5 Juin 2013
June 4, 2013
In line with the Abe administration's push for the restart of nuclear reactors, the 2013 government white paper on environmental issues has noticeably removed the warning on the risks of nuclear power, which was included in the 2012 report.
In the 2012 white paper, the “Annual Report on the Environment, the Sound Material-Cycle Society, and the Biodiversity in Japan,” radioactive contamination is described as the “biggest environmental issue.” That report followed the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
However, such a warning disappeared from the 2013 version, which was approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on June 4.
Before the nuclear accident, the Environment Ministry had regarded nuclear power, which does not emit carbon dioxide, as an important means of reducing global warming. In the 2010 version of the white paper, for example, the ministry said that it would further promote the use of nuclear power.
In the 2012 version, which was compiled after the nuclear disaster, however, the white paper described the risk of the utilization of nuclear power by devoting two pages under the title “Turning Point for the Nuclear Safety Regulation.”
The description partly said, “Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, the relationship between environmental concerns and nuclear disasters was rarely discussed as a political matter.”
It included, “An issue for nuclear safety measures is how to define potential risks, since nuclear accidents can cause serious environmental contamination.”
In the 2013 report, the white paper described the progress of the decontamination of radioactive materials that had spread due to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. It also described measures that had been taken to alleviate the public's concerns over the possible adverse health effects from the contamination.
However, it contains no description detailing the risk of the utilization of nuclear power generation.
According to the Environment Ministry, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was set up as an affiliate of the ministry, is expected to use safety regulations on nuclear power generation as the main theme of its annual report. Therefore, the ministry “ceded” the cautionary note to the NRA, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the Abe administration plans to fashion new goals to combat global warming in the autumn. The discussions for that plan will focus on the restart of the nation's idled nuclear reactors, which account for 48 of the 50 reactors.
“We don’t want to give to the discussions a (one-sided) view (that the utilization of nuclear power contains risks). It is very difficult for us to express our views in the current situation,” a high-ranking Environment Ministry official said.