Japan Government Faces Mounting Issues After Nuclear Crisis

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A government panel charged with reviewing and mapping out Japan’s basic energy policy started on Dec. 6 to debate how best the resource-poor country could meet its energy needs, with opinions sharply divided over whether the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear power generation.

The panel decided to meet again later this month as it failed to reach an accord.Dissatisfaction is also spreading over new guidelines drawn up by a government panel to determine compensation payments for victims of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster who stayed put or evacuated voluntarily.

Hitomi Koizumi, 33, evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama in October, taking her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son to Yamagata, as she was worried about the slow progress of decontamination work around her home. Her 30-year-old husband, who had a local job, stayed behind.

The family spent about 300,000 yen on the move. Commenting on the compensation measures recommended Tuesday by the Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, Koizumi said, “The phrase ‘voluntary evacuation’ made me feel guilty. I’m glad the government has acknowledged the situation, and it’s a help to get a decent amount of money.” However, she added, “There is pain from the splitting up of our family that can’t be compensated with money.”

“If they are just going to pay individuals that paltry sum of money, then I would prefer that they put the money towards decontamination or put it to use some other way for the local community. I want them to restore Fukushima’s dignity,” one woman said.

Aiko Toriizuka, 32, who left her husband in the Ibaraki Prefecture city of Kitaibaraki to evacuate to Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, with her two nursery-aged children, was also ineligible for compensation.

She returned home for a short time in August, but saw workers at a local cleaning center dressed in radiation-protection suits.

“Is it really all right to raise my children here?” she wondered. The children were sad to leave their father and their friends, but the only choice was to return to Matsuyama.

“If it weren’t for the nuclear accident, then we wouldn’t have to evacuate this far. No matter whether you’re 50 kilometers or 70 kilometers from the nuclear plant, there’s no difference if the wind blows,” she said.

The committee had stipulated in a mid-term report in early August that unlike those who had been ordered by central or municipal governments to evacuate, those who had evacuated of their own volition would not receive any compensation. However, the decision was met with widespread objections, and it was agreed that compensation eligibility would be extended to those who fled without government orders.

When Nomi asked the rest of the panel, “Do you think 400,000 yen would be all right?” a voice from the gallery called out, “None of you have the right to bargain!”

On Dec. 6, the committee debated the specifics of compensation, including which areas affected by the nuclear crisis would be eligible for damages, and how much.   The compensation amount for such victims will be much lower than what people who evacuated under government order are set to receive. The actual costs of evacuation and other expenses will furthermore not be covered.

The government’s cost-examining panel unveiled its preliminary calculations of energy costs on Dec. 6. It estimated the cost of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant at 0.5 yen per kilowatt-hour. If government subsidies for municipalities hosting nuclear power plants and related facilities are included, the cost of nuclear energy, which had heretofore been deemed the lowest, is likely to be about the same as that of energy produced by thermal power plants.

In addition to the cost of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, government funds covering subsidies for municipalities that host nuclear power plants and related facilities will exceed 1 yen per kilowatt-hour, and construction costs and additional costs for safety measures will further boost the total cost of nuclear energy. If cost of covering measures taken in response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis were to become greater than originally anticipated, the cost of nuclear energy will increase further accordingly. The cost of generating nuclear energy is estimated at 5 to 6 yen per kilowatt-hour at present, but it is likely to rise to about 10 yen, a government source says.

The central pillar of the Japanese government‘s nuclear energy policy has heretofore been the nuclear fuel cycle, which entails the extraction of plutonium from reprocessed spent nuclear fuel, and using it to fuel fast-breeder reactors.

On Nov. 20, a Government Revitalization Unit panel responsible for screening wasteful government spending submitted a recommendation that the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor undergo a fundamental review that includes the possibility of its abandonment.

And yet, the fiscal 2012 budget request for Monju-related expenses is the same amount as the budget for the current fiscal year. There is no way the public will accept such a prospect. The government waste-cutting panel has suggested that 2.2 billion yen of the budget requested for output testing be shelved, but there needs to be further investigation of the budget request for other possible wasteful expenses.

Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

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