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Energy Shift

Energy Shift: Urgent Statement Against the Resumption of Nuclear Power Plant Operations on the Pretext of Tight Power Supply and Demand Due to the Extreme Heat

The rainy season ended about 20 days earlier than usual this year, and since the last week of June, there have been extremely hot days in many parts of Japan. As a result, the government has issued an “Electricity Supply-Demand Stress Alert” in the service areas of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and other areas, and has issued a request for power saving. As if in response to this situation, there is a growing demand for the restart of nuclear power plants. Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) feels a strong sense of crisis over this trend toward restarting nuclear power plants, and we hereby express our clear opposition to it.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, nuclear power plants, which had provided nearly 30% of the nation’s electricity needs, were completely shut down. Until now there has never been a problem with the supply and demand of electricity because there is enough absolute capacity.

The current tight power supply-demand situation is a result of the government’s decision to shut down aging thermal power plants with low profitability during this period, while leaving it up to individual power companies to make their own decisions. The danger of nuclear power plants is not only a matter of the government’s own judgment but also that of the public.

The dangers of nuclear power are self-evident to both those directly involved in nuclear power plants and to local residents, especially in Japan, where earthquakes and disasters are frequent.

The power supply must be converted to renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power, and biomass as soon as possible. However, mega solar power plants and giant wind turbines are causing various problems such as environmental destruction in the surrounding areas. Rather than relying on huge power capital, it is desirable to decentralize and bottom-up energy systems so that local residents can participate in building systems that contribute to local revitalization.

At the same time, along with appropriate energy-saving lighting and air conditioning in offices and houses, we should also promote insulation and energy saving in buildings without going all-electric, use of public transportation and bicycles in urban areas, and other efforts. It is necessary to clarify the power generation capacity and other aspects of in-house power generation owned by companies and other entities, and to formulate measures to address electricity supply and demand.

Let us urgently work on an energy shift away from dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Opinions on the Draft Basic Energy Plan

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.

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

Energy Reform Symposium

What Will Happen With The Electric Utility Law Revision?
June 20, 2013 Symposium

Japan is debating the future of its electric power system. A special committee at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry made recommendations for reform in February, 2013, and a bill to revise parts of the Electric Utility Law was submitted to the Parliament after a Cabinet decision in April. However, there is concern that the bill has watered down many of the proposals. It is doubtful if the bill can be enacted during the current session of the Parliament and we sense dark clouds gathering over the anticipated reform, which had just started to look promising.

After the earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11, 2011 we face a situation where parts of the country have been so contaminated with dangerous radioactivity due to the meltdown at the nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi that it is impossible for people to live there. Society rapidly needs to be converted into relying on a wide range of power sources including wind, solar, cogeneration, etc., in addition to large-scale expansion of energy-saving efforts. This is the time for structural reform of the electric power system, and we need to move forward on creating a realistic work schedule to make this happen.

Civil society supports the Electric Utility Law revision. In this symposium, we will debate electric power reform and discuss its merits for consumers, as well as learn about the design of the electricity market. We will also hear from energy consultant Yamada Hikaru about the current situation in Europe and North America.

Organizers: e-Shift (Association for Nuclear Power Phase-out and New Energy Policies) / Consumers Union of Japan / Electric Power Reform Project

Date: June 20, 2013 (17:00-19:30)
Place: House of Representatives Multipurpose Hall, Tokyo (衆議院第二議員会館)
Subway: Nagatacho or Kokkaigijidoumae st.
Entrance: 500 Yen

(Japanese only)

About e-Shift

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11,500 Participants In Yokohama Want Japan To Change Its Thinking About Nuclear Power

Change is needed for Japan to stop relying on nuclear power

The large Yokohama conference on January 14-15 for a nuclear power free world was a very well organized two day event with hundreds of lectures by speakers from Japan and abroad. I was impressed by the number of different groups and NPOs that came together to share information and experiences, 10 month after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Held at the Pacifico Yokohama by the harbour, the event was an opportunity to think about energy issues. German MEP Rebecca Harms noted that Japan is now running its huge cities and industries on only 6 nuclear reactors out of 54. She pointed out that Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after the conservative government lost an important local election directly after March 11, 2011. Clearly angry after having just visited Fukushima, she said, “With the majority of public opinion in Japan now standing solidly against nuclear power, why the hell would Japan ever consider promoting it again?”

At one of the workshops, Swedish expert Goran Bryntse, PhD, who has led the anti-nuclear movement for a long time, talked about how citizens can change the energy policy. First of all, he noted, energy efficiency is the best and cheapest alternative to nuclear power. For example, a country can save up to one third of its energy consumption through heatpumps, more efficient engines, LED lights, and new whitegoods such as the latest refrigerators.

In the case of Sweden, these measures would be able to replace 4 nuclear reactors, according to Dr Bryntse. Additionally, 6 more nuclear reactors can be replaced by wind power (3), biomass and co-generation (2), and solar energy (1). Thus, all of Sweden’s current 10 nuclear reactors can easily be phased out. Of course this is a lesson that Japan should also take note of.

At another talk session there was a panel discussion about creating a “New Japan.” There is now a debate about whether to stop nuclear power immediately, or to phase it out gradually, but all of the panelists agreed that what Japan needs is clean and sustainable energy. For this shift to happen, mass media needs to change and become more accountable. The lack of democratic policies is also regrettable. There is some hope that Japan’s new Green Party can put forward its first candidates in 2013. I was also impressed that people are now collecting signatures for a referendum on nuclear power.

I talked to Mr. Hideyuki Ban from Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center who was deeply moved by the large turnout. He was also glad so many foreign guests were able to attend. There were many peace groups and groups representing the hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and many old-timers who have campaigned even back when campaigning was not very popular in Japan. There were new groups of people who have been forced to deal with the unthinkable: mothers in Fukushima, worried about their kids, and lawyers trying to do the right thing to support the citizens – and shareholders – of TEPCO.

The Yokohama Declaration (pdf) that was adopted sounds like something a lot of people may want to read and sign. The declaration asked for support for the people in Fukushima, and said Japanese nuclear power plants that are currently idled should not be restarted.

Peace Boat and the other NGOs that made this event happen should all be applauded for their organizing skills. I met a lot of young people who attended both days. The friendly staff and genki volunteers made every effort to guide everyone to the right venue, offering simultaneous interpretation to anyone who asked for it. The organizers had hoped for a nice round 10,000 to attend, so this event was a huge success.

Martin Frid, Consumers Union of Japan