After all the hearings, demonstrations and opinion polls confirming that public opinion is against nuclear power, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (民主党 minshuto), gearing up for a general election, cobbled together the main points of its new energy policy last week. The goal was to be no nuclear plants by 2030 (genpatsu zero 原発ゼロ), and the main points were: nuclear power plants to be taken out of service after 40 years, the decision to restart plants to be taken by the new nuclear standards agency, and no new nuclear plants to be built.
The very next day local officials from Rokkasho in Aomori in the very north of the country and home to the nation's only reprocessing plant, went to Tokyo to protest that if all the nuclear plants are going to be closed and not use the fuel they’ve been reprocessing then they’re going to send the fuel back to where it came from - nuclear plants all over the country. They don’t want their area turned into a dump for nuclear waste.
America expressed concern too. What’s going to happen to the 30 tons of plutonium that's been extracted from the spent fuel and was to be re-used? Plutonium that could be used for nuclear weapons if it got into the wrong hands. The UK and France aren’t happy either. They’ve been reprocessing fuel for Japan and have stocks that they want taking off their hands.
Then yesterday the Minister of Economy and Industry went to Aomori and gave the green light to two new reactors under construction. If these are built they will be in operation until the mid 2050’s. What’s going on here? The ‘new energy policy’ has been exposed as a shallow, vote-getting policy.
The LDP (Liberal Democratic Party, 自民党 jiminto) which was in power since the war but lost three years ago has been parading its five aged leadership candidates (including one ex prime minister). The five appear together on TV and say more or less the same things. More like an advert for the party than rivals. Odd. But they're all saying that though they sympathise with the sentiments for zero nuclear the reality is much more complex. Even the PM no longer talks of 'zero nuclear' but 'reducing the dependence on nuclear'. Maybe the tide has turned and there’s going to be more measured debate from now on.
The 'miracle pine tree' (奇跡の一本松 kiseki no ippon matsu) in Rikuzen Takada, the only one left standing after the tsunami, is terminally ill and has been cut down. It’s going to be stuffed and put back in time for the anniversary next year!
We moved the factory a year ago – in lovely autumn weather. This year it’s still hot, over 30’C every day. When will it end?
Tomorrow, Monday, is a holiday. Respect the Aged Day. My mother-in-law turned 100 in January and joins the 50,000 people in this country aged over 100. She's sound in body and mind. Amazing.
Bye for now