this old nuclear reactor.

Participants at yesterday’s meeting, including Mr. Kan, requested the NRA officials not to approve the restart of such an old and possibly unsafe nuclear plant. The procedure is not following the guidelines or laws of nuclear plant operation. However, the officials during the meeting yesterday repeatedly claimed that it would not be against any law to make a decision today, in spite of the concerns raised.

We should keep raising our strong voices against this decision-making process.

We continue to oppose the restart of the Sendai Nuclear Plant No. 1 reactor in Kagoshima.

Report by Koa Tasaka, chairperson of CUJ

 

CUJ Resolutions at the 42nd Annual Meeting in June, 2015

Save the welfare system in Japan1) We oppose the security bills aimed at changing Japan’s constitution, and urge the government to protect the people’s right to live in peace and safety

70 years after the end of WW2, the Japanese government is introducing a number of controversial bills to change the post-war constitution, allowing for a more active military role for Japan. For 70 years, we have lived as peaceful consumers and workers. Our way of peacefully earning a living is now being destroyed as the Abe Cabinet tries to abolish Article 9 of the constitution, and allow for collective self-defense, which ultimately means Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will be turned into a regular military force. This will also mean that Japan once again will be a country that can wage wars.

Consumers Union of Japan strongly opposes this as an attempt to infringe on our human rights. We want to remind the government that consumers have rights, including the pursuit of happiness and a safe livelihood. We take this to mean that we have the right to live in peace and safety. Consumers Union of Japan demands that the Abe Cabinet immediately withdraws the proposed bills to change the constitution and hereby declare that we are a part of the movement to oppose the proposed security bills.

2) We oppose the continued reliance on nuclear power

After the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, it became clear that relying on nuclear power is a dead end for society. In spite of this, the Abe Cabinet announced its new energy policy in April, 2015, stating that Japan should continue to rely on nuclear power, defining it as an “important base-load power source,” and sticking to its policy of promoting the nuclear fuel cycle. The government is already set to approve the restart of the Sendai and Takahama Nuclear Plants, and is making efforts to export nuclear power technology to other countries.

Meanwhile, in Fukushima Prefecture, some 120,000 people are still unable to return to their homes near the site of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. We note that it was a man-made disaster, and that the melted-down reactors still emit over 320 tons of radioactive water every day as they must be kept cool. Efforts to create a frozen wall around the complex failed. Also, workers on the site are being exposed to radiation in a perfunctory and careless way by the management. This is a clear human rights violation. In January, the government and TEPCO suggested that radioactive water should be disposed of into the ocean, something we cannot accept.

The Japanese archipelago with its active volcanos and many frequent earthquakes is particularly unsuitable for nuclear power. When accidents occur, radioactive substances will be released into the environment, with radioactive fallout including plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel also cannot be reprocessed without creating plutonium, and so far Japan has created 47 tons of this extremely dangerous radioactive material which can be used in nuclear weapons. The “deathly ash” (highly radioactive waste) has a half-life of 10,000 years. Also, mining for uranium is fraught with danger. All this points to a collusion of lies and cover-ups to make continued operation possible, as the basic truth is that radioactive substances can never coexist with living beings.

At the moment, not a single nuclear reactor is in operation in Japan. Even so, we basically have sufficient electricity. Higher costs for electricity seem to be the only reason to restart the currently idle nuclear power plants. We support independent efforts to save energy and reduce energy consumption for a peaceful livelihood for everyone, including for future generations. We look forward to a society that wisely relies on natural, renewable energy based on the “local production, local consumption” principle for all the people in the world, with zero reliance on nuclear power.

3) We oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will destroy our livelihoods as consumers

At this very moment, secret negotiations behind closed doors for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is ongoing, involving 12 countries; Japan and the United States are among these. But in reality, it has nothing to do with “free trade” but instead, it will give immense powers to a handful multi-national corporations that want to create an overt supra-national framework to avoid national or local governmental control.

TPP is part of a larger global campaign for “free trade” agreements (FTAs) that will impose rules on intellectual property with extended copyright protection periods (including strengthened exclusive licensing, with consequences for access to medicines). The new rules being introduced for foreign direct investment are a direct threat to our public services, as foreign corporations will be able to sue governments if they feel they are treated unfairly under national or local rules. Various regulations to provide welfare services through public means could thus be challenged by privately held multinational corporations. In particular, obscure new ISDS rules would grant an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against the Japanese government. The secretive TPP negotiation process indicates that the “profit for the 1% of the elite” will be creating much hardship for the 99% of the population who are workers, consumers, farmers/fishermen – the vast majority of citizens. This is the reason so many voices of opposition have been raised against the TPP.

To show our strong opposition to TPP, Consumers Union of Japan published an op-ed in October, 2014 together with Public Citizens. We noted:

What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment. From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.

Meanwhile, under U.S. free trade agreements alone, other governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. For consumers, rules that ensure the safety of imported food or information through mandatory food labels are examples of standards that TPP may do away with. For example, we are extremely concerned that Japan’s mandatory GMO labelling rules may be considered to fall under the category of “barriers to free trade” and become a target.

