Statement Calling for the Realization of Non-Nuclear Power Policies through the Early Establishment of the Basic Law on Non-Nuclear Power Plants
On September 7, 2012, members of the House of Representatives, with the submission by 13 members, the support of 23 members and the approval of 43 members, submitted to the House of Representatives a draft bill for the Basic Law on Non-Nuclear Power Plants the framework of which includes the realization of non-nuclear power plants as early as practicable “within a period from 2020 to 2025 at the latest.” The deliberation on the proposal was decided to be carried over to the next Diet session.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) has long been making requests such as a halt of a new and additional construction of nuclear power plants and a phase-out of existing nuclear power plants. It further laid out details of the requests, and proposed a road map to the phase-out in the “Opinion Paper Calling for the Closure of Nuclear Power Plants and Nuclear Fuel Cycles” issued on July 15, 2011 (“Opinion Paper”), as follows:
(1) the halt of the new and additional construction of nuclear power plants (including all of those in the planning stage and under construction) and the immediate closure of nuclear fuel cycle facilities such as reprocessing plants and fast-breeder reactors;
(2) out of the existing nuclear power plants, the immediate decommissioning of i) the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 Nuclear Power Plants, ii) those built in seismically-active areas with the risk of a major, future earthquake in its vicinity, and iii) nuclear power plants which have been in operation more than thirty years since the commencement of the operation; and
(3) the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants other than those listed above as early as practicable within ten years. And until the decommissioning is completed, a thorough public debate should be held with regard to the safety standards, and there should be no permission to operate nuclear power plants which do not meet those safety standards, including the restart of idled nuclear power plants.
At the 63rd General Meeting held on May 25, 2012, the JFBA adopted a resolution in which “the JFBA requests that in order to prevent a recurrence of serious damage resulting from a nuclear accident, nuclear power plants currently suspended should not be resumed until the cause of the accident at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant is identified; a public debate is to be thoroughly conducted with respect to safety standards based on the identified cause of the accident; and safety is ensured by appropriate examinations through such debate.”
The JFBA welcomes and highly regards the clear indication of the phase-out of nuclear power plants to be achieved within a period from 2020 to 2025 at the latest in Article 3.1 of the draft bill of the Basic Law on Non-Nuclear Power Plants, and also the concurrence of the intent of (3) in the above Opinion Paper and of the resolution of such General Meeting with the provision concerning the resumption of the operation in Article 3.4 of such draft bill that “nuclear power plants shall not be operated or restarted unless it is confirmed to conform to the standards for prevention of disasters in nuclear reactors and others which are set forth in such standards on the basis of the state-of-the-art scientific knowledge.”
In addition, it also welcomes the statement of the nuclear phase-out within a period from 2020 to 2025 to be realized, since such achievement means that the new and additional construction of nuclear plants mentioned in (1) of the Opinion Paper is actually infeasible, and will inevitably lead to the shutdown of reprocessing facilities and others.
At the same time, on September 14, 2012, the government compiled a proposal of its new energy policy (“Policy Proposal”) called “the Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment” whose main points include: no new or additional construction of nuclear power plants; a strict application of a “forty-year limitation of operation”; and “devoting all possible policy resources to achieve zero operation of nuclear power plants in the 2030s.”
This Policy Proposal can be considered as some progress in terms of its determination on the direction toward a reduction of the nuclear energy ratio to zero in the future, respecting the will of a majority of the Japanese people amid strong criticism from the business community and others.
However, the Policy Proposal is far from sufficient in responding to the voices of people calling for the realization of the nuclear phase-out as early as possible considering that the Policy Proposal itself is yet to be decided by the Cabinet, thereby not definitely promising to eliminate the use of nuclear energy, as shown in the positive attitude of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry toward the resumption of the construction of some reactors suspended before completion in spite of the intention stated in the Policy Proposal not to permit the new and additional construction of nuclear power plants (the early decommissioning and the resumption of the construction of the reactors are clearly inconsistent), and since the year range of “2030s” is too broad to set as an aim - even with the strict application of the rule concerning “the forty-year limitation of the operation,” there still may be five nuclear power plants in operation in 2039 at the latest. The Policy Proposal is also internally inconsistent in terms of the decision to continue nuclear reprocessing.
The business community and others criticize the policy of the immediate realization of the nuclear phase-out for risks such as bankruptcy of the electric power industry, an acceleration of deindustrialization resulting from a power shortage, and a rise in production costs. Thus nuclear phase-out may be posing a threat to people’s lives. However, the JFBA proposed details of the promotion of a shift to renewable energy in the above Opinion Paper along with implementation of effective measures for the control of energy demand. In addition, it calls for promoting a change in the energy policy based on the nuclear phase-out through measures, including the introduction of natural gas combined-cycle generation which has relatively low emissions of carbon dioxide (a process which utilizes thermal energy more effectively from power generation comprising gas and steam turbines). Preventing the recurrence of nuclear accidents is the biggest issue in protecting people’s lives in Japan which is still seismically active.
The JFBA calls on the Diet for a further acceleration of the government’s new energy policy and for immediate legislation for the prompt nuclear phase-out based on the proposal for the Basic Law on Non-Nuclear Power Plants submitted by the Diet members, and also requests the government to realize these goals.
September 21, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations