On 2012 March 19, The Asahi Shimbun reported that the “city of Osaka, the largest shareholder of Kansai Electric Power Co., will call on the utility to abolish all of its reactors “at the earliest possible time” and today, Mainichi Daily News commented that Osaka had “stirred ripples”. Articles are reproduced below. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s suggestion to phase out of nuclear power, surely surprised KEPCO investors but also citizens for its unusual thoughtfulness.
Kansai is the western region of Japan where Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara cities lie and, depending on definition, the nuclear power plant shore-lined prefecture of Fukui, where a 7.3 magnitude earthquake killed 1% of population and completely damaged 79% of buildings in 1948. Besides, prevalent winds blow from Fukui towards the huge drinking water Biwako reservoir and aforementioned Kansai cities. Under the radioactive fallout in case of such an earthquake would also be prefectures of Gifu and Aichi, an industrial heartland centered on Nagoya city, where Toyota, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toray Industries (worldwide leader in the carbon fiber industry that should make Boeing Dreamliner fly someday) are based. A new powerful earthquake in Fukui would probably relegate Japan a few ladders down the economic rankings. Kansai is already under severe economic stress – it always was but for a brief decade of national euphoria called the “bubble”.
Since about 30 years ago, poor Japanese regions exchanged time and again their votes and security against subventions and nuclear power plants. Whenever subventions would dry up, they would agree for a new reactor building. Nowadays that these are idled and that subventions have run out, poor regions cannot start a new cycle and are pushing and being pulled to ramp up their radioactive waste “management” business. In the same vote buyout scheme as for nuclear power plants, over-sized incinerator plants have been built and left unused due to their capacity threshold being over the actual amount of waste. Poor prefectures now plan to upgrade these little used, dioxin-spitting facilities so that they could operate at a wider range of waste quantities and include some kind of filtering for radiation. This scheme represents a large economic boost promise in terms of construction work, which is the main employment outside large cities – and under the control of yakuza gangs, who request some sustained business to replace the drop in their recruiting services for nuclear plant workers.
Radioactive waste are largely above what is considered as “low-level waste” worldwide and its incineration in current facilities turn their prefecture into secondary radioactive sources, the primary being Fukushima, still emitting as of 2012 March 22, a year after. Current secondary radioactive sources include 23 wards in Tokyo, Tomakomai (Hokkaido) and Shimada (Shizuoka, where Japanese green tea comes from).
Many prefectures have requested to become secondary radioactive sources, including places where the transportation hazard, time and cost had prevented the Japanese government to push for it such as Okinawa. However, Okinawa is surviving only by the presence of the US army and its underlying economy is threatened by a possible redeployment in Japan, in Guam or elsewhere. Tourism has been declining since about 5 years ago in Okinawa and will not pick up when it will effectively become a secondary radioactive source. Food in supermarkets in Okinawa come from all over Japan as it does not produce much besides beef which become labeled “Kobe” beef after spending 1 year in that heavily industrialized city. Okinawa cows are rather skinny so it must be quite a terrible feeding process that turn them into extra-fatty meat one year later in Kobe warehouses. There have been some scandals of radioactive wood used to bake pizzas in Okinawa, schools have been forced by parents to cancel radioactive snowball gifts, some vegetation like mosses from irradiated areas have been planted in Okinawa, etc. Okinawa is not a nuclear-free land anymore: this concept does not apply to any Japanese territory anymore one year after the disaster. As an advice to nuclear refugees from the no man’s land, if you cannot leave Japan, it is safer to settle down in cities where you can work to sustain a healthier lifestyle, not necessarily to the far end of the archipelago where they have no job; no sense about radio-protection; no clean food choice – and where you will be stuck when they start incinerating radioactive waste.
How does the new denuclearization scheme fit in with the irradiated waste incineration plan and is it for real? Kansai is searching for ways to revitalize its broken economy and incineration is one leg. The other leg is nuclear decommissioning, a potentially profitable business. It takes 5 years for nuclear combustible to cool down, under active controlled systems (or not so controlled systems). Then the proper decommissioning operations begin (and probably never really end). As an actual example, if we look at Sellafield in the UK, a mere 2 square mile facility, the official planning states that decommissioning and closure of the site is planned for 2120 (right: 108 years from now). After this stage, management of radioactive materials is forever. Therefore, decommissioning of the 3 reactors in Mihama, 4 in Oi and 4 in Takahama – and maybe Monju / Tsuruga – all in Fukui prefecture and globally called the Nuclear Ginza, could create a 300 years business, not including the storage and monitoring of million-year long radioactive waste. It could easily give a job to anyone and sustain the local economy. Additional benefits would come from the development of health care – did we mention that Osaka was a biotech center ?
