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Koizumi's argument (2)

October 5, 2013


Editorial: Koizumi's call to end nuclear power in Japan reaches core of issue




Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's call urging the government to pursue a society without nuclear power -- which has drawn attention from the public in recent months -- cuts to the heart of the energy issue.

Koizumi's argument, which raises questions about what Japan is going to do with its spent nuclear fuel and underscores the importance of the government setting a specific goal of eliminating the nation's nuclear plants, is reasonable. All politicians should lend an ear to his line of reasoning -- all the more so because the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is leaning toward resuming operations at that nation's idled nuclear reactors.

In a speech in Nagoya on Oct. 1, Koizumi, who has already retired from politics, pointed out that it is irresponsible to promote nuclear power without any clear idea about how the resulting radioactive waste will be disposed of. Touching on the seriousness of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis, the former prime minister said, "Nothing is more costly than nuclear power." He furthermore urged the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-led government to pursue complete elimination of nuclear power stations.

Koizumi's call for elimination of nuclear power has drawn particular attention from the public since the Mainichi Shimbun introduced his remarks on the issue in its "Fuchiso" (Japan Political Pulse) column in late August. Koizumi, who raised doubts about the government's nuclear power policy following the outbreak of the crisis in March 2011, visited the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository under construction in Finland in mid-August. He said he was convinced it is impossible to control radioactive waste after seeing the facility where spent nuclear fuel will be stored underground for 100,000 years until the substance is believed to become harmless.

It remains to be seen whether Koizumi will take political action to seek to rid Japan of all nuclear reactors, but his argument should be taken seriously.

The government has so far failed to give any responsible answer to a question as to how radioactive waste should be dealt with. The government has stuck to the so-called nuclear fuel cycle project, in which plutonium is extracted from spent nuclear fuel and reused in nuclear reactors, but there are no prospects that a fast-breeder nuclear reactor, the core of the project, can be put into practical use anytime in the foreseeable future. Under the circumstances, even if the government speeds up the construction of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, it will only cause surplus plutonium to pile up. With this point fully in mind, we have pointed out that the policy of promoting nuclear power is irresponsible.

Koizumi's call for the elimination of nuclear plants has reminded the public of the importance of setting a clear goal for any key issue in national policy. The former prime minister has warned that unless the government sets a goal of completely eliminating nuclear power stations now, it will be difficult to do so in the future. It is no easy task to reverse Japan's nuclear power policy, because this form of power has been deeply incorporated in the country's economy and society. Unless a clear political direction for atomic power policy is presented, it will be difficult to draw up specific plans to develop energy sources to replace nuclear energy.

What is incomprehensible is that political forces that have constantly criticized the proposal to end Japan's reliance on nuclear plants have not stepped forward to refute the statements from Koizumi, who still has a huge influence on society. In particular, Prime Minister Abe, who respects Koizumi as his political mentor, should express his view on the issue.



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