Japan should scrap nuclear reactors after Fukushima, says new environment minister

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David Lowry

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Sep 12, 2019, 12:41:25 PM9/12/19
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Japan's New Environmental Minister Calls for Closing Down All Nuclear Reactors to Prevent Another Disaster Like Fukushima

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Common Dreams

 

"We will be doomed if we allow another nuclear accident to occur."

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/09/12/japans-new-environmental-minister-calls-closing-down-all-nuclear-reactors-prevent

 

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Japan's newly appointed environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, held a news conference on Wednesday at his ministry in Tokyo. (Photo: KYODO)

Japan's new environmental minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, called Wednesday for permanently shutting down the nation's nuclear reactors to prevent a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, comments that came just a day after Koizumi's predecessor recommended dumping more than one million tons of radioactive wastewater from the power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

"I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them."
—Shinjiro Koizumi, Japanese environmental minister

Koizumi was appointed to his position Wednesday as part of a broader shake-up of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet. He is the 38-year-old son of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a vocal critic of nuclear energy.

"I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them," the younger Koizumi, whose ministry oversees Japan's nuclear regulator, said during his first news conference late Wednesday. "We will be doomed if we allow another nuclear accident to occur. We never know when we'll have an earthquake."

In March of 2011, a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on Japan's northeastern coast, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee radiation around the plant. It was the world's second-worst nuclear disaster, after Chernobyl.

After the disaster, all 54 of Japan's nuclear reactors were shut down. Reuters reported Wednesday that "about 40 percent of the pre-Fukushima fleet is being decommissioned" and only six reactors are currently operating. Amid drawn out legal battles over the impacts of the meltdown, campaigners have ramped up opposition to nuclear power generation in the country.

However, some Japanese politicians, including the current prime minister, have argued that nuclear energy is necessary to meet national climate goals. Japan's new trade and industry minister, Isshu Sugawara, criticized Koizumi's call to shutter the country's reactors. "There are risks and fears about nuclear power," Sugawara said. "But 'zero-nukes' is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic."

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Japan's government wants nuclear power to comprise 20 percent to 22 percent of the overall energy mix by 2030, drawing criticism from campaigners who say nuclear plants will always pose a danger given the country's vulnerability to large earthquakes and tsunamis.

Abe, however, has called for reactors to be restarted, arguing that nuclear energy will help Japan achieve its carbon dioxide emissions targets and reduce its dependence on imported gas and oil.

Despite Abe and Sugawara's stances, "the government is unlikely to meet its target of 30 reactor restarts by 2030," due to local opposition and legal challenges, noted The Guardian.

The Telegraph reported Thursday that Koizumi "was a surprise addition" to Abe's cabinet, considering that the new minister "has expressed sharp differences with senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party since he was first elected in 2009 and supported a rival in the most recent election for party president."

Polls often indicate that Koizumi is considered a popular contender to serve as the next prime minister—and Abe's choice to appoint him to the cabinet, according to The Telegraph, is "seen as an effort to give a new generation of politicians an opportunity to learn the ropes of government."

Koizumi replaced Yoshiaki Harada, who made headlines around the world earlier this week. Responding to a projection from Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) that the utility will run out of storage space for contaminated groundwater around the Fukushima plant around the summer of 2022, Harada suggested during a news conference Tuesday that "the only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it."

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, Harada's comments were swiftly condemned by critics of nuclear energy both in Japan and around the world as well as the neighboring government of South Korea.

 


Japan should scrap nuclear reactors after Fukushima, says new environment minister

Shinjiro Koizumi says: ‘We will be doomed if we allow another accident to occur’

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Thu 12 Sep 2019 06.23 BST

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/12/japan-should-scrap-nuclear-reactors-after-fukushima-says-new-environment-minister

Newly appointed Japanese environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi has called for nuclear reactors to be scrapped rather than restarted after Fukushima. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Japan’s new environment minister has called for the country’s nuclear reactors to be scrapped to prevent a repeat of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Shinjiro Koizumi’s comments, made hours after he became Japan’s third-youngest cabinet minister since the war, could set him on a collision course with Japan’s pro-nuclear prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” Koizumi, 38, said. “We will be doomed if we allow another nuclear accident to occur. We never know when we’ll have an earthquake.”

Koizumi faced an immediate challenge from the new trade and industry minister, who said that ridding Japan of nuclear power was “unrealistic”.

“There are risks and fears about nuclear power,” Isshu Sugawara told reporters. “But ‘zero-nukes’ is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic.”

Japan’s government wants nuclear power to comprise 20% to 22% of the overall energy mix by 2030, drawing criticism from campaigners who say nuclear plants will always pose a danger given the country’s vulnerability to large earthquakes and tsunamis.

Fukushima: Japan will have to dump radioactive water into Pacific, minister says

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Abe, however, has called for reactors to be restarted, arguing that nuclear energy will help Japan achieve its carbon dioxide emissions targets and reduce its dependence on imported gas and oil.

All of Japan’s 54 reactors were shut down after a giant tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Nuclear power accounted for about 30% of Japan’s energy production before the disaster. Today, just nine reactors are back in operation, having passed stringent safety checks introduced after the Fukushima meltdown.

But the government is unlikely to meet its target of 30 reactor restarts by 2030 amid strong local opposition and legal challenges.

Although he faces potential opposition from inside the cabinet, Koizumi should at least receive the backing of his father, Junichiro Koizumi, a former prime minister who has emerged as a vocal opponent of nuclear power.

While Japan debates the future of nuclear energy, the younger Koizumi, who has been tipped as a future prime minister, is now at the centre of a controversy over the future of more than a million tonnes of contaminated water stored at Fukushima Daiichi.

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On Tuesday, his predecessor as environment minister said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, had no choice but to dilute the water and release it into the Pacific ocean rather than store it indefinitely.

The prospect of dumping the water into the sea has angered local fishermen and drawn protests from neighbouring South Korea.

 

Fukushima

More than a million tons of radioactive water from the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima will have to be pumped into the Pacific Ocean, a Japanese minister said yesterday, a move that will provoke anger and anxiety in Japan and among its east Asian neighbours. "The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it," said Yoshiaki Harada, the environment minister, in one of the clearest statements on the subject so far by a senior politician. "The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion." Although the government has not made a formal announcement, it has become increasingly clear that dumping the water in the ocean is the long-term solution favoured by the government, led by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister.

Times 11th Sept 2019
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/00216c8c-d3b3-11e9-aa6d-16cb9f989e55

The iNews 10th Sept 2019
https://inews.co.uk/news/world/fukushima-japan-nuclear-disaster-radioactive-water-pacific/

Guardian 10th Sept 2019
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/10/fukushima-japan-will-have-to-dump-radioactive-water-into-pacific-minister-says

Daily Mail 10th Sept 2019
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7448797/Japan-says-dumping-radioactive-waste-Fukushima-reactor-Pacific-option.html

Japan’s nuclear regulator plans to reinvestigate the Fukushima disaster, in which three reactors at an atomic power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power melted down after an earthquake and tsunami eight years ago, it said on Wednesday. The March 2011 disaster led to explosions and the meltdown of the three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station north of the capital, Tokyo, spewing radiation that forced 160,000 people to flee, many never to return. In its investigation, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will seek to establish where radiation is leaking from damaged reactor containment vessels, a paper it released showed.

Reuters 11th Sept 2019
https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-japan-fukushima-reinvestigation/japan-regulator-to-re-investigate-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-idUKKCN1VW0PJ?rpc=401&
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