NEWS - 1st Symposium

Keynote Speech:Nuclear power plants and energy issues

Categories: 1st Symposium

Nuclear power plants and energy issues


Director of the Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, Fukushima University

Born in 1947, in Aichi prefecture. Specialized in regional economics. Exploratory Committee of the Vision for Revitalization in Fukushima Prefecture (deputy chairperson), Fukushima Prefectural Small and Medium Enterprise Council (chairperson), etc.


 Two years have passed since the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the realities remain that not much progress has been made for the recovery. For Fukushima, in addition, a fight against the invisible enemy has been persisting still. People appear somewhat sanguine on the surface, but they are still in a state in which they would easily get tearful once the conversation became too personal. The significant difference from any other previous disasters is that we cannot feel it through the five senses. And there is also that however much you try to escape from the place, you, literally, cannot see the way to do so. Furthermore, there is damage caused by harmful rumors. In fact, we have never been in a situation like this before.

Naturally, there are various opinions about nuclear power plants and energy issues. However, I believe that there ought to be some issues that only Fukushima is entitled to raise. Although it can be attributed to the fact that the whole of Japan is gradually forgetting what happened in Fukushima, inquiries from overseas have been on the increase in the past several months. The international community is paying more attention to what will become of Fukushima than our fellow countrymen.

Our role is as follows: how are we to convey the fact to people in the outside world? What kind of programs are to be implemented for the coming years? How are we to revive the natural environment in the lost land? And how are we to restore human relationship in the meantime? I believe that we must march forward with vigor while tackling these issues aided with support from Japan as well as from the world.


1. Hardship of nuclear disaster


As we are all aware, hardship of a nuclear disaster is well noted. The radiation dose data for radioactive cesium is said to have recently come down considerably. As for radioactive iodine, however, there is no way of knowing to what extent it has spread since it cannot be measured anymore. Decontamination work is still ongoing in various locations, but it has been reported that the work led to the formation of new radiation hot spots.

In Japan, good weather makes wind blow from west to east because of the prevailing westerlies. It was somewhat fortunate for a certain aspect that much of the radioactive material was blown eastward toward the Pacific Ocean when the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant exploded. Unfortunately, however, it later rained and snowed. Such inclement weather makes wind blow inland in that particular part of the country. That is why a portion of the radioactive material was carried inland.

In that respect, when considering Japan as a whole, nuclear power plants in Niigata and Noto Peninsula can be regarded as even more hazardous as a matter of fact. Not to mention, a certain nation on the other side of the Sea of Japan has recently carried out a nuclear test, and South Korea also positions its nuclear power plants on the Japan Sea side. This means that any radioactive materials originating in the Korean Peninsula would be highly likely to be carried eastward because of the prevailing westerlies in fine weather. I would like to emphasize that some areas in Japan other than Fukushima would be more vulnerable to this kind of situations.

So, what is the situation of damage in Fukushima? I try to look at the situation by dividing it roughly into three stages. That is to say, primary damage (damage caused by the earthquake itself and the ensuing tsunami, damage from the nuclear disaster, and radioactive contamination), secondary damage (temporary housings, low radiation dose, damage caused by harmful rumors, and a population outflow to the outside of the region and the prefecture), and tertiary damage (fixation of harmful rumors by the interim storage facility of radioactive waste, an identity crisis involving returning home and out-of-town communities, and difficulty in mitigating disaster through a move to elevated ground and reaching a consensus on the issue). Some people say that it is about time for us to change the term from “damage” to “issue”.

The grave reality for Fukushima prefecture is that people are moving away from the region. Instead of fleeing immediately after the nuclear power plant had a hydrogen explosion, some people have chosen to flee after contemplating what to do for some time. And when they intend to come back, the issue for them is where they set up their life for the future.

Returning home from the place of refuge also involves the sense of crisis that one’s community and identity can be maintained on return. Also, there seems to be difficulty in reaching a consensus on a move to elevated ground.

Thus, we are in the situation in which succeeding problems pile up even before the confronting problems have been solved.  Moreover, the situation varies depending on the region.

A survey of the total of 28,184 households in eight towns and villages of Futaba-gun (rate of collection: 48%), which was carried out by the Research Institute of Disaster Revival, Fukushima University, in September and October 2011, showed the circumstances of compulsory evacuees as follows.

 Their places of refuge extend for the entire length of Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa: 69% within Fukushima prefecture, 22% in the Kanto region, and 9% in other places. It is also apparent that they cannot avoid moving one place of refuge to another on a constant basis: 47% of them have changed their places of refuge for 3 or 4 times, 36% for 5 times or more, and 17% for other frequencies. To the question concerning whether or not family members have been dispersed, 98% of them replied “Yes”, revealing the situation that most people are forced to live apart from their family. As for the circumstances under which they might consider returning, their replies were as follows: “No intention of returning at all” (25%), “After other residents have returned” (26%), “After the decontamination work has been planned” (21%), and “After the infrastructure has been restored” (16%). For the child rearing generation, in particular, the percentage of those who indicated “No intention of returning at all” is high at 46%. Quoted reasons for “No intention of returning at all” include “Difficulty of decontamination” (83%), “Distrust in the declaration of safety issued by the government” (66%), and “No prospect of resolution of the nuclear accident” (61%). To the question as to how many years you can wait to return home, 40% answered “1 to 2 years”, 23% “2 to 3 years”, and 12% “Less than a year”, indicating that the evacuees felt they could not wait much longer. Besides, it has already been two years.

