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Vested interests - What impact?

September 16, 2012
New no-nuke plan has vested interests worried




The official declaration Friday that Japan will pursue a nuclear phaseout by the 2030s is drawing opposition and concern from areas that host atomic facilities and Western countries closely linked to related projects in Japan.


Aomori Prefecture, home to a nuclear fuel recycling plant in the village of Rokkasho, is wary it could become the final disposal site for spent fuel and radioactive waste if the government terminates its recycling policy.

The new energy policy states that fuel reprocessing will have to continue for a while, but with an eye to opening talks on a rethink.

Issei Nishikawa, the governor of Fukui Prefecture, which has the highest concentration of nuclear reactors in the country at 14, said the government's decision "contradicts the prime minister's remarks in June, when he said nuclear power generation is an important source of energy."

"The prime minister should go back to his original stance and promote nuclear power policy by ensuring safety," Nishikawa said at a prefectural assembly meeting.

Yasushi Furukawa, the governor of Saga, home to the Genkai nuclear power plant, raised the risk of global warming.

"If we increase thermal energy as an alternative, how are we going to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?" he asked.

Internationally, Britain and France, where Japan sends its spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing, after which it is shipped back, are concerned about how the decision will affect the future viability of those facilities.

The United States is also expressing concern because the use of Japanese nuclear technology has been spreading after a three-decade moratorium on nuclear power plant construction.

Public reaction has been mixed, with some voicing distrust in the government's resolve and others hailing the move.

"Although the government decided to continue nuclear reprocessing, it might start saying it will stop the project in a year or two," a 47-year-old woman from Rokkasho said.

But a 52-year-old woman in Aomori Prefecture said, "I do not want the government to operate nuclear plants and reprocessing plants, because of safety concerns."

Some experts doubted the viability of the new energy policy and saw it as a populist political measure ahead of upcoming leadership elections in the major political parties.

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