Japan Focus, Asia Pacific Journal. Japan’s Nuclear Village, Chinese nuclear power, Vietnam


Japan’s Nuclear Village

Jeff Kingston

The “nuclear village” is the term commonly used in Japan to refer to the institutional and individual pro-nuclear advocates who comprise the utilities, nuclear vendors, bureaucracy, Diet (Japan’s parliament), financial sector, media and academia. This is a village without boundaries or residence cards, an imagined collective bound by solidarity over promoting nuclear energy. If it had a coat of arms the motto would be “Safe, Cheap and Reliable”. There is considerable overlap with the so-called ‘Iron Triangle’ of big business, the bureaucracy and Liberal Democratic Party that called the shots in Japan from the mid-1950s, and the evocative moniker ‘Japan, Inc.’, a reference to cooperative ties between the government and private sector. The nuclear village is convenient shorthand to describe a powerful interest group with a specific agenda, one that it has effectively and profitably promoted since the 1950s. (McCormack 2011).

On the eve of March 11, 2011 Japan had 54 nuclear reactors generating nearly one-third of its total electricity supply, evidence of just how influential this interest group was in promoting its agenda. Japan thus ranked third in the world after France and the United States. Over the years, as Japan’s nuclear sector grew, so did the nuclear village’s power and influence. (Hymans 2011) There has been a proliferation of vested interests in nuclear power that benefit from its expansion ranging from the companies directly involved to lenders and investors in nuclear energy-related firms and extending down to grant-seeking academic researchers. The nuclear village is not monolithic on policy, and there are disagreements between members over various issues that are bitterly contested, but these are the squabbles of a gated community where cooperation and reciprocity prevail. The Village shares a common commitment to nuclear energy, and that means ostracizing naysayers and critics and denying them the access and benefits that “members” enjoy. This modern version of the traditional practice of murahachibu (village exclusion) has been the stick, while access to vast resources and corridors of power are the carrot. Researchers who don’t support the Village consensus on the need, safety, reliability and economic logic of nuclear power don’t get grants and are denied promotions. Journalists who criticize the nuclear village are denied access and other perks, while politicians seeking contributions, and media companies eager for a slice of the utilities’ massive advertising budgets, have their sails trimmed accordingly. Crossing the nuclear village carries consequences just as support has delivered benefits; during the Fukushima crisis the chairman of TEPCO was in China treating favored members of some of Japan’s largest media organizations to a luxury junket.

Regulatory Capture and the Culture of Safety
Regulatory capture refers to the situation where regulators charged with promoting the public interest defer to the wishes and advance the agenda of the industry or sector they ostensibly regulate. Those with a vested interest in specific policy or regulatory outcomes lobby regulators and influence their choices and actions. Frank von Hippel, a nuclear physicist and expert on nuclear policy at Princeton University, argues that in the US, “Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of ‘regulatory capture’ — in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it.” (von Hippel 2011) In Japan, nuclear regulators have also long been regulating in the interests of the regulated. (Ramseyer 2012)
Three investigations into the Fukushima disaster reveal that regulatory capture was at the heart of the nuclear accident and the absence of a culture of safety. (Funabashi 2012, National Diet 2012, Hatamura 2012) There has been an institutionalized culture of complacency and deceit in the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Japan’s most powerful utility and operator of Fukushima Daiichi, that explains why Fukushima in particular and the nuclear industry in general, settled for inadequate safeguards and emergency procedures. (Kingston 2012) Regulatory capture explains some of the major reasons why the risks of operating nuclear reactors were systematically downplayed and mismanaged in ways that compromised operational safety……New government safety guidelines issued in 2006 specifically called on utilities to improve tsunami countermeasures, but NISA did not follow up and the utilities did not prioritize compliance. It also turns out that TEPCO and two other utilities actually lobbied the government’s Earthquake Research Committee in February 2011 to water down wording in a report warning that a massive tsunami might hit the Tohoku coast in the near future. Apparently the committee agreed to modify the report in accord with the utilities’ concerns that the stark warning of a colossal tsunami might cause “misunderstanding” among the public. (Japan Times 2/27/2012)….. (see full article at http://japanfocus.org/-Jeff-Kingston/3822?utm_source=September+10%2C+2012&utm_campaign=China%27s+Connectivity+Revolution&utm_medium=email

