Japan is one of the largest nuclear power countries in the world, with 55 plants in operation, three under construction and 11 planned for the future. Approximately 25% of electricity in Japan is generated by nuclear power. Japan is currently the world’s third largest nuclear power, following the U.S. and France.
Representing the nuclear industry in Japan, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) was established in 1956 as a private body to promote peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology. President of the organization is Takuya Hattori. Born in Osaka, Hattori obtained both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the University of Tokyo, and joined Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) as a mechanical engineer in 1970.
He has been in charge of design, construction, operation and management of 17 nuclear plants of TEPCO since the early days of nuclear age in Japan when nuclear power sustained the country’s economic development. Retiring from TEPCO as executive vice president in 2006, Hattori joined the JAIF as vice chairman and has been in his current position since 2007.
Japan Today reporter Taro Fujimoto visits Hattori at his office in Shimbashi to hear more about nuclear power issues in Japan.
What does the JAIF do?
The JAIF supports the industry and organizations related to nuclear technology, including medical and industrial use of radiation and radioisotopes, as well as representing our members in the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear technology. We also try to influence government policy to realize these purposes. In addition, we communicate with industrial, academic and international organizations around the world, such as IAEA, to exchange information on nuclear issues.
How would you describe public opinion on nuclear power in Japan?
Public opinion on nuclear power in Japan is not so supportive yet. This is partly because Japan experienced atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and people still associate nuclear power with nuclear weapons. In addition, we have recently seen some scandals and technical problems in nuclear power plants. I think the media report nuclear issues in a negative way. I would say there are not so many politicians who do not support nuclear power because the public don’t support it. Overall, though, compared to some European countries such as Germany, Italy and Sweden, the Japanese public still has a comparatively positive image on nuclear power, I think.
What do you think about the global environment and nuclear power?
From a supplier’s viewpoint, I think many people understand that nuclear power is one of the realistic choices to realize sustainable development in the world. We don’t think nuclear power is the only choice, but it is fair to call it “a realistic choice.” We believe this is a worldwide common understanding as well as in Japan. However, from a consumer’s viewpoint, we need to reduce waste of electricity by developing eco-technology as well as to change our lifestyles. We need to do as much for the global environment as we can. In fact, nuclear power can reduce CO2 emissions by 10% worldwide and by 20% in Japan. Nuclear power contributes to the reduction of CO2, although we think it's not realistic to replace all the power plants with nuclear ones.
What about the risk?
The safety of nuclear plants should be achieved in terms of hardware and software, such as better management systems, which I believe we can realize. As for the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we need international frameworks to control and manage the spread of sensitive nuclear technology and materials.
About high-level radioactive waste, I can say we have already reached worldwide technological consensus on how to manage it. However, social consensus has not yet been achieved in many countries, including Japan. This is because people have vague anxieties over high-level radioactive waste. We need to overcome this issue because we have nuclear plants in operation in Japan, which produces high-level radioactive waste inevitably.
How do you see Japan's nuclear technology?
The number of countries that can manufacture, provide, operate and maintain nuclear plants is limited. Those which can do all of these at a high quality level would be Japan and France now. Although Japan does not yet have sophisticated technology for uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear waste as France does, it still has the core nuclear plant technology. Hence, there is a huge expectation among many countries for Japan’s nuclear technology, some of which is more sophisticated than France and the U.S. Japan can be a key player in the global nuclear power industry.
Japanese firms have recently made contracts for nuclear plant construction in other countries, such as the U.S. and China.
In Japan, there is no need to construct many nuclear power plants in the future, because we have enough plants and some new ones are already scheduled to be constructed. Hence, Japanese companies are eager to look for business chances in other countries like the U.S.
Although Japanese manufactures have signed “contracts” for nuclear power plants in some foreign countries, that doesn’t mean they will definitely construct the plants. This is because, in the U.S., for example, nuclear plant projects are often canceled for both technological and financial reasons by electric companies.
What current issues does the industry face?
One of the issues we currently face is to make Japanese public opinion on nuclear plants more stable and favorable. For this, disclosure of information on nuclear power plants and the nuclear industry is necessary. In the past, power companies did not disclose enough information to the public because there was no competition in the market and they thought they didn’t have to do it. Communication between power companies and the public not only when there is an incident, but also in ordinary times, is now becoming important. At JAIF, we have to be critical about nuclear power issues in Japan, which power companies cannot easily do.
What lies ahead for the industry?
We have social responsibility for nuclear power issues to realize a stable and sustainable society. We must lead the industry and advise the government on nuclear policies. Since the nuclear industry has an introspective attitude following several recent scandals and incidents, they must be more transparent. Japan has technology, and can support developing countries such as China and Vietnam, which would be good for the world, as well as to help their sustainable development.
What is your working motto?
I always expect my colleagues and the JAIF to realize “customer satisfaction” in cooperation with external organizations, which is the same as when I was working at TEPCO. In this case, “customers” means our member companies, and realizing their satisfaction would ultimately contribute to society. I don't like the idea that a small number of companies or organizations should dominate nuclear technology. It should be shared in society for everyone, even if there are some regulations.
When does your day start?
On weekdays, I wake up around 6 a.m. and jog for 5 km every morning before coming to the office. On weekends, I often go to antique goods markets.
For further information, visit: http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/index.html© Japan Today