4 Octobre 2013
October 3, 2013
Comments by famous politicians who have retired from the front lines tend to be viewed as having been made with an ax to grind. If the politician is a former prime minister, it’s pretty much certain that he will come under scrutiny for making any controversial remarks. But in this instance, I wish to listen carefully to what former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.
I am referring to his Sept. 27 comment calling for a nuclear-free Japan. He also made his anti-nuclear stance clear in a lecture he gave in Nagoya on Oct. 1. With regard to the argument that Japan may do away with nuclear power generation in the future but not now, Koizumi said, “The sooner the government comes up with a policy for the abolition of nuclear power plants, the sooner companies and citizens can prepare for it and make an effort and study.”
Koizumi said when he was prime minister, he believed that nuclear power was a clean and inexpensive energy source but came to have doubts about it after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. It is true that in May of that year, he said he was “wrong” to have believed in the safety of nuclear power plants.
Apparently, a trip to Finland this August served as a catalyst to strengthen his conviction.
There, Koizumi visited the Onkalo facility, a final disposal site where high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants is buried in the ground. It is the world’s first attempt to build a “toilet” for a “toilet-less housing complex,” so to speak. However, even when nuclear waste is buried deep underground there, it takes as long as 100,000 years for radiation levels to drop close to zero.
Can the facility be maintained over such a long period? In the first place, how will humans be after tens of thousands of years from now? There is no guarantee that they would be using the same languages and writing systems as we do now. How can we inform them that the waste buried there is hazardous? It is almost like science fiction. Koizumi must have thought seriously about the issue.
In the lecture, he refuted pro-nuclear arguments supported by the business world. “Some people say it is irresponsible to call for abolition of nuclear power plants. But it is far more irresponsible to promote nuclear power generation when there are no prospects for building a disposal site.” His argument is reasonable. It is time we came to our senses.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 3
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.