New Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, right, meets with Fukushima Gov Masao Uchibori in Fukushima City on Thursday. Photo: KYODO
politics

Disputing Koizumi, new industry minister calls no-nuclear power policy 'unrealistic'

48 Comments
By Ritsuko Shimizu and Linda Sieg

Exiting nuclear power in Japan is unrealistic, the country's new industry minister said on Thursday, in comments that reiterated the government's line but are at odds with those made a day earlier by another newly installed cabinet member.

The conflicting comments by cabinet members appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday highlight the abiding sensitivities of nuclear power in Japan, more than eight years after the Fukushima catastrophe caused mass evacuations and Japan's worst energy crisis in the modern era.

"There are risks and fears about nuclear power," industry minister, Isshu Sugawara, told reporters a day after his appointment in a cabinet reshuffle. "But 'zero-nukes' is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic."

sugaw.jpg
Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato

The comments by Sugawara, himself once an anti-nuclear advocate, were at odds with those made by new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, who said earlier that Japan should look at ways to exit nuclear power to avoid repeating the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.

"I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them," Koizumi said at his first news conference late on Wednesday.

Japan's nuclear regulator is overseen by Koizumi's ministry, while energy policy is set by Sugawara's ministry.

The comments by Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, were out of step with government policy, which designates atomic power as an important element of the energy mix. The senior Koizumi became an anti-nuclear campaigner after Fukushima.

"The reality is that restarts have been not only delayed, but are increasingly difficult and many will be scrapped" said Martin Schulz, senior research fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute.

Shinjiro Koizumi's comments were "a bit at odds with the government position – but not totally out of line," Schultz said.

Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant run by Tokyo Electric Power melted down after being hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, spewing radiation.

Most of Japan's nuclear reactors, which before Fukushima supplied about 30% of the country's electricity, are going through a re-licensing process under new safety standards imposed after the disaster highlighted regulatory and operational failings.

Japan has six reactors operating at present, a fraction of the 54 units before Fukushima. About 40% of the pre-Fukushima fleet is set to be decommissioned after operators decided it would be too expensive to refit them to meet the new safety requirements.

The nuclear sector's shutdown forced Japan to import record amounts of thermal coal and liquefied natural gas to replace the lost capacity, sending electricity bills for consumers and businesses higher.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

48 Comments
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Looks like the kids havent learned to play together yet!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Unrealistic ? What a funny and amateur yet arrogant ATTITUDE !

Japan has been a human society for at least 3000 years, since Qin Dynasty sent XuFu to the Islands, where is unrealistic ?

-13 ( +6 / -19 )

Sugawara is simply incorrect. Japan could discontinue nuclear power. It may not be painless, but it would be prudent.

*The comments by Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, were out of step with government policy, which designates atomic power as an important element of the energy mix*

Ouch. Not even a week in the job and Koizumi Jr. is flagrantly disobeying the rules his boss set. Yep, having a daddy who was a former prime minister is definitely qualification enough for being a cabinet member.

And the tragic comedy continues to play out Kasumigaseki and Nagatacho.

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Japan could discontinue nuclear power

In what time frame? Anything that starts in more than 5 years time is must political grand standing.

Koizumi is just blabbering.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I kinda understand. At least he didn’t lie and be realistic. Currently many other countries try to build nuclear powerplants as a solution to supply their nation with cheaper cost while Japan instead is trying to scrap them. Unless the government is made of out money, replacing all of them is impossible. Especially because we are living on islands. Is gonna take decades. Currently the summer heat and winter cold is not something you can just surivive without these power plants supporting the cities. The reason why we even build them as to keep the cost low for the people. Winter and summer season are no joke here. Also the current economy is never gonna allow it. Sure, we all want to dream of such nice country free of nuclear plants,but do they really think we wanted to keep using these dangerous things if we had a choice? We now live in a uncertain era. A economic slowdown, lack of labors, trade spat of the USA, korea nonsense, russia, iran etc.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

we should not be trying to get rid of nuclear power we should be trying to make it safer

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

'zero-nukes' is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic.

