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Zenroren calls for ending reliance on nuclear power to shift to renewable energy sources
-- Review the 24-hour society and build a sustainable Japan
(First draft)

Approved by the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
At its Executive Committee’s 15th meeting
June 21-22, 2012


The outbreak of a severe accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has obliged our country to face up to the task of fundamentally reviewing its energy policy and looking to the building of a society relying mainly on renewable sources. On May 5, when the No. 3 reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido ceased to operate for regular safety checks, all nuclear power plants in Japan became idle for the first time in 42 years. This is an historic event. The number of nuclear reactors in Japan has been reduced to 50 since the No. 1-4 reactors at Fukushima Daiichi were shut down by law. Meanwhile, the country’s situation relating to nuclear power is getting tense as the government has given the green light to the restart of the Ohi nuclear power plant (in Fukui Prefecture). The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) makes the following proposal to stop relying on nuclear power and promote the use of renewable energy sources in order to make our country sustainable:

I. Japan will make efforts to use more renewable energy sources in order to build sustainable society

Zenroren is working to build safe and secure local communities. To this end, the country should consider the midterm supply of electric power by breaking away from extremely risky nuclear power generation and make a fundamental shift in the nation’s energy policy to promote renewable energy sources like solar, hydraulic, wind or geothermal power generation according to plans.

1. End nuclear power and turn to renewable energy sources

We envisage a sustainable society that is safe and secure. It is necessary to consider the key part of an energy policy based on the concept of society we need, focusing on self-reliance of local communities, and sustainability. To this end, we call for the country to move away from dependence on nuclear power to the use of renewable energy sources, which will be environmentally friendly, compatible with biodiversity protection. Such a way will prevent pollution from being exported and prevent regional disparities from arising. A Japanese society after abandoning nuclear power will fundamentally review the concept of society and economics that we need and people’s life style in general.

2. End growth-driven economic policy to establish regional business cycles and create more jobs

Japan should not return to a growth-driven policy that consumes massive electric power mainly at large corporations. It should seek to create jobs and establish local economies that are decentralized with local business cycle utilizing renewable energy sources.

3. Fighting for a society that makes recognition of “decent work” as its basis

We should end extraordinarily long work hours, impose strict regulations on nighttime duties, and consider quitting the society of “mass production, mass consumption, and mass waste”. A society cannot be sound if it allows manufacturers to force workers to work excessively long hours until late at night at production sites, convenience store outlets throughout the country to be open 24 hours, and large scale retailers to open until late at night with workers, including drivers who are forced to deliver items. All these business operations are being supported by mass consumption of energy.

We demand that a 24-hour society structured on mass consumption led by large corporations based on a growth strategy be fundamentally changed. We demand a society in which people can live on decent work in harmony with the nature and not in a “just-in-time production system” that puts emphasis on economic efficiency.

II. Immediate steps to be taken toward “zero nuclear” environment

Our country is expected to experience a shortage of power for three or four days in mid August, for about 4 hours - 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. The question is whether demand for power during these midsummer peak days can be met. The need is for the government to immediately begin giving guidance to large corporations on this issue. It is because factories and offices, which consume 60 to 70 percent of demand for power on peak days, must be asked to prepare for power saving measures, including higher utility rates for peak hours, concrete target numbers for power savings, disclosure of information, diagnosis for determining whether power saving is possible, and other technical guidance.

The government should encourage companies to do more to buy electricity from renewable energy sources as part of the effort to improve the balance between demand and supply of electricity. It also should encourage four of the nation’s utilities, Chubu, Hokuriku, Chugoku, and Shikoku electric power companies, which share the same frequency, to increase their capacity of mutual supply of surplus elextricity in case of an emergency. The use of pumped-storage power generation and the restarting of thermal power plants should also be options as part of the utilization of power generation using sources that are currently not in use. We also ask the government to take the following measures:

<1> Enhance gas-based power capacity
In the process toward a “zero nuclear power”, Japan will have to use fossil fuels as part of the real effort to increase gas-based capacity. Considering the importance of stable power supply and the problem of global warming, liquefied natural gas would be effective. Shale gas that emits less carbon dioxide is also an effective source of energy. A lot of shale gas can be extracted from shale rock as well as natural gas fields. Its production has dramatically increased since the early 2000s.

