2 Octobre 2015
October 2, 2015
by Keiji Hirano
A private organization lobbying to phase out atomic power is celebrating four decades of efforts to encourage public discourse and self-education about nuclear issues, as concern grows over reactor restarts just four years after the Fukushima meltdowns.
The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center was launched in September 1975 at a time when people were raising their voices against nuclear power projects. Since then, Tokyo-based CNIC has gathered and analyzed related information to provide it to the public through its newsletters and website, while training “citizen scientists” who are capable of addressing nuclear issues from the perspective of ordinary people.
“I believe we should not depend on nuclear technologies that deprive us of our right to life,” said Yukio Yamaguchi, co-director of the nonprofit organization. “We cannot achieve (a nonnuclear society), however, by merely saying ‘No’ to them.
“The CNIC has made efforts to encourage people to be sufficiently informed about nuclear-related issues so they can debate with authorities and utility officials as equals,” said Yamaguchi, a former lecturer at the University of Tokyo.
“We need to realize democracy in the field of nuclear power so we ourselves can be involved in the decision-making process over nuclear policies, rather than leaving it entirely (up) to experts,” he added.
CNIC’s latest monthly newsletter carries a report by lawyer Yuichi Kaido, who aided efforts to prosecute former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the March 2011 triple reactor meltdown at its Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
An independent judicial panel of citizens reached a decision in July that mandates that three former Tepco executives be charged with professional negligence for their handling of the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
“I expect hidden aspects of the Fukushima disaster to be unveiled during the upcoming open court,” Kaido said in the report.
The 20-page newsletter also provides a commentary on a Japan-U.S. atomic energy agreement, as well as a report about a corporate acquisition involving a French nuclear power company.
Yamaguchi, who holds a doctorate in engineering, said it is epoch-making that the Fukui District Court issued an injunction in April to block the restart of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant. The court said it could not see credible evidence in the utility’s assumptions on earthquake risks and noted that the move to restart the units posed an “imminent danger” to residents near the plant.
“The decision was reached through debates involving the residents, nuclear power generation advocates and judges,” he said. “It represented the residents’ strong will to join the decision-making even in the scientific areas.”
The CNIC also houses around 20,000 documents on nuclear issues, serving as a public archive. Its more than ¥50 million in annual operating costs are financed mostly by membership fees.
The Fukushima disaster kicked off an extremely busy period for the CNIC staff.
“While gathering information on Fukushima through various channels, we received a number of requests from all over Japan to attend study sessions as lecturers,” Yamaguchi said.
Inquiries also came from abroad, “and we tried as hard as possible to provide accurate information to the public in an understandable way,” he said.
The CNIC’s base of activities was established by former Director Jinzaburo Takagi, Yamaguchi said. Takagi, a nuclear scientist, joined CNIC for its launch after withdrawing from an associate professorship at Tokyo Metropolitan University. He died of cancer in October 2000 at the age of 62.
Takagi closely studied the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States, the Chernobyl disaster and Japan’s nuclear problems and issued his findings and policy proposals through magazine articles and books.
In 1997, acting as a “citizen scientist,” Takagi received the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for “serving to alert the world to the unparalleled dangers of plutonium to human life.”
“Mr. Takagi’s efforts expanded CNIC’s capabilities and led to gaining the public’s trust (in) this organization,” Yamaguchi said of his compatriot, who participated with him in the campaign to support farmers whose land was seized during the state-sponsored project to build Narita airport.
Yamaguchi said the nuclear power industry only creates problems for others.
“Nuclear power generation is a system to exact tolls on others,” including the workers who are exposed to radiation and the municipalities that host the plants. Future generations may also be burdened with the unresolved issue of nuclear waste disposal, which involves hazardous elements with long half-lives, he added.
Satoshi Kamata, a freelance journalist who has covered nuclear issues for decades, was one of the first subscribers to the CNIC newsletter.
“People involved in the anti-nuclear plant movement in each region have been connected and have exchanged information through the CNIC,” he said. “I expect it to continue working as a center for such networks.”