I would love to hear his reasoning behind this statement. Japan survived very well for seven years after the Fukushima disaster without nuclear power. Yes, it did mean more reliance on coal and LPG, which increased Japan's carbon footprint and was more expensive on the whole. However, there was also a major increase in awareness and use of renewables over the same period. Instead of spending billions of dollars revamping the ageing reactors to squeeze another decade or two out of them, the money should be invested in renewable energy sources. Many people have installed solar power cells on their houses and most are generating more electricity than they can use and are selling it back to the energy companies. Domestic electricity use accounts for around 25% of the total electricity produced. If 50% of households and mansions were using solar power, it would make up the total of how much electricity is being produced by nuclear power at present. Many industries could also supplement their electricity needs with solar power further reducing the the need for nuclear power. Solar power could very easily make up the deficit if nuclear power was scrapped and that is without including any of the other renewable energy sources like, wind, wave, and geothermal. Geothermal is Japan's greatest resource for electricity. There are less than a handful of geothermal plants in Japan producing a very small amount of electricity. Geothermal remains a vastly under-utilised resource due to many of the geothermal fields being in national parks.

I have no doubt Sugawara's statement is based solely on money. Japan has invested tens of billions of dollars in nuclear power and they won't let it go, regardless of the inherent dangers.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

13 paragraphs in this article, 190 words (or so I'm not counting them twice). It was the government under the control of the LDP to ensure that TEPCO was maintaining regulations. Instead we don't know what the government was doing, but we found things to be very lax, all at the cost of the kind people of Fukushima who now at the very least have a tarnished image.

8 content words are all you can respond with?

"There are risks and fears about nuclear power But 'zero-nukes' is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic."

Why is it that you stop so short Sugawara-san? Is it that you don't have the speaking skills to make your case? Is it that you have the title of authority, but you really don't have the answers to counter Koizumi-san's claims? Is it because you have the title of authority, but that's what one of your Senpai s ordered you to say and so you felt you had no other choice, but give us one sentence? Is it because you need to manage 'behind the scenes' special interests? Is it because the LDP has been in power so long and the opposition so weak that you feel a sense of entitlement?

Why aren't you making a clear rational case to the people of Japan? A well laid out common sense approach can make things clearer and put many at ease. The people of Japan are losing faith in 'Brand Japan'. All the while the LDP is at the helm or are they?

If zero nuclear plants aren't realistic, set us up with details as to why you have come to this conclusion. Let scholars vet your claims. Add transparency. Tell us why you haven't moved forward to reduce Japan's reliance on Nuclear energy by setting up a better link between renewable energy and the power lines that would serve surrounding homes. Japan is one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world. Don't just tell us how you will ensure that badly placed reactors will be safe, show us.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

What's with the awful 70's decor?!

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The reason why we even build them as to keep the cost low for the people. Winter and summer season are no joke here

Properly insulating buildings would go a long way in cutting down on hearing and air conditioning costs here, not to mention making people's homes more comfortable.

Other developed countries do this. It's even required in Hokkaido.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Silentium est aureum, or* **"silence is gold”.......*

Shinjiro Koizumi has been set up for a fall, Shinjiro Koizumi could have let the better course of valor and allowed “Patience to be the companion of wisdom”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, did not become the longest serving President of the Liberal Democratic Party by accident.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe politically has skilfully asphyxiated all his potential opponents at birth.

Japan' Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe political assassine, French, it is a realism, a fair dictatorial descriptivistic.

You have to hand to it Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he has a pillow waiting to suffocate all perceived political contemptuous and always delivered by a colleague.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Exiting nuclear power in Japan is unrealistic

Why? because there would be no brown envelopes to pass on anymore? This is bs! Instead of relying solely on nuclear power how about finding alternatives? Oh yeah that only costs money. sigh

Koizumi hopes he might be able to change something but he will soon learn all rules are set in stone and he is sailing a unsteerable ship.

What's with the awful 70's decor?!

Money doesn't buy taste.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

more than eight years after the Fukushima catastrophe caused mass evacuations and Japan's worst energy crisis in the modern era

The problem is the crisis isn't in the past tense. It's here and now in the present and very certainly in the future. There is a huge amount of radioactive water sitting in Fukushima, increasing all the time that TEPCO doesn't have a clue what to do with. This could spill at any time with a large earthquake and pollute the whole surrounding area.

Nuclear power seems to be a source of good cheap energy if you ignore disposal of the waste and the danger of a large earthquake. It is not compatible with Japan because of the seismic situation.

If the LDP realised this and represented the people of Japan instead of the old boy network, they would realise this and encourage sustainable sources of energy. As it is, they are just passing the problem off to a future generation.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Sugawara is simply incorrect. Japan could discontinue nuclear power. It may not be painless, but it would be prudent.

exactly!

Why? because there would be no brown envelopes to pass on anymore? This is bs! Instead of relying solely on nuclear power how about finding alternatives? Oh yeah that only costs money. sigh

Nailed it. Its all about vested interests

7 ( +7 / -0 )

You know the essence of leadership is not lean over and simile.

