Kyoto Shimbun 1997.12.6

Heated discussion on nuclear power generation

by Tetsuhiro Hirose

"Nuclear power is currently the only sustainable source of energy that canreduce CO2 emission." "We can't focus only on CO2 while disregarding the dangers of nuclearpower."

At COP3, being held at the Kyoto International Conference Hall in Kyoto,Japan, heated discussions are taking place between industries andenvironmental NGO's (non-governmental organizations) concerning theefficiency of nuclear power generation. Those in the electric and nuclearpower industry claim that increased nuclear generation is needed to preventglobal warming. Environmental NGO members, on the other hand, argue thatwe first need to examine the safety aspects of nuclear power. In thisarticle, we trace the arguments presented at COP3 over the right and wrongof nuclear power.

Since COP3 began on December 1, tables at the conference hall have beenpiled with mountains of PR documents and data materials. Organizationssupporting nuclear power, such as the Atomic Energy Society of Japan andFORATOM (the European Atomic Forum consisting of nuclear power industriesfrom England, France and other European countries), have preparedfull-color booklets and pamphlets. The IEA (International EnergyAssociation) has even set up a booth dedicated entirely to promoting theside of nuclear power.

Not to be defeated, two environmental NGO's, "The Citizens' NuclearInformation Center" and "Friends of the Earth Japan", which oppose nuclearpower, held a joint symposiums on the theme of "A Future of Sustainable,Peaceful Energy". Interest in the symposium was so high that there wasstanding room only.

Considering it an ace for CO2 reduction, the Ministry of InternationalTrade and Industry (MITI) has advocated the full-scale introduction ofnuclear power generation that basically uses no fossil fuels such as oil.According to MITI, 20 nuclear power generators with a capacity of 25million kilowatts are needed by the year 2010.

Industry falls right in line with this policy. Four organizations,including the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) and FORATOM, haveannounced a collaborative declaration at COP3 which states that support forclean nuclear power is vital to efforts to curtail CO2 emissions.

Tokio Kanoh, Chairman of the Committee on Global Environment, Keidanren(Federation of Economic Organizations) and Vice President of Tokyo ElectricPower Co., Ltd., emphasized the practicality of nuclear power based on itseconomic efficiency. Mr. Kanoh stated that he is not making a sweepingrejection of solar electric generation and wind-powered generators, butconsidering his responsibilities as a businessman, he realizes that COP3can not focus solely on "fantasy theories" that are not currently realistic.

Jinzaburo Takagi, an Executive Director of the Citizens' NuclearInformation Center, criticizes the decision to increase nuclear power,stating, "The current trend in the world is to halt the construction ofnuclear power facilities. With the rest of the world working to eliminateexisting nuclear reactors, Japan should be ashamed to be the only countrygoing in the opposite direction." Mr. Takagi also indicated the extremedangers involved, such as plant safety and radioactive waste disposal.Furthermore, he pointed out, there has been a rapid increase in nuclearpower plant construction since the 1970's, yet there has been absolutely noreduction in CO2 emission, affirming that nuclear power is hardly an "ace"for the prevention of global warming.

Promoting reduced energy use and a conversion to new forms of energy, suchas solar energy and wind-powered generation, Michael Sailer of the Germananti-nuclear movement added that it is possible to investigate what typesof reductions can be achieved if each person or business demanding energycarefully examines exactly how the energy is being used..

Both sides of the argument have taken a strong stance. Mr. Kanoh states,"We can't just say that we hate nuclear power and that we want to reduceCO2. In making this decision, we have to consider the people of Japan, notjust those opposing nuclear power." Mr. Takagi claims, "The deceitfulpolicies of MITI simply ignore the people." It will not be an easy task toclose the gap between the two sides.