Subject: [cwj 121] Tokyo Relies Less on on Oil, Sticks to Nuclear Power
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 19:12:31 -0700
Seq: 121

Tokyo Relies Less on on Oil, Sticks to Nuclear Power

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO, Oct 5 (IPS) - As other Asian countries and European nations
reel from high oil prices, Japan is patting itself on its back for
seeing to it early that it would not be that dependent on oil.

Still, activists say Tokyo has little to be proud about when it
comes to its energy policies because it chose to rely heavily on what many
here consider a dangerous fuel source -- nuclear power.

The government in fact has revealed plans to build more nuclear
plants amid calls from many Japanese for a scaling down in the country's
use of nuclear energy.

Japan already has 51 commercial nuclear plants that supply more
than 37 percent of its energy needs, while imported oil accounts for
nearly half of its needs.

Renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal and wind
generate only two percent of the country's power. But together, nuclear
power and natural gas account for nearly half of Japan's energy needs, up
from some 25 percent during the first oil crisis of 1973.

The country's current energy profile was built over the last
three decades, after the seventies' oil crisis and the desire of Japan,
the industrial power described as the most dependent on imported oil,
to rely less on imported oil.

In recent years, pressure to cut down on Japan's production of
greenhouse gases has helped keep the momentum to continue reliance
on nuclear power, despite accidents at nuclear plants and opposition
from the public.

But activists say it is time for Tokyo to reconsider that

They also say that instead of adding more nuclear plants, the
government should instead start shutting down the existing facilities, where,
they say, lax safety standards have made operating the plants all the
more risky.

Just last week, Japan marked the first anniversary of the worst
accident so far among its nuclear plants.

The Sep. 30, 1999 radiation leak at a fuel processing plant in
Tokaimura, 130 kms north-east of Tokyo, led to the death of two of
the facility's workers and exposed more than 400 other people --
including residents of nearby communities -- to high levels of radiation.

According to Greenpeace Japan, the country's nuclear plants
have experienced a rash of emergency reactor shutdowns in recent years,
and that in 1999 alone, there were at least five reported primary coolant

As expected, anti-nuclear demonstrations were held both in
Tokyo and Tokaimura to commemorate the 1999 accident. To counter these, the
government sponsored safety drills at nuclear facilities across
the country, as well as lectures about the benefits of nuclear energy.

Tokyo also drummed up a new information network that is
supposed to spring into action the moment there is another nuclear plant
mishap. The
network is aimed at helping spread accurate information among the public.

Further, officials said, workers at nuclear power facilities
are expected to have better training. There is also a new system in place in
the plants, where spot checks and stringent inspection are to be carried out
so as to ''control'' possible accidents.

In addition, the Nuclear Safety Commission, which is currently
busy forming a group of technical counselors who will always be on
call, will now report directly to the prime minister should an accident occur.

Says commission head Shojiro Matsuura: ''My organisation has
been beefed up to Cabinet level, an indication of the government's dedication
to preventing another disaster.''

The basic message, he also says, is that ''if used correctly,
depending on scientific and engineering advancement and the judgements of
society, nuclear power can provide mankind with a huge stable supply of
energy far into the future''.

But, concedes Matsuura, there is ''a need to regain the trust of
the people in order to carry on''.

Unfortunately for the likes of commission head, many Japanese
still fear and distrust nuclear power. Reports the Citizen's Nuclear
Information Centre: ''Our surveys indicate the government's bid for regaining
(public) confidence (about nuclear energy) has not worked.''

Still, Japan is currently drawing up a new, long-term energy
policy that experts say will represent a modest change in the expansion of
nuclear energy.

For instance, although the government will continue to develop
nuclear plants it plans to scale back to 13 the planned 16 to 20 new
plants to be built by 2010.

The new plan also calls for heavier investments to deal with
the disposal of radioactive waste and stresses the need to address
safety questions to regain public trust.

Meantime, Tokaimura residents remain concerned about further
nuclear accidents despite the closure of the plant following the 1999
incident, says the Kyod News Service, which recently conducted a telephone
survey there.

Then again, such fears may have been triggered by plans to
reopen a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant there. Full-scale operations at
the facility are expected to start this month.

Green groups have been in an uproar over the move. But many
respondents in the Kyodo news service said that while they cannot shake the
of another mishap, they really have no choice but to ''accept'' the
plant.  Said one resident: ''We have no other option. We need them.''

But Tokaichi University professor Michiako Furukawa told the
press recently, ''I am particularly afraid of an accident in the
reprocessing nuclear plant, which is set to start operations soon.''

The academic says he is not die-hard anti-nuclear activist. But
he says it must be pointed out that many of Japan's nuclear power plants
are now more than 30 years old.

According to Furukawa, this ''age'' was once considered a
plant's operating limit, although he also said experts have since adjusted
that to 50 years.

Stresses Furukawa: ''There is uncertainty with nuclear energy.
The decision to pursue energy is not worth it.'' (END/IPS/ap-en-

Origin: Rome/JAPAN/

Corporate Watch in Japanese
Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC)
P.O. Box 29344
San Francisco, CA 94129 USA
Tel: 1-415-561-6472
Fax: 1-415-561-6493
The Corporate Watch in Japanese (CWJ)
mailing list is a moderated email list in English designed to connect
activists campaigning against Japanese corporations and investments around
the world.
To unsubscribe from the CWJ mailing list, send an email to with text "unsubscribe cwj".  To subscribe to the CWJ
mailing list, send a message to with the text
"subscribe cwj"
The CWJ mailing list is NOT intended for wide distribution.  If you would
like to post messages from this list somewhere else, we ask that you first
contact us at

Return to Index
Return to cwj HOME