Skip to main content

Koizumi Goes Anti-Nuclear

Junichiro Koizumi was prime minister of Japan for six years, from 2001 to 2006. At that time, he was a booster of nuclear energy. Since he retired from politics, he has not maintained a public profile, but remains a highly respected figure – maybe because the Japanese public knows him best, as no prime minister since 2006 has been able to hold on to the job for more than a year or so.

So when Koizumi decides to say something, it gets attention:

In a recent lecture meeting, Koizumi asked the government to put forth a zero nuclear energy policy by calling for establishment of “a recycling society based on natural resources and that does not rely on nuclear power generation.” Koizumi said his view on this matter changed after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The Great East Japan earthquake (and associated tsunami)precipitated the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The strong public opinion to end nuclear energy has softened considerably and the current government has decided to restart the facilities. In fact, the election that brought the Liberal Democrats to power was considered a kind of referendum on nuclear energy –at first – but the subject barely figured into the campaign.

So I was curious about the response to Koizumi’s comments. It’s hard to measure the impact of retired politicians in this country much less another one, so there is an element of mystery here.

So, from the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s national paper, an editorial:

Koizumi said finding substitute energy sources for nuclear power would “certainly be worked out by wise people.” We think this statement is overly optimistic and irresponsible.

Thermal power generation is currently filling the shortfall created by the loss of nuclear power generation. As a result, utility bills continue to rise due to higher fuel import costs. If this situation goes unchecked, the impact on household budgets and economic activity will be significant.

Thermal power generation is a major cause of accelerated global warming because it discharges a huge amount of carbon dioxide.

Renewable energy sources don’t get a very good reading, either:

Renewable energy sources that utilize sunlight and wind have the disadvantage of being affected by weather conditions. As such, there is no prospect that they will become principal power sources. It is necessary to seek a balanced composition of electricity sources in which nuclear and thermal power account for the lion’s share.

There’s more along these lines, too. I can’t say whether the Yomiuri Shimbun considers Koizumi’s comments a rear-guard action, whether the paper has an editorial distaste for Koizumi in general or it’s all just a consequence of fading opposition to Japanese use of nuclear energy. Maybe some of each.

It is unclear how big a lift, if any, the proclamation will give Japan’s antinuclear movement, which appeared to crest last year when tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered weekly outside the prime minister’s residence. While public opinion polls still show that more than half of Japanese oppose restarting the nation’s idled nuclear plants, the protests have dwindled to a few dozen die-hards.

There is an editorial in the The Daily Mainichi that takes Koizumi’s comments quite seriously and largely agrees with him, but it acknowledges that “It remains to be seen whether Koizumi will take political action to seek to rid Japan of all nuclear reactors…”. It remains to be seen. So, let’s see what happens.


Koizumi’s son, Shinjiro Koizumi, considered a political comer in the Liberal Democrat party, is sympathetic to his father’s view, but is still a working politician, so he’s a little more circumspect in his own response: 

"There is continuing concern that it may be inappropriate (to maintain or further increase dependency on nuclear power) without debate," Koizumi added. "Because the economy is now apparently in the process of recovery, people are keeping silent."

That doesn’t seem wholly logical, but it does the job of responding without stating a real view. Koizumi thinks the Liberal Democrats should take a more serious look at renewable energy sources, which it has already proposed doing, while keeping his options open on nuclear energy. That’s not the same as stating out-and-out opposition as his father does but he also does not refute his father, either, which is good both personally and politically.

The younger Koizumi’s comments convince me more that nuclear energy has moved from pariah in Japan to prodigal child.


Anonymous said…
Japan is a country that historically has been poor in indigenous natural resources that provide energy in quantities sufficient to support an advanced economy. Reliance on wind and solar power was likely adequate when Japan was a feudal society with a population of maybe 1% of today. It bears remembering that the quest for resources led Japan to take on a an increasingly militaristic posture in the last century, with disasterous results for Japan and its neighbors. It would be tragedy of the cruelest form if their abandonment of nuclear energy eventually leads them down a similar path.
If the Japanese public is too paranoid to generate nuclear electricity domestically, Japanese companies could still generate nuclear electricity far away from the islands by-- mass producing-- small floating nuclear reactors for the production of methanol way out to sea.

The ocean produced methanol could then be transported by tankers back to coastal methanol electric power plants on Japan for electricity production. The imported methanol could also be easily converted into gasoline for automobiles.

And if the Japanese reactors start to produce more methanol than they need domestically, they can then start to export nuclear produced methanol to other countries as a carbon neutral fuel.

Anonymous said…
Easy! all they need is a few hundred billion dollars and 20-30 years to set it up.

Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.

Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…