Category Archives: Nuclear

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

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

Continue reading Energy Reform Symposium

Peace Boat Anti-Nuclear Campaign In Europe

Katsutaka Idogawa, former Mayor of Futaba Town, the site of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, will travel to France, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, and Switzerland. He will be reaching out to municipal leaders and citizen groups about the ongoing situation in Fukushima.

Seven days after the disasters of March 11, 2011, Idogawa temporarily evacuated town residents 45 kilometers away to Kawamata City. After witnessing ashes floating down from the sky, fallout from the explosion at reactor no. 1, and measuring radiation levels on his dosimeter, he came to the conclusion that the only way for the people of Futaba to be safe would be to be as far as possible. Without waiting governmental advice, he put the safety of the people first and arranged for the town to be relocated to Saitama prefecture.

On May 12 he will meet with citizen groups at Penly Nuclear Power Plant in Le Havre, France on the English Channel where fires in April 2012 led to radioactive leakage. From May 13-15, he will participate in an international conference aboard Peace Boat on its way to Stockholm.

Participants include:

Alain Correa (STOP EPR Network, France)
Olivier Florens (Europe Ecology – The Greens)
Iida Tetsunari (Director, Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies)
Lena Lindahl (Sustainable Sweden Association)
Andrey Ozharovskiy (Nuclear expert with Bellona working to prevent the construction of a plant by Hitachi in Lithuania)
Sato Kenta (“Fukushima Conference”, from Iitate Village)
Yoshioka Tatsuya (Co-founder and Director of Peace Boat)

After meeting with experts, politicians and citizens working on nuclear issues at an event organized by ICAN Sweden, IPPNW Sweden, and the Sustainable Sweden Association on the 16th, he will travel to the location of planned nuclear power plant at Pyhäjoki, Finland to meet with the mayor and citizens on 17-18. May 19-22 he will visit Helsinki and Latvia, making his way to the Middelgrunden Wind Farm in Copenhagen for May 24-25. He will end his tour with a presentations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information, please contact:
Meri Joyce, Peace Boat International Coordinator
Email: meri@peaceboat.gr.jp

(Note: Peace Boat is a Japanese NGO/NPO that made its first journey in 1983. For details about the current trip, click here. Read more about Peace Boat in English here!)