The Problems with Exports of Nuclear Power Plants
It is impermissible that nuclear power plants are being exported with little discussion on the pros and cons about the exports of nuclear power plants, disregarding the suffering of many victims of radiation exposure, as well as the anxiety and fear of exposure to radiation, while there is still no expectation for any resolution to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, an unprecedented global catastrophe. Furthermore, our public funds, i.e., our taxes, are being invested to promote the exports of nuclear power plants.
The Basic Attitude by the Japanese Government toward Nuclear Power Plant Exports
The DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) Administration took a positive stance on nuclear power plant exports in their New Growth Strategy summarized in June, 2010, and for the first time after World War II, they formulated a policy to export nuclear power plants as a full package and with the joint cooperation of the government and the private sector. The DPJ Administration established a new company specializing in nuclear power plant exports, International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan, Co., Ltd, http://www.jined.co.jp/, with the participation of electric companies, nuclear reactor builders, and so on, and drew up a framework for Japan as a whole. Asia’s emerging nations, including Vietnam, which have accomplished economic development, are suffering from worsening power shortages. A stable electric power supply is essential for economic progress. In addition, there is consideration for measures to counter global warming, and in the long run, there is a high possibility for these emerging nations to be obligated to reduce greenhouse gases. These are contributing factors for the heightened need of these nations for nuclear generation.
Japan has been grappling with nuclear (atomic power) generation, in the name of the “peaceful use of the atom” since the 1960s and has built a wealth of technical expertise. Japan considers the dedication of this expertise to the world corresponds with the national policy of Japan itself, i.e., that Japan will survive by participating in the economic development of the rest of Asia. On December 9, 2011, during the 179th Diet Session, Japan took a valuable first step toward nuclear power plant exports by accepting a nuclear treaty with Vietnam, Jordan, Russia, and South Korea. We are astounded by the government’s thinking that there is no need to consider the dangers of nuclear power when exporting to and building nuclear power plants in other countries even while experiencing firsthand the dangers of nuclear power plants. Soon afterwards, political power was transferred to the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) Administration, but the government policy in this matter remains unchanged.
Itemizing the problems with nuclear power plants exports
- Ethical Problems
First, there is the problem of ethics. It is ethically impermissible to export nuclear power plants to other countries while the entirety of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident, with its massive damages, has not yet been clarified and the struggle for the resolution thereof is expected to continue for much longer. Mr. Kazuo Tsukuda, the ex-chairman of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., raised his voice, “We can’t sell products that are judged dangerous in our own country to overseas countries.” From the point of view of corporate ethics, we should not be permitted to export products that are not accepted in our own country.
- Safety Problems
The problems of safety, including the risk of accidents, conditions for location (maintaining cooling water, surrounding population, etc.), the risk of construction and operation, and the monitoring system all exist in nuclear power plants exports. Furthermore, through the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident, the actual condition of the workers who are exposed to radiation, the risk of exposure to low-dose radiation and the risk of internal exposure, are being revealed bit by bit.
- Economic Problems
The realities of nuclear power plants, scheduled to be built around the world, are filled with huge investment risks due to surging costs and delays in construction time. And when the costs of disposing radioactive waste, as well as the huge financial burden of accident mitigation is considered, the total costs are extremely high.
- Problems with radioactive waste management
The disposal of spent nuclear fuel, which needs semi-permanent management, is a huge unresolved issue, in Japan as well as world over. A plan to build final disposal sites in Mongolia by Japan is out of the question.
- The risk of nuclear proliferation and terrorism
The risk of diverting nuclear power from commercial to military uses and the risk of terrorism are high. In recent years, terrorist activities using missiles and bombs are occurring frequently, and there is the potential danger of nuclear power plants becoming ideal targets for terrorism.
- The harmful effect on the environment & society
Though they say nuclear generation contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gases, the reality is that the effect on reduction is none when examining the entire process, from uranium mining to fuel fabrication, as well as thermal discharge from nuclear power plants. In addition, there are societal issues, including migration of residents from areas where there are plans for the construction of nuclear power plants.
- The problems with information disclosure & citizens’ participation
We doubt that enough information is disclosed about nuclear power plants in the process of their import and construction, and whether the explanatory meetings for local residents and public hearings are held impartially. In various places, acts of protests and petitions are repeated, seeking to abort nuclear power plant construction.
- The problems with the Japanese government investing public funds
Japanese taxes are invested in nuclear power plant exports, but the only parties to benefit from this are the nuclear industries and related enterprises, bureaucrats, and scholars (Nuclear Power Village). Furthermore, the seriousness of nuclear accident risks has been revealed through the Fukushima Nuclear Accident. Once a nuclear accident occurs, the government, i.e. the members of the nation, is liable for damage, which so often leads to the people bearing the costs (which means the Japanese people are the sureties liable jointly and severally). It is a great problem to invest public funds and to continue promoting nuclear power plant exports, without enough national discussion.