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Japan: Citizens Respond to New Nuclear Power Policies

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

Individuals with vested interests in nuclear power have been named to lead a regulatory commission of the Japanese government that will play crucial role in determining whether to phase out nuclear power during the 2030s and how.

While environmental groups welcome the government's statement of intent to end nuclear power in Japan before 2040, the proposal has yet to become an actual policy. Citizens are calling for commission members with a conflict of interest (including the chairman of the commission) to be declared ineligible, since business and industry lobbyists have been pushing for the deadline to be dropped.

Protestors call for the halting of all nuclear power generation in Tokyo, Japan. Image by Damon Coulter, copyright Demotix (14/09/12).

Protestors call for the halting of all nuclear power generation in Tokyo, Japan. Image by Damon Coulter, copyright Demotix (14/09/12).

Japanese energy related ministers compiled the proposal to phase out nuclear power during the 2030s last week. Greenpeace Japan welcomed news of the suggested strategy. In a press release on September 14, 2012, they wrote:

“The government’s strategy involves a nuclear phase-out nearly two decades later than needed. It also provides clarity for the business community that renewable power, not nuclear, is the future,” said Kazue Suzuki, Greenpeace Japan nuclear campaigner.

“The government must use its new energy strategy as a starting point for a far more ambitious renewable policy, greater energy efficiency measures, and increasingly bold strides towards the sustainable green economy that will secure Japan’s future prosperity.”

The new independent nuclear regulatory commission that will help set the policy is called Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA). It was launched on September 19, and is headed by Shunichi Tanaka. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, released a statement [ja] on August 3, saying that the proposed members for the commission included two candidates who represented interests that ran counter to the spirit of their task and should therefore be declared ineligible.

The international organization, Friends of the Earth Japan (FoE), also called for the replacement of those members who have vested interests in promoting nuclear power. In a press release [ja] on July 27, they offered a list of reasons why the head of the commission, Shunichi Tanaka should be dismissed:

×田中俊一(たなか しゅんいち)氏:【原子力ムラ・不適格】


[His] experience includes being vice president at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, deputy chairperson for the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan, and president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan.

* He has been involved in the nuclear energy community for a long time.

* The Atomic Energy Commission is Japan's nuclear propulsion facility that works closely with nuclear operators, which arouses suspicion as to its fairness. Third-party inspection of Tanaka as a deputy chairperson with the Atomic Energy Commission is needed.

* The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is the research and development of government's nuclear propulsion and nuclear fuel cycle propulsion. The Fast Breeder Reactor Monju was established by JAEA.

* Tanaka insisted at the Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation that no changes should be made to 20mSV standard of evacuation by the government, and resisted the chairperson Noumi Kimikazu who was formulating compensation guidelines for voluntary evacuees. After the guidelines were made, Tanaka read his protest note out loud, making victims and the audience angry. He insisted on the standard for inhabitants to return as being 20mSV. He brought decontamination interests to JAEA, and made himself an adviser for decontamination effort in Fukushima.

Supported by 116 citizen groups, FOE released an urgent statement [ja] on September 19:



① 「利用と規制の分離」「国民の信頼の回復」「原子力ムラの影響力の排除」の原子力規制委員会設置法の趣旨を踏みにじるもの。それどころか、原子力事業者の委員への任命は、設置法法第7条第7項、7月3日付政府ガイドライン違反
② 無責任な原子力推進行政に加担してきた田中俊一氏などを抜擢
③ 田中俊一氏は、自主的避難への賠償に反対し、低線量被ばくのリスクを過小評価してきた。

We protest against the decision of the NRA and its member appointments which completely ignore the voice of citizens, runs contrary to the spirit of law, and shows no lessons have been learnt from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

We have pointed out the issues with proposed members through citizens, attorneys and members. We have handed 50,000 signatures from citizens to the government five times, but no reasonable response has been made by the government.

  1. This appointment tramples upon the principles of “Separation of the use and regulation”, “Recovery of the trust by citizens”, and “Exclusion of the influence of the atomic energy village” in the Act for Establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Safety Commission. Appointing nuclear operators to the commission is a violation of the government's guidelines of July 3, article 7 paragraph (7).
  2. Shunichi Tanaka has long been engaged in pushing for nuclear energy to be adopted by the administration.
  3. Shunichi Tanaka was against compensation to voluntary evacuees [after the earthquake], and underestimated the risks of low level exposure to radiation.

Many are looking to the NRA with outrage and disbelief.

Shuya Nomura (@NomuraShuya) tweeted [ja]:


Members of the commission unanimously speak of hopes to recover the entirely lost trust of nuclear energy administration, but what they should have done is ensure commission members be inaugurated only after consent. No one will trust these members without it.

User Ryuichi Kino (@kinoryuichi) tweeted [ja]:

幹部7人のうち、長官の池田氏と地域安全統括官の黒木氏の2人が警察官僚。なんか多い。誰を取り締まるのか・・・→幹部名簿|原子力規制委員会について|原子力規制委員会 #genpatsu #fukushima

Of seven board members, Director General Ikeda and Regional Safty Manager Kuroki are both former police bureaucrats. Quite a few. Are they going to police some people? Executive Members List about RNA #genpatsu #fukushima

The new website for NRA states:

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has started in the situation where public trust on the nuclear regulation has been completely lost. It is our primary responsibility to conduct stricter regulations while readily admitting stern eyes from the public. […] We will always bear in mind that accidents beyond our expectations may occur, and tirelessly improve all the regulations so that Japan’s nuclear regulation is to be the highest standard in the world.

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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