Ministry continued promoting nuclear power right after Fukushima accident

December 02, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The industry ministry began working to continue promoting nuclear power even immediately following the disastrous meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, sources said.

The Asahi Shimbun has obtained a copy of the ministry’s confidential internal document titled, “Toward the Renaissance of Nuclear Energy,” which was compiled in late March 2011.

The report was written by a senior ministry official familiar with nuclear power facilities and distributed to its executives involved in designing the country’s energy policy, according to the sources.

The in-house document was used as a basis to determine the nation's future nuclear policy in the aftermath of the disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the sources said.

In the introduction, the ministry outlines the overall purpose of the report, saying “the stable supply of energy will be impossible without nuclear power,” and that “the government will announce its decision to maintain the nuclear promotion policy.”

The document also states in the introduction that Japan “will resuscitate nuclear energy, and rebuild the basis for promoting exports of infrastructure facilities,” indicating that the ministry would continue to advance nuclear power generation and further expand nuclear facilities exports.

Saying the success of nuclear power promotion would be the symbol of "the ministry’s revival,” the document gives the status of a key national policy to nuclear power advancement.

Regarding exports of nuclear plants, it promises that Japan “will analyze factors behind the current tragedy and share information with the world.”

Because the pro-nuclear Abe administration has said, “We will share our experience of the accident and lessons learned from the disaster with countries of the world,” the ministry’s report can be regarded as a prototype for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nuclear policy.

The internal document consists of four chapters: emergent measures (to address the accident); declaration in an emergency situation; formation of a new nuclear watchdog agency; and the dismantlement of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and establishment of a new electricity supply business system.

Apparently, based on the report, the Nuclear Regulation Authority was established by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government.

The document also stipulates that nuclear plant operators would be allowed to bring their reactors back online when the reactors were deemed to meet new safety standards. All the nation's 50 nuclear reactors have been taken offline in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

The idea was likely used as a basis for the course taken by the Abe administration as well as the DPJ-led government, which said they would approve the restarts of nuclear facilities that pass a screening by the NRA.

The NRA is currently screening reactors across the country, including ones at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, to assess if they meet its new safety standards.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition is working to pass a contentious state secrets protection bill through the current Diet session, which ends Dec. 6, promising stiff prison sentences for those handling information designated as “specified secrets” who leak them.

Under the bill, specified secrets will cover four areas: defense; diplomacy; prevention of spying and other harmful activities; and prevention of terrorism.

Documents and other materials related to nuclear promotion, including the industry ministry’s report that The Asahi Shimbun obtained, could be candidates to be classified as specified secrets if the bill becomes law.

If the bill is enacted, Japanese citizens may become unable to check the planning processes of government nuclear policies in the future.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry main building in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry main building in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry main building in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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