提言 原発ゼロ社会―いまこそ

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 13
EDITORIAL/ Seeking a society without nuclear power generation: Japan must change course to create a
nuclear-free society
提言 原発ゼロ社会―いまこそ

This is the first of a five-part editorial series proposing ways for Japan to achieve a society that does not depend on nuclear power generation for its energy supply.
(日本が脱原発によりエネルギーを得るための朝日新聞5提言のうちの第一弾です。 trans. by srachai)

* * *

A major shift in Japan's energy policy is necessary to wean our society off nuclear power generation as soon as possible.
 政策の大転換を 日本のエネルギー政策を大転換し、原子力発電に頼らない社会を早く実現しなければならない。

Many people believe so, considering there is no end in sight to the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant that started in March.

A recent Asahi Shimbun survey found 77 percent of respondents in favor of a phased decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

The Fukushima meltdowns have taught us the fearsome power of nuclear energy that cannot be shut down at will.  なにしろ「止めたくても止められない」という原子力の恐ろしさを思い知った。

Japan sits on a veritable "nest" of earthquakes, and experts say we have entered a period of increased seismic activity.

If there is another nuclear accident, our society may not recover.

That is why we are proposing a "zero nuclear power generation society" as our long-term target.

First, we need to set a timeline.
(まず、工程表の設定だ trans. by srachai)



We have so far relied on nuclear energy for nearly 30 percent of our power needs.

We cannot slash it to zero right now, as the resultant power shortage will seriously affect our daily lives and economic activities.

It is obviously much more realistic to gradually reduce our dependence on nuclear power generation--an approach that should get us faster to the target over the long run.

It is generally understood that the life expectancy of nuclear reactors is 40 years.

If we stop building new reactors and scrap existing reactors over the next 40 years, all reactors will be gone by 2050.

This would be too far down the road, but we could make it happen sooner with stepped-up efforts to develop and introduce alternative energy sources and save electricity.

Our best hope lies in renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

The scenario The Asahi Shimbun has drawn is for the government to switch its energy policy to greater reliance on renewable energy, radically overhaul the current system of power companies monopolizing regional operations, and deregulate the power industry.

The government has so far attached the foremost priority to bolstering nuclear power generation, taking both overt and covert steps to diminish the worth of renewable energy.

Since renewable energy sources are scattered around the nation, the power supply will have to remain limited within the immediate areas, meaning market deregulation is a must for this idea to be realized.

Adopting an adjustable service charge structure, determined by supply and demand, should motivate users to save energy.

One drawback, however, is that the costs are still prohibitive.

Any sudden switch to renewable energy will cause utility charges to soar, hurting businesses and people's bank accounts.

What would be an acceptable hike in utility charges?

It will be vital to weigh this "sacrifice" against the danger of nuclear power generation while trying to obtain a public consensus and determining the speed at which nuclear reactors should be phased out.

But since this will be a time-consuming process, we would have to rely more on natural gas and other fuels for thermal power generation.

Such fuels emit carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming.

But for our long-term objective of weaning ourselves off nuclear power generation, we will have to keep working on reducing our carbon footprint while developing renewable energy and learning to consume less electricity.

In fact, this is Japan's responsibility to the international community.

Through all these efforts, when can Japan expect to be completely nuclear-free?

Since technological developments and global economic circumstances could throw us off, it is difficult to make accurate predictions.

But 20 to 30 years is reasonable.

So why not set our sights for 20 years from now, commit to this target and review our progress every few years?

Of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, 35 are currently idle, and five others will be shut down by August for inspections. If we all do our best to conserve energy this summer so power use falls below the projected peak demand, we would prove that we don't need all of our nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power generation will decrease drastically if safety is the absolute condition for using nuclear energy, and plants can operate only if they are needed from the standpoint of supply and demand.

And once we are on track for the eventual decommissioning of all reactors, the public will surely be more receptive to restarting those that are really needed.

Japan's post-World War II nuclear research began under the slogan of "peaceful utilization of nuclear energy."  戦後の原子力研究は「平和利用」を合言葉に出発した。

But when nuclear power generation became national policy, promoted together by power companies which have regional monopolies, anyone who argued against nuclear power generation was regarded as a "public enemy."

There was nothing to brake the system.

Many citizens became accustomed to using electricity without really thinking about where it came from.

Switching from nuclear energy to renewable energy will mean choosing a decentralized society where the people will have their say on the nation's energy policy, rather than leaving the decision to authorities.

This should also prompt Japan's transition into a sustainable society fit for the 21st century.

This and other editorials in our special series only provide sketches of a "zero nuclear power generation society" we envision.

What our country needs is to deepen public discourse on the subject and quickly put ideas into action wherever possible.

(論説主幹 大軒由敬)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-07-15 09:04 | 英字新聞

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