Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Nov. 12 used his first public session with reporters since retiring from politics to continue pressing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to abandon nuclear energy.
“There are no prospects for securing disposal sites for nuclear wastes produced through nuclear power generation,” Koizumi said in a lecture at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. “The nuclear reactors should not be restarted. They should be abolished as early as possible.”
He also urged an immediate halt to the government’s nuclear fuel recycling project that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel.
After stepping down as prime minister in 2006, Koizumi remained largely out of the spotlight. But his recent anti-nuclear proclamations have generated a buzz in the political world and the media.
More than 300 people, including foreign correspondents from South Korea and embassy staff members, crowded the venue to hear Koizumi speak.
Koizumi did not reveal any specific plan for his anti-nuclear ideas. But he did bring politics, specifically Abe, into his arguments.
“Opposition parties are basically opposed to the promotion of nuclear power generation. If we explore the real intentions of (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers, about half of them are against nuclear power generation while the other half are pro-nuclear,” Koizumi said.
The LDP, which controls both chambers of the Diet, has been pushing for the restarts of nuclear reactors that have remained idle following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
“If Prime Minister Abe shows the determination (to create a nuclear-free society), many pro-nuclear LDP lawmakers will follow his determination. There will be no better environment than the current one (to realize a nuclear-free Japan),” Koizumi said.
He encouraged Abe to use his power as prime minister to create a huge project of abolishing all nuclear reactors and developing alternative energies.
The former prime minister gave a lecture for about an hour and then received questions from only four reporters.
He also addressed criticism that he is irresponsible for calling for the abolition of nuclear reactors without providing an alternative solution to the energy needs of the nation.
“It is impossible for me alone to show alternative proposals. If politicians adopt a broad policy, people with wisdom will undoubtedly present good ideas,” he said. “The government should think about converting to and promoting renewable energies by gathering experts, bureaucrats and other intellectuals.”
Pro-nuclear opponents have said use of thermal power generation in place of nuclear energy has proved costly in terms of imports of fossil fuels and emissions of carbon dioxide.
Koizumi responded: “Japanese technologies are quick in dealing with the changes of the times. The Japanese people and companies are also cooperative.”
The core of Koizumi’s anti-nuclear argument is that it is irresponsible for the government to promote nuclear power generation when it cannot secure space for nuclear waste disposal sites.
He repeated that his anti-nuclear stance stems from a tour to the Onkalo repository, the final disposal site for highly radioactive waste, in Finland in August.
Meaning “cave,” Onkalo is an artificially constructed tunnel on an island in the Baltic Sea about 250 kilometers northwest of the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
Nuclear waste will be stored there in a square measuring 2 kilometers by 2 km around 400 meters below the surface.
It will take about 100,000 years for the nuclear waste to become harmless.
“Humans are curious,” Koizumi said. “Until that time (100,000 years later), how should people tell later generations that the nuclear waste is dangerous so that future people will not try to dig it out thinking, ‘What’s this’?
“Letters and languages will change. Is it really possible to continue to store (nuclear waste) for such a long period?”
He also compared quake-free Finland and its stable bedrock to the situation in Japan.
“Onkalo will deal with waste from two nuclear reactors. In Japan, there are as many as 54 nuclear reactors,” Koizumi said. “Besides, Japan is an earthquake-prone country and its bedrock is not strong. Where in Japan can we construct such a facility?”
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