Responding to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and beyond
May 25, 2011
The epic disaster of March 11 set off a series of crises that will not end with the safe shutdown of the No. 1 Fukushima nuclear power plant and restoration of the lives of those who must live under the damaged facility's radioactive shadow. It has stained the credibility of the Japanese government and the very viability of nuclear power in the nation's energy program.
In order to fully address these challenges, New Komeito is proposing initiatives to resolve current crisis and well as future issues regarding nuclear energy.
The first step is to minimize the impact on public health. In the opening hours of the Fukushima meltdown, the government initially claimed that there was no threat to human health- only to backpedal by expanding the radioactive hazard zone. Yet it refused to issue an evacuation order even then. The ensuing fear and uncertainty has only led to widespread mistrust of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his administration.
The health of local residents must be assigned overriding priority, and all other measures taken with this end in mind. Not only should the people of Fukushima be provided with free health examinations over a sustained period of time, the air, water supply and agricultural products should also be carefully monitored for radioactive contamination. This information must be promptly released to the public, which the government has repeatedly failed to do..
Safety has been paramount to New Komeito's support behind the inclusion of nuclear power as part of Japan's overall energy program. It has done so out of the following three considerations:
- That nuclear power is limited as a means to the ultimate end of a solar- and hydrogen-powered society. Since considerable costs and technical hurdles stand before solar energy and nuclear fusion become available on a commercially viable basis, nuclear fission is strictly a stopgap measure until such hurdles may be overcome.
- From a broader energy security perspective, nuclear fission, when integrated with fossil fuels and such renewable energy sources as solar power, can be relied on as a stable power source upon which to base economic activity. This perspective is equally important, given Japan's dependence on foreign sources for a predominant portion of its energy needs.
- As the world moves toward the creation of a low-carbon society, nuclear fission remains one of the lowest contributors of greenhouse gases.
In any event, the overriding precondition is the safety of nuclear power. New Komeito moved away from the previous belief in safe nuclear energy since the Japan nuclearfuel Conversion Office (JCO) accident at Tokaimura, Ibaraki prefecture, in 1999. Our party served as a principal agent in passing a special law on nuclear accidents that followed-the same law which is serving as the basis for various initiatives now being adopted in response to the Fukushima disaster.
In wake of Fukushima, we are calling for a comprehensive safety evaluation of all existing nuclear power complexes in Japan and, over the next several years, to establish an independent nuclear energy agency with powers of investigation and adjudication as that granted to the Fair Trade Commission.
We are also backing a major revision of our nation's energy policy by assigning the transition from dependence on nuclear energy to such renewable sources as solar, wind and hydroelectric power as a national priority.