It is trust that as a minster one can deliver or expect repercussions.

What is remarkable Junichiro Koizumi his own Father did not guide his Son.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I didn't feel the comments from Kozumi were "out of step" with government policy. He just said he felt it better to focus on developing new technologies to provide sustainable energy (as Japan agreed at the G20 meeting in Osaka) https://www.env.go.jp/en/headline/2408.html. As a result nuclear power would eventually not be required. The clue is that he read the G20 agreement is the statement about reducing plastics.

Can other people see this is just Sugawara being "ijime" to Kozumi? It's great to see there is someone in the group that can focus on defending and creating a new Japan we are all waiting for.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Hiro wrote: "Currently many other countries try to build nuclear powerplants as a solution to supply their nation with cheaper cost while Japan instead is trying to scrap them. "

Most studies show that nuclear power today is not the low cost option -- only with government subsidies they receive for liability insurance. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

Even the French studies (a country that is all in with nuclear power) show that nuclear is competitive in cost only with state-subsidized insurance. The Japanese study -- almost alone -- shows nuclear is cheapest -- but that is with state subsidized insurance.

And I don't think the cost of Fukushima is being factored into the cost for Nuclear. The cost of the evacuation. The decrease in the value of the land. Lost production. And now TEPCO is saying that they can't continue to store radioactive cooling water. What has been the loss in Japanese fishery exports because many countries won't import Japanese fish? What private insurance company (experts in assessing risk) is going to insure all that?

I suspect most countries subsidize nuclear energy because they want to have nuclear technology for other purposes. Some large and well-connected Japanese companies still hope to export nuclear power products. A Japanese energy policy that doesn't include nuclear will surely end these hopes.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

In Japan, electricity is most expensive in Hokkaido and Okinawa while Hokuriku and Chubu cheapest. Prices are cheaper where nuclear power plants working while where they are not working it is expensive.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

In Japan, electricity is most expensive in Hokkaido and Okinawa while Hokuriku and Chubu cheapest. Prices are cheaper where nuclear power plants working while where they are not working it is expensive.

Could you provide detailed metrics to back up your claims? I have lived many years in Hokkaido and electricity was expensive even before the nuclear power plant was stopped, should I remind you because it does not satisfy yet the requited safety standard. Moreover they increased by 12% (at once!) the price a few years ago and they claimed that was precisely because it was required to cover the cost for putting the Tomari nuclear plant at the level required for operation from the new safety standard. So I am failing to see how your statement makes sense.

Also the comparison between nuclear energy and alternatives green energy are often dishonest as they often don't include the major cost of nuclear waste treatment, the colossal cost of nuclear plants decommissioning and the astronomical cost of a nuclear disaster.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Nuclear energy for power generation went from 27-30% to zero and now back to about 5%. Never again will it reach the pre 2011 levels.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Prices are cheaper where nuclear power plants working while where they are not working it is expensive.

Didn't happen in Kansai (KEPCO). Yes price went up for no nuclear with a promise when its reactors started again the price would go down but they didn't.

Total cost power. my total bill divided by kWh, works out at ¥27/kWh.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I have no doubt Sugawara's statement is based solely on money. Japan has invested tens of billions of dollars in nuclear power and they won't let it go, regardless of the inherent dangers.

Thats precisely what its about....Industry ministry,s job is to protect the N-village and its money flows...will be interesting to see how far Koizumi will go in continuing to speak against the official govt line & wishes of the  LDP / J-Inc oyaji club. No doubt they have some dirt ready to throw at him to bring him down should he start proving too inconvenient. 

In Japan, electricity is most expensive in Hokkaido and Okinawa while Hokuriku and Chubu cheapest. Prices are cheaper where nuclear power plants working while where they are not working it is expensive.

Did you include the trillions of taxpayer money the govt is spending and will continue spending to clean up the Fukushima mess and all the costly safety upgrades at all the plants in your assesment of electricity costs?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

So what is a genuine contender to nuclear power? The truth is, there is nothing. Nuclear is clean & efficient. Except for when it goes bad - but - more people die as a result of coal plant pollution every year than from nuclear accidents. Wind, hyro & solar you say? Like I said... what is a GENUINE contender?

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Hiro wrote: "Currently many other countries try to build nuclear powerplants as a solution to supply their nation with cheaper cost while Japan instead is trying to scrap them. "

Most countries? That is a huge delusion! Most countries are investing in alternatives and renewables. Only Japan is holding on to 50 year old technology because of the money they have invested in it.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Sugawara and Koizumi .... now this will be an interesting "game" in the months to come.