The fact that the TPP negotiations are not held in the open is a main cause of our concern. We remain in strong opposition to TPP for the dangerous reasons stated above, and resolve to continue to fight against it entering into force.

4) We oppose the bills for the expanded use of the National Identification System (“My Number”) and wire-tapping by the government

The Abe Cabinet wants Japan to “escape (or depart) from the post-war regime.” A National Security Council has been established, and a new law for special state secrets enacted. As part of this, expanded powers for wire-tapping of phone calls or emails have been introduced to aid criminal investigations. The new powers go beyond serious crimes (murder, drug dealing, weapon smuggling) to include general criminal activity of any kind. The extended rules for wire-tapping mean telecommunication carriers will now be monitored 24 hours a day, basically giving free range to the political forces that wish to monitor any phone calls or email activity.

The next target is a bill to criminalize so-called conspiracy. Potentially, this will cover any activity, including campaigns by non-governmental organizations, citizens groups or even consumer organizations. What the Abe Cabinet has said it wants to do is to create “the world’s most corporation-friendly country.” This explains the continued push for a national identification number system, known as “My Number” in katakana in Japanese. Under this system, everyone will be assigned a 12 digit number for total control of all citizens. Moreover, corporations will have easy access to each individual’s private information. The new bills weaken the Personal Information Protection Law (2003) and in particular, by encouraging the creation of Big Data the current government is handing over information about our private worlds to the corporate world.

Already, information security is being violated. Driving home this point, important private information such as pension data was recently leaked in the spring of 2015. The national pension system was simply hacked, leading to 1.25 million cases of personal data being leaked from the Japan Pension Service. With more and more efforts to amass Big Data about consumer behaviour and other aspects of our daily lives, the potential for such violations are increasing.

We see similarities in how the new legislation will suffocate citizens, stifle journalism and limit our democratic rights – just like in the pre-WW2 period. In that era too, corporations were given increased power as the country headed for war. We find that unacceptable. Consequently, we oppose the bills for increased wire-tapping, the introduction of the “My Number” system, the revision of the Personal Information Protection Law (2003), and the new definition of conspiracy crime. We are strongly opposed to Japan becoming a country that can wage wars, and resolve to protect Japan’s democracy and human rights.

(Resolutions adopted at Consumers Union of Japan’s 42nd Annual Meeting on June 20, 2015)

Reform of the Power System

Consumers Union of Japan and concerned citizens and experts formed a committee in September 2013 to put forward proposals for a reform of Japan’s energy system. This network took the opportunity to make a detailed submission to the government in January 2014. This is a brief summary of the Japanese text, which is available in full on the website of Consumers Union of Japan.

We must learn from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and formulate a master plan which advances energy conversion. The government should listen to the opinion of citizens and reflect the public view when going forward with its plans.

A stable energy supply must be based on a new energy law which gives citizen the right to choose energy that is harmonious, sustainable and safe. Moreover, citizens should be given opportunity to participate in the policy making process. The new law should enable the promotion of affordable renewable energy, and phase out nuclear power and fossil fuels.

It is our opinion that the government should formulate a master plan that is independent of nuclear power. We have the following proposals for how the country can withdraw from nuclear power generation and the nuclear fuel cycle policy. It is particularly important to immediately stop the current nuclear fuel cycle policy.

Dependence on fossil fuel should be reduced and renewable energy should be promoted through numerical targets and a policy for increased efficiency. Energy saving measures should also be promoted further.

We want more discussion about the energy policy for example through public hearings so that the opinions of citizens can be heard. Moreover, we are of the opinion that not only the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the electricity companies should be in charge of electric power system reform, but also other agencies that better reflect the citizens, such as the Consumer Affairs Agency. A special committee representing the energy demand side should be set up that includes consumer representatives, experts on seismology and other related disciplines. It is also necessary to ensure the disclosure of each committee member’s financial relationship to the electricity producers.

As a result of the Fukushima disaster, on the national level, the new energy policy needs to be a top priority. We need to build a new electric power system that allows for the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants.

70% of the population is now demanding a nuclear power-free society. People do not believe it is safe. We are concerned that the government is not taking the Fukushima disaster seriously, blaming it on the tsunami only, and taking no note of expert reports that have pointed out structural flaws, the threat of terrorism as well as seismological issues relevant to all nuclear plants in Japan.

Stop all new construction of nuclear power plants, including reprocessing plants and fast breeder reactors. Start decommissioning all nuclear power plants around the country. We do not accept any restarts of the nuclear power plants and note that it is unacceptable that there is still no proposal for the final disposal of nuclear waste.

The government’s proposals for a reform of Japan’s energy system is vague on renewable energy, only mentioning that the introduction of renewable energy will be accelerated as much as possible within three years from now. But there are no mid- or long-term numerical targets and no details about how this will happen. This is completely insufficient as a plan for encouraging the related industry. Photovoltaic generation and storage batteries for home owners are examples of areas where numerical targets are necessary. Increased energy efficiency and power saving measures also need to be carefully considered and encouraged.

Citizens Committee for Power System Reform

Koga Masako
Mashimo Toshiki
Oda Asako
Fukasawa Yoko