Environmentalist warns over Japan’s nuclear strategy

The head of Greenpeace Japan has said the 12th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, has urged the country to increase its efforts towards a sustainable energy transition rather than seek to resuscitate its nuclear power capabilities.

Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan said Japan’s pursuit of a nuclear future is doomed to failure as the power generated will not be enough to meet their future needs.”

“We would like to reiterate our heartfelt condolences to the people who lost their loved ones and express our deepest sympathies to all those affected,” he said. “Over the last 12 years, owing to the concerted efforts of various stakeholders, the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas has made progress. Meanwhile, the Japanese Government has taken an unequivocal stance to resume large scale nuclear power generation.

“In February 2023, the Cabinet approved Japan’s new Green Transformation strategy, which entails the development and construction of next-generation reactors, as well as the restarting of existing reactors and the extension of nuclear power plant operations. The strategy also includes plutonium reprocessing, decommissioning, and a push for final waste disposal.”

Annesley warned Japan’s plans to  mitigate the ongoing impacts of the Fukushima disaster risked and environmental catastrophe.

“The decommissioning process and ultimate disposition of reactors No. 1, 2, and 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi, which suffered meltdowns, remains unobtainable,” he continued. “The high levels of radiation pose challenges for on-site work, and there remains no feasible plan for the removal of hundreds of tons of nuclear fuel debris from the reactor buildings. Moreover, the plant is still releasing radioactivity into the environment, and over 140 tonnes of radioactive water are produced daily in 2020. Given these issues, the promotion of nuclear power at this time ignores the reality of the on-going nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi and is a complete disregard for those who have suffered and continue to suffer the consequences of the 2011 nuclear disaster.”

He added the Japanese Government has resolved to release radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, with the power plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) set to begin discharging radioactive water this year.

“While attention has been paid to the safety standards governing the discharged water, the principal issue lies in the absence of control over the generation of contaminated water,” Annesley explained. “Additionally, the total quantity of radioactive material released into the environment will be immense, given that the release period is expected to span many decades.

“Furthermore, the decision-making process, which overrode national and international opposition, constitutes a grave concern. Despite the vigorous objections and concerns raised by residents, agricultural and fisheries workers, marine scientists, and neighbouring countries particularly in the Pacific Islands and East Asia, the Japanese Government and TEPCO have given little consideration to their opinions.”

He concluded: “The imperative global objectives of securing energy and promoting decarbonisation are pressing concerns. Nonetheless, using them as a justification for advancing the flawed reintroduction of nuclear power will impose an undue burden on future generations. While a part of the evacuation zone in Fukushima Prefecture has been gradually lifted, other areas remain highly contaminated and unsafe to inhabit. Self-interested politics and the energy industry are undertaking significant risks without adequate consensus.

“Rather than trying to resuscitate a nuclear industry that remains in crisis and which cannot meet the real energy needs of Japan or the climate emergency, the Japanese government should implement the transition towards a sustainable future with renewable energy as rapidly as possible.”

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