The “Summary of the survey outcome” (October 22, 2012) is the result of a questionnaire survey of more than 1,000 Fukushima prefectural inhabitants, which has been completed by the “Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization” (FURE , hereinafter).

In the survey, Fukushima prefectural inhabitants’ anxiety over damage caused by harmful rumors is also being examined. According to that, 30.7% replied “Yes” to the question “Have you, your family, or those whom you know ever experienced any disadvantage or discomfort of being the resident(s) of Fukushima prefecture when you or they left the prefecture?”, and 34.7% replied “Yes” to the question “Have you ever been disadvantaged by damage caused by harmful rumors about Fukushima?” Moreover, 49.7% replied “Yes” to “Have you ever felt difference in consciousness/perception when in contact with those from outside the prefecture since the earthquake?”, and 56.3% replied “Yes” to “Do you, at present or for the future, feel anxious about you being a Fukushima prefectural inhabitant on coming in contact with those from outside the prefecture?” It reveals that Fukushima inhabitants are still feeling anxious not only for damage caused by harmful rumors but also for difference in consciousness/perception.


2. Returning home/out-of-town communities


I was involved, as a member of the committee (deputy chairperson), in the “Vision for Revitalization in Fukushima Prefecture” (published in August, 2011), which was drawn up by Fukushima prefecture. The vision carried the following three basic principles.

① Creating a secure/safe society with potential for sustainable development without relying on nuclear energy

② Restoring with the aid of the assembled support from all those who share love and passion for Fukushima

③ Realizing regeneration of proud hometowns

When discussing the vision for revitalization, the prefectural governor did not at first mention “decommissioning of nuclear reactors”. The principles were officially settled during the progress of discussion, and all the candidates supported for “denuclearization” at the subsequent Fukushima prefectural assembly election. In the course of these development, the governor talked of “decommissioning of nuclear reactors”, and is strengthening a similar attitude toward the Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant.

What I was particular about is that nowhere else but Fukushima prefecture could ever make the point. Fukushima has properly discussed the issue of nuclear power. And I would like to make the point for the world that we will continue firmly committing ourselves to this issue in the future.

Following the nuclear accident, local communities were divided according to the establishment of the cautionary zone, etc. In the course of the constant review, the single village of Iitate-mura has been divided into three zones with their boundaries re-drawn once more: the no-go zone, the restricted residential zone, and the evacuation order lifting preparation zone. Each municipality is preparing for its own reconstruction plan: Naraha-machi is preparing on the assumption that its inhabitants will be able to return in three years’ time, Tomioka-machi in five years’ time, and Okuma-machi in ten years’ time. When establishing out-of-town communities, what kind of infrastructure should be restored varies depending on the number of years before inhabitants are assumed to be allowed home.

 There is another issue for a municipality that receives these communities. Heads of evacuating municipalities have strong desire to develop centralized out-of-town communities. Since the receiving side also has its own community planning, however, a centralized community would become isolated in its midst, which could pose some problem for its inhabitants. Therefore, the prevalent opinion is that dispersed communities would be preferable, if feasible. I would expect that a clue to a solution to this issue could certainly be found through careful discussion.


3. Support activities of FURE


Fukushima University established FURE on July 5, 2011. The purpose of its establishment is conducting scientific research and study on the ongoing reality regarding the damage brought along by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident at the TEPCO Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant as well as supporting restoration and reconstruction based on the reality.

Its major activities include the “Saturday Children Campus” where the children and young people supporting department of FURE gets children living in temporary housings, etc. together at Fukushima University, and the staff and students, by united efforts, give them support to study and play. Also, it gives advice, as a part of their classes, to students of Namie High School (which has founded a satellite school due to the evacuation), etc. on their career development in anticipation of the future.

The environmental energy department has drawn up a very first contamination map in Japan based on the measurement of radiation dosages on the ground level and provided the relevant data for the country and the prefecture. With those who are involved in the radiation measurement as a target, the department gives them support to learn accurate knowledge on radiation, its correct measuring method, and how to precisely interpret the obtained data.

At the reconstruction plan supporting department, a survey on actual circumstances of disaster revival was carried out on approximately 28,000 households within Futaba-gun (August 2011) to aggregate voices of numerous evacuees. The outcome of this survey is also being utilized at the national and the prefectural levels. For the Oguni district in Date-shi (the special evacuation recommended area), a radiation distribution map for agricultural land/living space has been drawn up by every 100 meters, and support in relation to the sextiary-sector industrialization of agricultural produce is being provided.

At the program coordinating department, investigation into the actual conditions of devastated records of history/natural history within Fukushima prefecture and salvation/maintenance activities for materials in a critical situation have been carried out. In addition, by coordinating and cooperating with students, management of the shelter set up at Fukushima University, provision of volunteers for supporting the disaster-stricken area, and provision of support for community establishment/communication in reconstruction supporting housings, etc. are being put into practice.