Japanese pharmaceutical companies had trouble to compete globally because their drugs are not properly tested and have resulted in accidents and because they lack innovation. However, in the grand Osaka renewal scheme of joint radioactive waste incineration and nuclear decommissioning, there would be plenty of test subjects and Japan would have an incomparable lead in radiation-induced diseases, even though they would not be marketed as such: auto-immune diseases such as the Kawasaki syndrome, pneumonia, heart attacks, leukemia and all sorts of cancers, or any other kinds of affections described by Pr. Bandazhevsky, even in children (sic).
How is it that decommissioning would make the population sick? Nuclear reactor decommissioning is a task forecast to take over 1 century in the case of Sellafield but nuclear projects always get behind schedule (Areva EPR project in Finland as a relevant example). As a rule of thumb, you can at least double the time (in the case for Olkiluoto, Finland, Areva started in 2005, due to be completed in 4 years – now maybe in 9 years, probably 12) and since it is impossible to rule out wars, economic depressions, natural disasters and social unrest over the period of a century, it could take 4 to 500 years to carry out. The probability of the job being properly done to the end is marginal and our grandchildren, if they ever live, will most likely have to deal with no man’s lands in every place there used to be a nuclear power plant in the 20th century. Working in a nuclear power plant make people sick, they have in Japan, as well documented, not only in Fukushima. Work ethics are shoddy here and tasks are carried out by the 6th level of untrained sub-contractors aka yakuza firms. Nuclear Ginza and other locations in Japan like Tokaimura and Genkai accumulate accidents and are regularly leaking radioactive material, not surprisingly. Now let us project this over the next 500 years for a large segment of society busy cleaning a mess and adding to it at the same time: everyone would get sick, even if Hosono, Noda and Edano, the devilish Trinity as it were, were not working so hard to distribute contaminated food over all the territory – which they are. Mutations get transmitted to people who are not involved in the multi-generational task, weakening the whole society. As a side-note, it is of course impossible to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant within 40 years: it will never be really clean, no matter the official whitewash.
Recently 2 Japanese researchers apologized because they had taken some bone-marrow samples from cancer patients during surgical operations without anybody knowing: with radiation-induced diseases, all Japanese medical researchers would be able to experiment, publish their results and test new drugs on unsuspecting patients. When the Japanese war criminal in charge for human live dissection and experimentation during the war became the head of the top medical institute in Tokyo and was never bothered except for a moment by the Chinese woman who recognized him, anything can happen. Unit 731, Masaji Kitano and Green Cross all over again. Kansai, with Nuclear Ginza, you invested in a future treasure trove for your biotech and pharmaceutical industry (sic) ! Just as some people do not get black humor, let us note here that we are being sarcastic and we do not wish this nightmarish scenario to happen, quite the contrary but we are at a loss as to how prevent it. Japan has yet to come to term with its dark past and its present shows that it is never far behind – humor is a way to get some relief in the terrible situation we are now, and black humor can be offensive. Current Japanese politics are just as offensive.
So it could be for real and it would be the least damaging, as the alternative would be to wait until the next great Fukui earthquake and a fireworks over Nuclear Ginza.
Another possibility is that Hashimoto does not really intend to denuclearize Kansai, but is only trying to gain more KEPCO shares, some financial compensation or a special investor status from KEPCO for Osaka city in exchange for a time extension, a percentage increase in nuclear-produced electricity or such compromise.
Whichever, the pain only begins.
Mainichi Daily News – Osaka stirs ripples with planned anti-nuclear power pitch at KEPCO shareholders meeting
A decision by the Osaka Municipal Government, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s biggest shareholder, to suggest abolishing the company’s nuclear power plants at a general shareholders meeting in June has stirred ripples.
The municipal government is expected to ask the Kobe and Kyoto municipal governments, which also hold shares in the power company, to follow suit, but individual shareholders, who account for one-third of the company’s shares, could also sway the company.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has underscored the city’s right to make proposals as a shareholder from the time of the Osaka mayoral election last autumn. Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) President Makoto Yagi has sought dialogue with the city, stating, “I’d like to provide a full explanation to win understanding of our business activities.” However, guidelines compiled by the Osaka Municipal Government’s energy strategy council on March 18 declared “an end to all nuclear power plants as soon as possible” — seeking complete abolition of nuclear power. At present KEPCO appears unlikely to comply with requests to eliminate nuclear power.
