by TAKEHIKO KAMBAYASHI – Japanese politicians and business leaders said Japan needs atomic energy for sustainable economic development even after the nation’s worst nuclear disaster, but some experts at an anti-nuclear conference argued Sunday that was behind the times.
Mycle Schneider, an international consultant on energy and nuclear policy from France, said many nuclear reactors in the world started up in the 1970s and 1980s but “the movement has been pretty flat since the end of the 1980s.”
“So (there has been) nothing to be seen of so-called ‘nuclear renaissance’ as has been discussed so much,” he said at a two-day anti-nuclear conference in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.Even though China has 13 nuclear reactors in operation and wants to boost the number to 102, the country “is investing actually a lot more in renewable energy than in nuclear power,” Schneider added. In 2010,
China invested more than 54 billion dollars in renewable energy, which was more than that of the entire world in 2004, he said. In France, the nuclear industry and French President Nicolas Sarkozy “tend to say, ‘If we phase out nuclear power, we go back to candlelight’,” Schneider said.
But “the average age of nuclear reactors in the world is 27 years.” The nuclear disasters in Japan’s Fukushima in 2011 and in Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, currently Ukraine, in 1986 showed “exactly the opposite,” he said.
Chernobyl legacy. Photo by Paul Fusco
“The nuclear age makes areas inhabitable and brings us back to a level which is not a human environment.” More than 10,000 people gathered at the two-day “Global Conference For a Nuclear Power Free World” to discuss energy, radioactive contamination and anti-nuclear movements in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Present at the meeting were experts, activists and lawmakers from 30 countries and 200 civic groups from across Japan. After the Fukushima plant was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a series of explosions and fires triggered the massive release of radioactive material into the environment. The plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co suffered meltdowns at three of its six reactors.
More than 80,000 residents have been forced to leave the area. The magnitude-9 quake and resulting tsunami left more than 15,800 dead and 3,400 missing in north-eastern Japan.
Despite strong doubts expressed by experts and local residents, the government declared in mid-December that a cold shutdown had been achieved at Fukushima.
The announcement marked an end to the emergency phase of the disaster and the start of the clean-up and scrapping of its reactors.
As Japanese utilities have shut down their reactors for inspection or maintenance, they have been unable to restart them amid growing public concerns about atomic power following the disaster. On Friday, Shikoku Electric Power Co said it halted reactor 2 of its Ikata Nuclear Power Plant for regular check-ups, which has left only five of the nation’s 54 reactors, less than 10 per cent, in service.
But Japanese government officials, lawmakers and business groups want to restart nuclear power plants, Hiroyuki Kawai, representative of the liaison group of lawyers to stop nuclear plants in Japan. Continue reading more…