原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 15, 2012)
Parties must be honest about risks of 'zero-nuclear' future
原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ(12月14日付・読売社説)

Formulating a nuclear energy policy is a vitally important task, one that would not only help ensure a stable power supply, but also protect the environment, and affect the nation's economy, diplomacy and national security--the whole spectrum of matters related to steering the ship of state.

Many parties in the current House of Representatives campaign, held in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, have adopted "zero nuclear" pledges. These parties, however, have neglected to explain the wide-ranging risks of eliminating nuclear power.

We urge voters not to be swayed by slogans only aimed at winning the election, but to determine calmly which parties and candidates would pursue a realistic nuclear power policy.

Parties including Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) and the Japanese Communist Party have taken the position of never allowing any of the nation's nuclear reactors to resume operating.


Fuel cost up 3 tril. yen a year

Their assertion that this country could "do without nuclear power" on the grounds that there were no blackouts this summer is far off the mark.

The truth is that the nation walked a shaky tightrope in terms of the power supply this summer. With all reactors but two idle, power outages were only narrowly averted by mobilizing all thermal power stations available, including some outdated ones. The result was an increase of 3 trillion yen for the year's fuel costs for power generation, causing one power utility after another to announce rate hikes.

Anyone who ignores the adverse impacts of power shortages deserves to be called irresponsible.

Parties including the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), on the other hand, have acknowledged the need to restart the nation's nuclear power plants to ensure a stable supply of electricity, as long as the reactors can be confirmed safe. We see these positions as valid and reasonable.

However, it is problematic that many party platforms promise to walk away from nuclear power inside a certain time frame, such as the DPJ's pledge to "reduce the number of operating nuclear power plants to zero by the end of the 2030s."

Replacing nuclear power with solar and other renewable sources of energy while boosting energy efficiency would cost the nation more than 100 trillion yen, according to one government projection. This would have to be funded either by higher electricity rates or more taxes. How can the hollowing-out of the nation's industrial sector be stopped in the face of increased production costs, and bankruptcies of small and midsized businesses caused by this policy?

The simplistic argument that introducing renewable energy sources would stimulate the economy is hardly convincing.


Reveal 'inconvenient truths'

We commend the LDP for not setting a zero-nuclear goal, as the party is apparently aware of its position as a responsible party aiming to win back the reins of government. However, the LDP's 10-year time frame for "determining the optimum makeup of power generation sources" is much too slow.

The municipalities that host nuclear power facilities of course deserve consideration. Aomori Prefecture, the site of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, is particularly anxious about the possibility of being forced into becoming a final resting place for nuclear waste.

The political parties contesting the election must revise their positions to support the continued, but safe, use of nuclear power. They should also quickly devise a plan to keep the nuclear fuel recycling program going, and determine how radioactive waste should be finally disposed of.

If Japan recklessly adopted a zero-nuclear goal, it would soon cease to be a partner of the United States in its nuclear nonproliferation strategy. This would cause a fissure in the Japan-U.S. alliance, possibly to the detriment of our national interests.

Every political party needs to have the honesty and candor to tell voters "inconvenient truths" about a possible zero-nuclear Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2012)
(2012年12月14日01時31分  読売新聞)

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