Guess Sugawara will play his "seniority card" sooner than later.

And yes, Japan could survive without nuclear energy!

Renewable energy is popular and used in many other countries, why not Japan?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It's time to discuss the future of Japan with nuclear power plants in this ever changing climate. More cities get sunk in the water in the rain, we have always been and will be on the ring of fire, it's sucidal to have 52 nuclear power plants. It's like waiting for another disaster to happen. We do not have the solution for the melt-down, no body can say that there will be no accident again after our disastrous experience of Fukushima Daiichi.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Nuclear is clean & efficient. 

No this is not true, it's not clean. It's carbon dioxide emission free but it's not clean. Nuclear plants produce a large amount of radioactive waste. This waste is expensive to handle since reprocessing plutonium and uranium to reusable fuel is very expensive and does need by itself facilities exposed to potential catastrophic incidents. Note that Japan gets the majority of its waste reprocessed in France where we end up moving across the globe dangerous materials on ships. How this would make any sense to someone rational is beyond me.

The remaining waste that can't be reprocessed has to be stored for basically an infinite time (if scaled to human life) in facilities again exposed to potential catastrophic incidents. Projects to bury waste few hundreds meter into the ground have turned out to be a disaster like in Germany (leaked occurred and they ended up deciding that they need to bring back up the waste) or awfully expensive to build like in France without any sight on how when the facility will be completed to operate safely.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

And when it comes to the efficient argument, that's also debatable. Nuclear plants need a vast amount of nuclear material, which itself needs to be enriched, and water in order to produce the fission reaction and attain criticality. All of that to bowl water and produce hot steam that gets used to move giant turbines. Yes sure a reactor can operate a long time before refueling but it also needs a large amount of resources to do that.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The Japanese nuclear village has produced 46 tons of plutonium. enough for 5,000 nuclear warheads. About 9 tons are held in Japan and 36 tons in the UK.I doubt the UK will allow it to return.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Nuclear is clean and effective until there is a meltdown.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Nuclear is never clean because it produces huge amounts of nuclear waste and the reprocessing plant in Aomori is near storage capacity.

Massive amounts will come from Fukushima has also the 20 plus reactors to be decommissioned.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The currently operating nuclear plants are problematic, but Gen 4 is much better, and once they get Gen 5 (thorium) going, the current problems will not be an issue. Alas, the anti-nuclear hysteria is currently such, that will happen in places like China and India first.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Excellent discussions. Go for it, Koizumi. Rock that boat.

Zichi-san, my Kanto/Tokyo TEPCO bill is around ¥35/kWh. If it was twice that but all NPP were dismantled, and we were going seriously green, I would not complain. If most of the increase is to pay for Fukushima, it should become a huge public issue.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I am pro nuclear but anti-dynasty generations of people in power. Isn't there not a inheritance law here that takes land etc. through heavy tax? How come all the old power hungry maintain their land, assets and bank accounts but when one of us common folk lose an elder relative our land is taken and tiny little houses built on it?

I am pro nuclear. We learned from our mistakes.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I don't realy like nuclear power plants as they are so dangerous BUT I think he isn't completely wrong ... Japan uses an incredible high ammound of Energy but they don't have many means to create the Energy they need and buying would be very expensive plus you can easily be attacked by neighbours cutting of the Power ...

But both of them are right they NEED to find a better way but right now there is no better way so they hadrly have much choises.

If they would tell all the big cities and shops to turn off their lights in the evening everyone would be angry but that might be the only option except for buying more and more if they don't want nuclear power plants

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Nuclear is clean & efficient. "

In light of the Fukushima debacle, that sir is one of the most idiotic comments ever.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

daito hak

Nihon Keizai Shinbun reported on Sept. 6 that prices differ 20% at different regions. Hokkaido most expensive and 20% higher than Kansai and Kyushu where nuclear reactors reopened.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Koizumi was chosen to play the same role as Akie Abe. She was against her husband's policies and the audience applauded her common sense... and soon, Papa came to explain "Hey kids, Mama is cute, but she's too emotional, not realistic...Papa knows better." and he reinforced his high-right policy. Idem here, he lets the kid (Ossan Koizumi seems so young to Abe and co), he lets the kid talk... then, the adults will come to say he is not serious.

In what time frame? 

