Japan Faces Future Nuclear Tug Of War

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Earlier this month Japans government shook the nuclear industry by passing a law that limited a nuclear power plants operation lifespan to 40 years, making it one of the strictest limits in the world.  Only a few weeks have passed, but so has a new revision to the aforementioned law as the Diet passed a provision that would allow nuclear power stations to get a 1 time 20 year exceptional extension for operations.

All but 5 of Japans nuclear reactors are shut down, and if none are allowed to restart, then Japan could potentially be nuclear-free by April.  But that is unlikely to occur as most utilities are cranking up the pressure on the government to allow the restart of nuclear facilities, claiming high costs will make meager profits and threatening to raise the costs of electricity, pitting themselves even deeper against the people of Japan.

Japan will likely parade its various Ministries and Safety Agencies before the press to give their approval of post stress test restart of nuclear facilities, in an attempt to budge the public opinion, which is largely against restarts.  The Yomiuri reports that the IAEA will be invited to Japan by the end of the month to give their stamp of approval as well.

Sources close to the matter have said that TEPCO is considering raising household electricity rates by 10 percent for a certain period from the fall.

The plan is expected to be included in a special business plan for TEPCO, which is to be crafted in March by TEPCO and a state-backed entity providing financial assistance to the utility.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday it will seek an average 17 percent rise in electricity charges for corporate users to finance growing fuel costs stemming from boosting thermal power generation in the wake of the disastrous accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

With all of TEPCO’s nuclear reactors expected to be shut down by March for regular checkups or other reasons, TEPCO President Toshio Nishizawa said, “If the current situation continues, we think our business condition would deteriorate further, and at no distant date, fuel procurement and stable supply of electricity may be affected.”  Soon CHUDEN, HEPCO, KEPCO, Kyushu and the rest of the Japanese Utilities will start making the same claims.

Japan is also aiming to conclude a bilateral agreement with Ukraine to cooperate on nuclear accidents.  The Japanese government hopes to share information about nuclear accidents with the former Soviet Republic, which experienced the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

This is openly known to be an opportunity to share secret information, yet what is the likelihood that any new information will be revealed publicly?  What is the chance that the knowledge will be used to enhance the nuclear industry, rather than limited to the cleanup of yet another avoidable nuclear disaster.

Japans Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda plays a key part in the tug of war over Japan’s future, as more than 80 percent of recent respondents to a poll in Japan have felt Noda has not fully explained his own policies and views to the public. Respondents have been persistently critical of Noda’s lack of explanation.

Noda came into office as a desperate attempt to get former Prime Minister Kan out of office before he could make the life even harder for the nuclear industry.  Upon his selection, Noda promised to restore the Japanese people’s faith not only in the government, but in the national ability to peacefully use nuclear power safely.

Some experts contend that many of Noda’s actions after election have completely undone much of the work that Japan had put in place to move away from nuclear energy, and point to the fact that Japan is backing away from it’s statements under the Kan regime to move away from nuclear energy completely in the future.

This week a second worker died in as many weeks at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, and he as well was over the age of 55.  The man was found in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Iwaki City.  In the months following the March disaster, a group of senior citizens who were former nuclear engineers made international press when they volunteered to risk the radiation to work on-site and help bring the crisis under control.

For months they petitioned the Japanese government and TEPCO to allow them to take the place of younger workers, because the older engineers felt they had more experience and would be willing to risk the exposure.  However they were never allowed to work at Fukushima, instead they were sent to perform decontamination work in other tsunami-stricken areas, yet it appears that TEPCO is allowing older workers on site.

The question many in Japan are asking is, why wouldn’t TEPCO want the most experienced workers on site,  while they still allow other workers of the same age to perform decontamination duties?

With unemployment benefit payments for some people in areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake beginning to end this month and only temporary jobs available, the work ahead will be difficult for Japan, but not impossible.  For most, the future is affected by many currently unstable elements, and one on the outside can only hope that they find officials and regulators that honor them enough to deal openly and fervently for the people of Japan.

Source: Yomiuri

Source: NHK

Source: Yomiuri

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