With regard to the construction of temporary housings, the department suggested that the prefecture should adopt a proposal-method system. Initially, Fukushima prefecture had a contract with a certain association for having them build 12,000 prefabricated houses. In actuality, the required number of houses increased to 16,000, but the association was able to provide only 10,000 houses because the other disaster-stricken prefectures also needed a large number of temporary housings. Consequently, 6,000 houses were to be procured in haste by other companies, mainly those within the prefecture. Imposed conditions on that occasion were that its head office is located in the prefecture and the houses were to be built of locally produced materials. Having invited proposals, the outcome was impressive with a number of magnificent temporary houses built, including those in the style of a log-house. The lesson learned here is that it is essential to a tie up with the local community. The significance of “regional circulation of economy” has been preached, but what is important most here is that the head office is situated locally. It means that corporation taxes are paid to local municipalities, and potentially long-term association with the locals would lead to more meticulous work.


4. Energy policy and regional economy


Regarding the trend in the amount of primary energy supply in post-war Japan for each power source, reliance upon nuclear energy has been steadily on the increase. Having experienced the nuclear accident, a shift in energy strategy is being demanded.

Looking back at the changes in the past energy strategies in Japan, the third meeting (October 2011) of the government’s “Energy and Environment Council” points out that energy/environmental strategies following the Great East Japan Earthquake would require “security/safety”, in addition to the strategies of “pursuing economic efficiency”, “ensuring energy security”, and “conforming to the environment” in the 1990s. The following four points have been cited as important in selecting energy sources:

① Ensuring safety of nuclear power and reducing the future risk

② Reinforcing energy security

③ Contributing to solving the problem of global warming

④ Controlling cost and preventing de-industrialization in energy industry.

And the conference presents three different scenarios, in which the proportion of nuclear energy is to be reduced, by 2030, to 0%, 15%, or 20-25%, respectively.

There is also another issue as to how the price of electricity should be determined. In order to promote the conversion to renewable energy, the concept of “burden charge for alternative energy cultivation” has been proposed. Naturally, this would be added on top of our electricity bill, increasing a burden on consumers. How you take these situations into account is significant.

When regional differences in electric power supply/consumption and the locations of nuclear power plants are shown on the map, you can see electricity oversupply occurring in Fukushima, Niigata, and Fukui prefectures, all of which accommodate nuclear power plants. These locations are all without exception just outside of a 150-kilometer radius of Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka.

Concerning the position of Fukushima prefecture as a power source, it dates back to the late Taisho to Showa periods when hydraulic powers of Lake Inawashiro and Tadamigawa River were developed for electric power generation, and the generated electricity was transmitted to Tokyo for the first time. Subsequently, a number of coal-fired thermal power plants and nuclear power plants were constructed in succession, and the generated electricity was generally sent to the Tokyo metropolitan area.

As a result, a peculiar situation has emerged that some municipalities, in particular those with nuclear power plants in their vicinity, rely heavily on electric power generation for their livelihood, which accounts for almost 80% of GDP in some cases. Therefore, if these nuclear power plants are put out of operation, another problem arises as to what to do with these places.

It is also a matter of economic strength of municipalities with nuclear power plants. Most municipalities with nuclear facility are in a financial situation that they could manage even without receiving local allocation tax grants. The revenue section for the national energy-related special account includes an item designated as “nuclear damage compensation facilitation”. This item did not exist before. In other words, its very absence was the manifestation of the safety myth. Because of what happened in Fukushima, the amount of approximately 2 trillion yen has been allocated here. The money comes from national government bonds.

For the section of annual expenditure, there are items named “power source location-related cost” and “power source utilization cost” (the total of 192.2 billion yen for 2011), but the total amount is, in reality, a mere fraction of the entire energy-related special account (the total of 4.4144 trillion yen for 2011). Meanwhile, the amount of approximately 250 billion yen was spent for the item named “operating cost, grants, contribution, and maintenance cost for incorporated administrative agencies, etc.” I would like you to please understand that not all of the grants from the power source siting laws come to the power generating regions.


5. Reconstruction of Fukushima and development of new industries

As main projects for reconstructing Fukushima prefecture, various projects have been established under the themes of “to live in peace”, “to work in hometowns”, and “to build community and interact with people”. The plan for “Fukushima Prefecture Environmental Creation Center (provisional name)” includes an already-started program of establishing an international base for monitoring environmental radioactivity and developing decontamination technologies, etc. Obtaining the cooperation of Incorporated Administrative Agency The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a project to establish a research-and-development base for renewable energy in Fukushima has already been under way. There is also a plan to found the “Fukushima International Medical Science Center ” at Fukushima Medical University.

What is notable in relation to the development of new industries is that Fukushima prefecture is ranked sixth nationally in terms of the production of medical instruments. How we can capitalize on this has been gaining significance.

That is all that I wanted to outline our ongoing issues. I shall be happy if I have been of any help to liven up your discussion afterwards.

(Recorded by SAITO, Kazutaka, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Conference of the Association of Small Business Entrepreneurs)

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