That's not the point. Energy choices of now will be effective in 10 to 60 years. If the project (to replace nuke by something else) never starts, it will never happen.

 I have no doubt Sugawara's statement is based solely on money.

No, it's because he is now speaking for the club of industrial bosses. You underestimate the conservatism in Japanese industry. They hear the word "change" and they don't even listen the rest , they refuse. The shachos have always worked with nuclear plants, with TEPCO... and they want to maintain their cosmic order.

If they would tell all the big cities and shops to turn off their lights in the evening

They did in 2011.

everyone would be angry *

No, it's a projection of your bias on the whole population. In 2011, people found it inconvenient for sure, but they could understand the reason. They have then started replacing the neons by leds and such that require nearly no energy. And they found that many lights do not need to be on 24/24, or can even be suppressed. Japan is still Japan with only half of the vending machines glowing at 3 am.

I don't say wiser use of domestic energy would be enough, but that already has a big impact.

 I am pro nuclear. 

What volume of Fukushima water can you store in your backyard ? What about the waste from normally functioning plants ? Now that developing countries no longer accept to take it, maybe the "pro nuke" geniuses could take some to store in their houses.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How long do we give it until the young upstart falls into line, joins nippon kaigi and stops all this progressive nonsense? Not long I’d say.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Domestic power users in Japan subsidise the commercial sector which pays less.

Total nuclear energy in the world has only achieve to generate 14% of the total needed. Most countries can't afford to join the club.

In Japan, geothermal could generate 20% of the total power demand.

The problem is generating the baseload required 24/7 which is about 25% of the total demand.

Nuclear and coal can be replaced for the baseload.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Geothermal has a problem. The pipes and equipments get easily corroded due to sulphur.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

AH HA!!!!so the Japanese goverment had not learnt anything from the fukushima incident ???.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are risks for radiation from Tritium but we have to look at the relatively risk. As example Potassum-40 då have 15 000 000 pBq per unit while Fukushima do have 30 pBq so even all the wast water do impact the water guality do a relatively low degree.

First you have to inform youself by real fact and not see the gost as soon as speaking of nuclear. As you can see the radiation is much more higher in connection with nuclear weapon and this was what happened in the Nevada desert when US did testing of above ground of atomic weapon,

Pity it´s not possible to import the document in question. I may see if I can got other solutions for that.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japan is a perfect country to develop renewable energy sources. Eliminating nuclear energy forever. What's more. It is one of the few privileged countries to be able to do that.

On the one hand, it could develop hydrogen fuel cell power plants. This technology cleans pollutants, which only produces water in the atmosphere. A fully-fledged decarbonization.

Another way of producing electricity in a way similar to a nuclear plant is tidal power. With the Pacific Ocean as an ally. Japan could use the trans-oceanic current that runs within its coasts. With a system similar to wind energy, but inside the ocean. Very few countries have that privilege in their favor. And it's a pretty cheap technology.

And without saying geothermal energy. Use the heat energy of volcanoes. Like a natural nuclear plant without radioactive exposure. Japan sits inside the pacific fire belt. And it could drill through the hot zones to make natural use of the heat of the planet earth itself. That system is already in use in Iceland.

And that without adding to the systems we all know. Hydropower, solar photovoltaics and wind power.

Japan's privileged geographical position is unbeatable for developing all these technologies. The vast majority of countries cannot say the same.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When the Diet politicians move to and live in Fukushima then I might belier Sugawara.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

That are more people killed from windpower worldwide than from nuclear.

In total a bit more than 40 persons have been killed by nuclear while in one single year 166 persons were killed worldwide.

In oceans there is potassium-40 with a radiation level of 15 million PBq (PentaBequarel) and Tritium from Fukushima do have the radiation level of 30 PBq. Their you see the difference so the wast water will do a extremely low impact of the natural radiation in the sea.

For to do a correct decision the relatively risk have to be considered based on fact and nothing else.

Earlier ordinary man was scared by explosions in the car engine. Don´t look at the nuclear as a gost.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Pretty sure Japan could use much geothermal due to location (volcano zone and hot springs). Wind and wave power off the coast, and even hydroelectric. Definitely doable.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You know, I love how these articles always seem to make mountains out of these molehills. LOL

This is a minor disagreement between two cabinet members, and this are going to blow it up as a big spat?

You know, everybody’s different, even amongst cabinet members of governments. It would be boring if we were all the same. I mean, why do you think communism failed? And the few remaining communist countries had to embrace capitalist elements in order to survive?

That was a bit of a tangent, but it proves my point.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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