Zenroren’s proposal on nuclear power generation
End Japan’s dependence on nuclear power and shift to developing renewable energy sources
-Approved by the Zenroren Executive Committee 6th meeting, May 19-20, 2011
Introduction: World is closely watching Fukushima
Damage from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, was disaster that the country had never experienced in terms of the number of victims, the huge extent of damage, and adverse impacts on the Japanese and global economies.
A loss of offsite power at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the wake of the tsunami was followed by meltdown of fuel rods and release of massive radioactive materials. This severe accident has exposed real risks of nuclear power and debunked the argument made by the successive Japanese governments and by the nation’s utilities that nuclear power is absolutely safe. The accident’s severity rating was raised to the maximum level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which is comparable only with the Chernobyl disaster of the then Soviet Union.
The roof of the reactor buildings were blown off by explosion. Firefighters sprayed water on the reactors despite the danger of being exposed to radiation. Workers who were exposed to radiation while working in turbine buildings were taken to hospital. Radioactive water leaked into the sea. Certain levels of radiation have been detected in the Kanto region (in the south of Fukushima). People not only of Japan but also the rest of the world are now keeping close watch on what’s going on at Fukushima Daiichi.
Agricultural and marine products as well as soil in some areas are contaminated with radioactive materials. People were forced to endure protracted evacuation. No end to the crisis is in sight, as the crippled nuclear reactors are still to be brought under control, making the public worried about their future..
Given the public awareness developing after the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, no one would disagree with the importance of calling for a departure from the present energy policy that depends on nuclear power through a far-reaching review. An early policy shift from nuclear energy and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is what we need to avoid nuclear disaster and prevent global warming.
Following the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Zenroren examined the present issue regarding (1) the safety of nuclear power plants, (2) the possibility of renewable energy sources and their stable supply as well as the issue of global warming, (3) work environment for nuclear power plant workers in the present disaster, and (4) problems posed by “24-hour society.” We have decided to propose moving away from the energy policy centered on nuclear power generation and to cancel plans for the construction and operation of new power plants and begin to decommission reactors in order of high risks. We believe that we have heavy responsibility to do this for the so many people affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and for younger people. We call on broad sections of workers to take active part in a nationwide discussion on our proposal.
I. Decommissioning of the existing nuclear power plants and its process
|Bring the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant under control as early as possible; set forth the decommissioning of all the existing nuclear power plants in the following direction: (1) halt the construction of new plants and cancel all plans for new plants, (2) terminate the operation of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, (3) Halt plutonium-thermal power generation, known as pluthermal, (4) terminate all old type nuclear power plants, and (5) terminate the operation of the remaining nuclear power plants.
1.Make all-out efforts to bring the Fukushima Daiichi crisis under control
It is imperative to put all energies to the effort into preventing the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi from exacerbating. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has continued to pump water to cool down the spent nuclear fuel as well as reactors and released leaking water contaminated with radioactive materials into the sea. This radioactive contamination of the ocean is only widely increase concerns, even in the rest of the world as well as the vicinity of the crippled nuclear power plant, thus hampering disaster recovery efforts.
We demand that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi be brought under control without delay by paying utmost attention to the safety of workers at the crippled power plant.
2. Cancel the planned construction of nuclear power plants and open the way for early decommissioning of the existing nuclear power plants
We demand that the Nuclear Safety Commission immediately carry out safety checks as well as earthquake-resistance tests on all the existing nuclear power plants and take necessary measures for severe accidents.
Take staged steps toward the decommissioning of the existing plants as follows: (1) Cancel all plans for the construction of new nuclear power plants, (2) terminate and decommission the Hamaoka nuclear power plant located in a risky zone in Shizuoka Prefecture, (3) halt the operation of the “pluthermal” nuclear power plants and remove MOX fuel from the reactors, (4) terminate the old-type nuclear power plants, and (5) terminate all the remaining nuclear power plants. These steps should be implemented according to plan in a set time.
II. Breake away from nuclear power generation and pave the way for shifting to the use of renewable energy sources
|Electric power supply should come mainly from renewable energy sources such as solar, hydraulic, wind, biomass, and geothermal, instead of nuclear energy. Zenroren proposes beginning to implement plans to shift the country’s strategic energy policy in a set time frame.
Moving away from nuclear power generation is now a global trend. In 2010, solar, wind and other small-scale renewable energy sources overtook nuclear power in electric power generation. Public opinion on nuclear power generation has greatly changed since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. At present the nation’s 32 nuclear reactors, including the Hamaoka plant, are not operating; 11 stopped operation in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami and 21 are under regular checkups. With some more plants expected to undergo regular checks, the number of nuclear power plants that halt operation will be 42, which accounts for 80 percent of the nation’s nuclear-generated electric power. This means that it is possible to replace nuclear energy with renewable energy sources according to plans, like what is known as “green revolution” in Europe and some other parts of the world. We believe that it is possible to achieve a national consensus on the need to abandon nuclear power generation.
