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New reactors?

August 10, 2017



Panel members favor new reactors; others ask, ‘Why now?’





Nuclear energy proponents suggested building additional reactors during an industry ministry committee meeting on Japan’s energy policy, but others said now is not the time to discuss such a proposal.


Leaders of energy institutions, consulting agencies and others in the field attended the Aug. 9 meeting of the Strategic Policy Committee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy.


The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry convened the meeting to obtain opinions concerning the first update of the basic energy plan in three years.


Takeo Kitsukawa, professor of energy and environment policies at the Tokyo University of Science, Professional Graduate School, suggested debate on whether the country should decommission old nuclear reactors and build new ones in their place.


Nobuko Mizumoto, managing executive officer of IHI Corp., a leading heavy industries company, added: “We would like (the ministry) to consider keeping the option of replacing existing nuclear reactors and establishing new reactors.”


Although many at the meeting backed the idea of building new reactors, industry minister Hiroshige Seko showed a cautious stance.


“We do not need to change the basic framework,” he said.


A number of committee members favor nuclear power generation, including executives of companies that develop nuclear power facilities and a governor of a prefectural government that has accepted hosting such plants.


But given the ongoing battle at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the dominant view in the industry ministry is that it would be too early to include establishment of new nuclear reactors in the basic energy plan. Instead, voices are calling for the government to focus on resuming operations of idle nuclear reactors for the time being.


Kikuko Tatsumi, executive adviser of the Nippon Association of Consumer Specialists, was one of the few participants to clearly propose abandoning nuclear power generation.

“(We should) directly look at the Fukushima accident,” Tatsumi said. “(Please shape) policies that are based on sustainable energies.”


Hiroya Masuda, adviser of Nomura Research Institute Ltd., said: “Debate on whether we should newly establish reactors means very little now.”


Masahiro Sakane, councilor of Komatsu Ltd. and head of the strategic policy committee, echoed that view, saying discussions on building new reactors should come only after resuming operations of existing reactors.


“I totally cannot understand why we are debating whether we should establish new nuclear reactors even though some reactors could be in operation from tomorrow,” he said. “We should look at the realities before discussing the issue.”


(This article was written by Tsuneo Sasai and Yoichi Yonetani.)

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