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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

No nukes, but how?

August 3, 2012



Hearings yet to clarify alternatives to N-power



While demands to eliminate nuclear power have prevailed at public hearings, the hearings have yet to tackle ways to secure a sufficient electricity supply to maintain the nation's economic vitality.

The government held a public hearing in Fukushima on Wednesday to discuss the possible ratio of nuclear power in terms of the nation's electricity generation in 2030.

"Although all nuclear plants, except for the one in Oi, have been suspended, we are managing to weather the situation this summer, too," said a participant who had taken refuge in Fukushima following the crisis that began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March last year.

"If there's a power shortage, we can turn off the TV," said another participant, a company employee from Fukushima.

Thirty people expressed their opinions at the hearing. Almost all called for national denuclearization.

Residents of Fukushima Prefecture and those who had evacuated outside the prefecture due to the nuclear crisis were invited to express their views at the hearing. There were about 20 more participants in Fukushima than at similar hearings held at other locations. The Fukushima hearing also lasted 4-1/2hours, an hour longer than originally planned.

The government thought it necessary to hear the opinions of people, especially those from Fukushima Prefecture, who had been affected by the nuclear crisis before determining the nation's future energy policy.

"Of all the hearings, this is the most important. I'll listen to all participants sincerely," said Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of nuclear power policy, in the hearing's opening remarks.

"We should decommission all the reactors as soon as possible. I hope [the government] will gather all knowledge regarding renewable energy sources," a woman from Date in the prefecture said, drawing applause from the crowd.

In contrast, a man from Fukushima said, "As we can't manage to secure sufficient power, I think we should [restart reactors] for a limited time or under certain conditions." His remarks were met with boos and jeers.


No-nuke plan favored

Starting in mid-July, the government has held a series of public hearings on the matter in major cities, including Saitama, Sendai and Nagoya.

Among the 1,253 people who applied to speak at the hearings, 70 percent called for no nuclear power, while 11 percent favored a plan in which nuclear power accounts for 15 percent of power generation in 2030. Another 17 percent backed an option to have nuclear power account for 20 to 25 percent.

The government is also soliciting public opinions through the Internet, among other venues, until Aug. 12. So far, about 80 percent of survey respondents support complete denuclearization.

Public hearings will also be held in Fukuoka and Takamatsu on Saturday. Additionally, the government plans to conduct a telephone survey and will hold discussions with some respondents this weekend in Tokyo.


Feasibility is key

The scenario in which nuclear power accounts for zero percent of power generation means the ratio of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, will have to increase to 35 percent. This plan would also be dependent on thermal power, which would account for the remaining 65 percent.

Currently, renewable energy sources, excluding hydraulic power, account for about 1 percent of power generation. Increasing this would be no easy task. Should the nation become reliant on thermal power, electricity charges could soar depending on factors such as increases in natural gas prices.

Many participants at the Fukushima hearing expressed high hopes for renewable energy, but stopped short of suggesting possible measures to help eco-friendly energy sources become more widely used.

"People really don't understand the difficulty in promoting a wider use of renewable energy sources," a source close to the government said.

However, it remains unclear as to what extent public opinion will affect the government in formulating a national energy policy.

A company employee at the Fukushima hearing was skeptical, saying, "I'm afraid this [hearing] is only intended to let people vent their frustrations"

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