The Dividing Point of Nuclear Energy Policy

March 27, 2011 4:19 PM

Just when the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura was about to be actively tested, arguments over policy change began.

If active testing is cancelled in advance, the wasteful expending of taxes can be prevented. However once the test has been conducted, facilities are contaminated with plutonium and following measures to reverse impacts would create heavy tax burdens for the citizens. Therefore it is time to assert for policy changes to address such .

During the 1970s, it was predicted that fast-breeder nuclear reactors that burn plutonium would have commercial use at the start of the 21st century, but in reality the development of the reactor stalled and meanwhile the government had to formally acknowledge that the commercial use of fast-breeder reactors would not be viable until 2050.

Due to the nuclear reprocessing already entrusted to Europe, Japan's possession of plutonium has reached nearly 40 tons. In addition to this large reserve of useless plutonium, there is the issue of what to do with the tons of plutonium that would be mined each year from the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura.

Even within the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, there were attempts to inform the citizens of Japan's nuclear policy, and with the silent approval of the Administrative Vice-Minister, the document titled the "Bill of ¥19 billion" was created to appeal to public opinion.

Unfortunately the media ignored this document and even within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), discussion of policy development did not spread.

At the time, many members of the Diet did not understand the difference between the nuclear fuel cycle and the burning of uranium for nuclear energy. The former Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy stated, "uranium and plutonium are one and the same, so what are you complaining about."

That time should have been the turning point for transforming Japan's nuclear power policy. However concern over our current nuclear energy policy has risen to incomparable levels as a result of the recent Fukushima disaster, and it would be foolish to not take this opportunity to instigate policy change.

This new concern is reflected in the lull of rash statements such as "electricity is necessary so don't blame nuclear energy," or "renewable energy is futile because it's costly and unstable."

I cannot emphasize enough the necessity to strengthen discussions over the revision of Japan's nuclear energy program one more time.