Commenting on the issue to reporters on March 19, Hashimoto said, “This is not a suggestion to reduce nuclear power plants to zero without any strategy. We will consider the process leading to the time when there are no more nuclear power plants, and make suggestions as a shareholder.” He has requested that KEPCO present forecasts for future electricity supply and demand. Since the mayor is not seeking an immediate suspension of nuclear power, it is possible that the two sides could make concessions during further discussion on supply and demand based on such data.
The Osaka Municipal Government holds roughly 8.9 percent of KEPCO’s issued shares, followed by the Kobe Municipal government at about 3 percent, and the Kyoto Municipal Government at about 0.5 percent. Referring to the other two cities, Hashimoto said, “I believe that they will move together with us. We were chosen in the elections and we have the voters behind us. We cannot be treated as a mere 13 percent shareholder.”
However, KEPCO has many corporate investors, such as financial institutions, which hold a combined 29 percent of KEPCO’s stock.
“The decisions of corporate investors are based on economic rationality. Their views regarding nuclear power have not changed due to the nuclear power plant accident (in Fukushima Prefecture),” commented one representative of a major financial institution, suggesting the municipal government’s suggestion would not easily win approval.
At the same time, individual shareholders hold about one-third of KEPCO’s stock, and in past years, citizens groups have proposed abolishing nuclear power. However, at the general shareholders meeting in June last year, after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, such proposals received only 3.9 percent support.
Nevertheless Koji Morioka, the ombudsman representative of NPO shareholders and a professor in Kansai University’s Faculty of Economics, comments: “The weight of a proposal by the biggest shareholder (the Osaka Municipal Government), which holds about 10 percent of the shares, is different. There may be many shareholders who see this as a major flow in one direction and support it.”
The Asahi Shimbun – Osaka city seeks abolition of all Kansai Electric reactor
The city of Osaka, the largest shareholder of Kansai Electric Power Co., will call on the utility to abolish all of its reactors “at the earliest possible time” during a general shareholders meeting in June.
Kansai Electric is eager to restart its reactors, which have all remained idle following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant last year. But the city, which controls a 9-percent stake in the utility, said Kansai Electric’s 11 reactors “could ruin shareholder value.” It also said the company should focus its financial resources on renewable energy sources.
The plan for the shareholders meeting was included in draft proposals released on March 18 by a task force jointly established by Osaka city and the Osaka prefectural government, which have been working together on energy strategy.
The task force is expected to decide a proposed schedule for the utility to end its reliance on nuclear power generation at its next meeting on April 1.
Kazuhiro Ueda, a professor of global economy at Kyoto University’s graduate school who heads the task force, said the group will urge other shareholders of the utility to support the proposals.
“Nuclear energy is a technology that humans cannot control,” Ueda told reporters. “We will work out the details to leave no room for ambiguity.”
Osaka city will also urge Kansai Electric to adopt additional measures to “secure the absolute safety” of the reactors and enable them to withstand powerful earthquakes and tsunami.
During campaigning for the mayoral and governor’s elections held on Nov. 27 last year, eventual winners Toru Hashimoto and Ichiro Matsui, respectively, promised to press Kansai Electric to reduce its reliance on nuclear power generation.
Before the Fukushima nuclear disaster started in March last year, about half of Kansai Electric’s power output was generated at its nuclear power plants, the highest ratio for a utility in the nation.
But in the summer last year, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered stress tests for all reactors before they can be restarted.
With all of its reactors offline, Kansai Electric, whose service area includes Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, has been hit by rising fuel costs to run its thermal power plants.
Kansai Electric and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s administration have been pushing to restart two of the four reactors at the company’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture before the summer, when electricity demand peaks.
The two reactors would be the first to go online since the nuclear accident.
The task force proposed that Kansai Electric operate reactors for minimum output and periods only if a power shortfall is expected this summer and after all other energy-saving measures have been exhausted.
The utility should build gas-generated power plants to ride out a possible energy crisis resulting from the idle reactors in the near future, according to the proposals.
Its proposals also included establishing a permanent method to dispose of spent nuclear fuel.
The city will also call on Kansai Electric to reduce the number of directors, employees and contributions to politicians, as well as disclose the directors’ remunerations.
In addition, Osaka city will advocate a large-scale introduction of renewable energy sources to replace reactors as a midterm and long-term objective.
Utilities in Japan handle both power generation and transmission, allowing them to essentially maintain regional monopolies.
The task force said the transmission of electricity should be handled by a separate company for the Kansai region.
Shigeaki Koga, former senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry who advocates the separation of power generation and transmission by utilities, and Tetsunari Iida, an expert on renewable energy sources, worked as special advisers for the task force in drafting the proposals.
March 19, 2012