<2> Raise the efficiency of power distribution and consumption using smart grid technology
Smart grid is a power distribution network that can control electricity flow on both the supply and demand sides. A special device is installed in the power distribution networks. The technology is in practical use in some Western countries. It is necessary for Japan to introduce this system to make power distribution and consumption more efficient. We demand that the government take measures to make the use of electricity more efficient.

<3> Power-saving efforts
The government and Kansai Electric Power Company are yet to present any reliable data that support the projection of summer power shortages. Meanwhile, various estimates show that there will be more power supply capacity than demand if electricity consumption is almost the same level as in 2011. A call for power savings must be on scientific basis. We must not allow companies to cause labor market collapse on the pretext of power savings or rolling blackouts. Daytime demand for electricity during the summer comes mostly from factories, offices and facilities of service sector businesses. In fact, household consumption of electricity during peak hours in summer accounts for about 10 percent. Large business operators, which have their respective means of saving power and which are helped by energy technology experts, have capacity to save power. Utility rates paid by large corporations are about half of those paid by small- and medium-sized companies and households. In the case of Tokyo Electric Power Company, 90 percent of its earnings are from 40 percent of electricity consumed by households and small- and medium-sized companies. This system that favors massive electricity consumption must change.

III. Renewable energy sources and their prices

1. Renewable energy sources and their potentials

In seeking to promote renewable energy sources, it is necessary to examine what effect the use of solar power, hydraulic power, wind power, biomass power, or geothermal power might have and what impact they might have on electricity supply. The government has decided that the utilities should buy electricity generated by these five renewable energy sources. We will continue to broadly promote renewable energy sources through putting forward demands to the government, asking local governments to cooperate in this effort, and working with various organizations.

2. Purchase of electricity at fixed prices

A bill to require utilities to buy renewable energy sources became law in August 2011. The legislation has brought about a major turning point in the introduction of renewable energy sources. Effective July 1, the utilities must buy electricity generated by renewable energy sources for a certain period at fixed prices.

Under a plan put forward by a commission to estimate procurement prices, utilities would buy electricity generated by renewable sources at reasonable prices. However, the fixed-price system is determined mostly by prices at the time of transaction. If prices are too low, renewable energy sources would not be much promoted. For this reason, it is necessary to set prices that guarantee reinvestment based on a public consensus. The need is to develop a policy for electricity to be bought smoothly. Access to power line networks must be open. Power lines operation should be managed under public rules instead of by companies that run power plants. It is also necessary to prevent utilities from refusing to buy electricity generated by renewable sources on the grounds that supply of such energy sources will be unstable and to establish rules concerning conditions for determining that electricity supply is unstable. It is also necessary to improve power line networks in order to accept a lot of electricity generated by renewable energy sources by expanding and strengthening them according to plans.

IV. Zenroren’s efforts

  1. We will work to increase public support for halting all nuclear power plants and moving to zero nuclear power plants. Along with the Zenroren proposal for ending reliance on nuclear power generation, we will consider the present energy policy and put it to a nationwide discussion.
  2. We demand that the government give large corporations guidance to save power. We also demand that corporations refrain from shifting the burden of power saving onto workers. We demand that companies introduce shorter work week and holidays, including longer summer holidays.
  3. We will call for a movement for the promotion of renewable energy sources with citizens and unions members participating. We will consider details of the plan, including model projects, in cooperation with Zenroren member unions and federations.
  4. In the process of abandoning reactors as well as increasing the use of renewable sources, we will help create “quality and stable jobs”, in particular in regions that have nuclear power plants at present.
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