In terms of tax money used to generate power, a survey shows that the estimated cost of nuclear power is 10.68 yen per kilowatt hour, which is more than thermal power’s 9.9 yen and hydraulic power’s 7.26 yen. In the government cost for energy, 97 percent was related to nuclear energy during the1970-2007 period. A budgetary review of the government’s nuclear policy to put more tax money in the development of new alternative sources of energy, technological development and promotion for such energy sources would pave the way for a greater use of renewable energy sources.
Zenroren demands that the government begin considering a strategic shift in energy policy in a time frame. Future energy policy should focus on the utilization of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. The development and the building of networks of power distribution systems suitable to local power generation would help create jobs in local areas.
III. Need to end excessively long hour work and to review mass consumption and “24-hour society”
|End excessively long hour work and regulate night-time shifts. We propose working together to build a society allowing everyone to seek work-life harmony rather than a “24-hour society”, realize “decent work” by fundamentally reviewing our society, economy and politics, and live and work without fear of risks posed by nuclear power plants.
A post-nuclear power society should not return to the old life style that gives economic growth priority, as it was until the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The need now is to review the whole way of life with a view to establishing a life style that does not depend on nuclear power generation for socio-economic development.
Isn’t it something wrong that we live in a 24-hour society, in which workers are forced to do late night work not only at emergency hospitals and police stations but also in manufacturing? Is it necessary for large-scale retail stores to do late night business and for convenience stores chains to open 24 hours everywhere throughout the country? Is it good to continue to accept the reality of workers being forced to do late night shipping work for those convenience stores?
Drawing lessons from the present nuclear disaster, our country must fundamentally review the “24-hour society” that is based on mass consumption, a society led by large corporations based on growth strategy and the “just-in-time” production system that has been introduced to many companies with the objective of producing the right part in the right place at the right time. As for employment and work, practices of excessively long working hours must be eliminated; assignment to late night work must be limited to essential jobs; and “24-hour society” must be reviewed. We call for an active nationwide discussion on these proposals.
IV. On nuclear security administration
|It is urgent to break the structure of cozy relations between the electric power companies and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and establish the neutrality and impartiality of nuclear security administration and overseeing as well as the principle of opennes.
The function of regulating nuclear safety must not be left to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. It is urgent to give the nuclear Safety Commission of Japan a status independent of the government and power to perform necessary professional roles.
Japan must halt nuclear power plant sales and nuclear technology transfer to developing countries and display international initiatives for a safe, secure and sustainable society.
1. Give the Nuclear Safety Commission stronger power as a body independent of the government
The organization in charge of nuclear safety regulation must be separated from the government body promoting nuclear power to become a body independent from the government. It is necessary to break the cozy relations between the power industry and the government, in particular the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and establish the principle of openness, which requires the government to make public all data it has.
A nuclear expert who was named to assist the prime minister as a Cabinet Secretariat counselor has complained that the present response to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi is not in compliance with the principle of "law and justice" and that the safety limits for radiation levels at elementary school grounds are set too high.
We propose that the Nuclear Safety Commission should be reorganized into a body independent of the government with strong powers, like the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is also necessary to include scientists who are critical of government views as Commission members so that members can use their expertise in playing their roles.
At the same time, the Nuclear Industry and Safety Agency should be separated from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and assigned to perform regulatory work under the Nuclear Safety Commission. We also proposed that efforts to improve nuclear safety and enhance support for the Nuclear Safety Commission should involve active participation by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
2. Stop nuclear power plants to developing countries
It has been revealed that Japan and the United States have a secret plan to construct an international underground nuclear waste storage complex in Mongolia. Japan is the only atomic bombed country and should refrain from selling nuclear power plants to developing countries or seek to dump nuclear waste abroad. We demand that Japan immediately suspend the ongoing talks on the nuclear power plant sales to Vietnam. We propose that Japan seek to make international contribution by utilizing its technologies for the use of renewable energy sources. Japan should take international initiatives for a safe and sustainable society without fear.
Conclusion: Decent work is essential
After the March 11 disaster, many Japanese people have changed their mind. They have volunteered to help recover from the disaster. Many people have been trying to figure out what they might be able to do to help in post-disaster reconstruction.
People are seriously thinking about building a new society in the next stage, a society in which everyone can lead a peaceful life without fear, a society in which everyone can live without worry if they have jobs. This direction is an essential element for a true recovery from the disaster.
The concept of “decent work”, which has been set forth by the ILO and called for by Zenroren as a concrete goal of its nationwide movement, and the need of a society structured on stable employment and improved social services should be emphasized more than ever in Japan in the reconstruction of Japan in wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami as well as the nuclear disaster. We call on all workers and people of all walks to join forces to increase the effort to build a society in which everyone can live without nuclear power and without fear.