Japanese Nuclear Power Generation Comes to a Vietnamese Village

Kimura Satoru
Translated by Kyoko Selden
While the Fukushima Daiichi accident remains unresolved and the cause of the accident not yet clarified, in this uncertain situation, Japan is planning to export nuclear power to Vietnam. What has become visible at the proposed Vietnamese site is the precise method that Japan used in the past in determining where to locate its own nuclear plants.
In Vietnamese, tsunami is called Songchon, literally translated it is a “divine wave”.
“Songchon has never come to our village. Japan’s accident, we hear, is the result of a great earthquake. Here, no such thing occurs, so it’s absolutely safe to build a nuclear power plant. If something happens, we’re closest to it, so we can be the first to run away,” says Ngo Quoc Khanh (56). …full articles http://japanfocus.org/-Kimura-Satoru/3824?utm_source=September+10%2C+2012&utm_campaign=China%27s+Connectivity+Revolution&utm_medium=email

Drawing a Line between Peaceful and Military Uses of Nuclear Power: The Japanese Press, 1945 – 1955

Why did Japan, the victim of the atomic bomb, early and whole- heartedly opt for nuclear power? From 1945 to 1955, indeed, from the immediate aftermath of Japan’s surrender, the Asahi, Mainichi and Yomiuri, the big three newspapers, unanimously and without controversy, endorsed the peaceful uses of nuclear power, distinguishing it from nuclear weapons. This article reconsiders a literature that has focused on the decisive role of the Yomiuri newspaper, and Eisenhower’s 1953 Atoms for Peace program, which led the Japanese to accept nuclear power in the mid-1950s. Instead, it shows a broad media consensus in support of nuclear power from the 1940s, envisaged as the heart of the next industrial revolution. full article http://japanfocus.org/-Shunici-Takekawa/3823?utm_source=September+10%2C+2012&utm_campaign=China%27s+Connectivity+Revolution&utm_medium=email

Chinese Nuclear Power Development at Home and Abroad

Antony Froggatt and Joy Tuffield
The Chinese energy sector is dominated by coal, which provides nearly 70% of the country’s energy compared to a global average of 27%. Furthermore, with energy demand rapidly increasing, so is coal production which was 3.5 billion tonnes in 2011, more than doubling its 2002 level. The International Energy Agency’s current policy scenario predicts that total coal demand in China will increase by 1000 Million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2035, up from 2500 Mtoe in 2009. This projected increase is around double the current total consumption levels in the US and would increase CO2 emissions from approximately 4751 Mt to 10000 Mt in 2035, equal to nearly one quarter of the world’s projected total at that time.1
China is aware of the resource and environmental implications of its current energy policies and is attempting to address this. In particular the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-5) proposes to reduce the increase in consumption by improving its energy and carbon intensity by 16% and 17% respectively by 2015 as well as expanding the use of non-fossil fuels so that they provide 11.4% of total energy consumption. Meeting these targets would not fundamentally change the trajectory of Chinese CO2 emissions in the short run, but it would require unprecedented investment and planning in the relevant sectors in the coming years with long-term implications.
While the main focus of this article is not renewable energy, it is important to note the impressive growth in Chinese renewable energies, in particular wind and increasingly solar PV. In 2001 China had an installed capacity of wind of just 406 MW, but by the end of 2011 it was 64 GW. Five years ago, nuclear power was producing 14 times as much electricity as wind, but by 2011 the difference was less than 30percent.2 The country’s on-grid wind power capacity is projected to reach 100 GWs by 2015 and 200 GWs by 2020, according to the 12th Five-Year Plan for Wind Power Industry. Solar PV has also grown remarkably, both in production capabilities (much of which is used for export) and more recently in installed capacity. At the end of 2011 total installed capacity for solar was 3 GW, up from 300 MW in 2009. However, a recently revised target from 15 to 21 GW by 2015 projects a rapid acceleration of the growth rate. full article http://japanfocus.org/-Joy-Tuffield/3826?utm_source=September+10%2C+2012&utm_campaign=China%27s+Connectivity+Revolution&utm_medium=email

One Response to “Japan Focus, Asia Pacific Journal. Japan’s Nuclear Village, Chinese nuclear power, Vietnam”

  1. CaptD Says:

    Japan’s Nuclear Village has created a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster which Japan still has not recovered from a year and a half later!

    Plus while Fukushima continues to spew its radioactive pollution into the Atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean in ever growing record amounts, their Leaders remain in Nuclear Denial* because it is RISKY to speak publicly against the Nuclear Village for the very real fear of retribution or major lawsuit!

    The Nuclear Mafia Derails Democracy In Japan

    * http://is.gd/XPjMd0

    The illogical belief that Nature cannot destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7/365!

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