The 247th "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting on " Japan's Energy Strategy at Stake " Held

JFIR and its two sister organizations, the Global Forum of Japan and the Council on East Asian Community monthly organizes a "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting to provide an occasion for members of the three organizations to meet in an informal and confidential manner with senior officials of the Japanese Government and/or other experts and specialists in fields related to international relations. The 247th "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting on the topic of "Japan's Energy Strategy at Stake" was held on 2nd August 2012. The keynote speaker was Prof. ITO Kenichi, President of JFIR and Chairman of JFIR Policy Council. His views are as follows.

The 36th Policy Recommendations on "Japan's Energy Strategy in the Age of Globalization," which were submitted to Prime Minister NODA Yoshihiko on June 18 and publicized through an opinion advertisement on four Japanese national newspapers either in Japanese or English on June 20, received huge public reaction pro or con. Most of the comments criticizing or opposing the Policy Recommendations are emotionally derived from predetermined anti-nuclearism, and therefore are hardly convincing. Meanwhile, some of the comments supporting or endorsing them point out that "as they cover too broad a range of issues with an array of ten points of recommendations, the focus of the argument is blurred." Now that four accident analysis reports on the Fukushima nuclear disaster (submitted respectively by the Japanese government, the Japanese Diet, Tokyo Electric Power Company and the private sector) are all ready, what remains to be done is to kick-start successfully activities of an independent regulatory body, namely "Nuclear Regulation Authority," taking into account the opinions contained in these reports. While the easy "safety culture" of the past is to be reflected upon for sure, seeking "100% safety" would be nevertheless as easy. For instance, whereas the highest permissible level of radioactive substances in foods is 1200 becquerels per kilogram in Europe and the U.S., it is 100 becquerels per kilogram in Japan. This stiffer standard of safety resulted in diffusion of harmful rumors about food products coming from eastern Japan. It should also be known for a fact that hundreds of thousands of Hiroshima-type atomic bombs have been exploded during the nuclear tests in the atmosphere in the past. The Japanese government is planning to compile "Basic Energy Plan" by the end of August, in which it intends to choose the ratio of nuclear energy in Japan's overall power generation in 2030 from the three proposed options of "zero percent," "15 percent" and "20-25 percent." The "zero percent" option is out of the question, serving merely as a stalking-horse, but 70% of those who wanted to voice their opinions on energy policy at the public hearings held nationwide were in support of this "zero percent" option. It may be feared that the entire nation have merged into more or less hysterical state of mind. The "15 percent" option is based upon a prediction that "if establishment of new nuclear plants and extension of existing plants should be banned altogether in the future, the ratio of nuclear energy in 18 years would be 15 percent," thus eyeing the possibility of "zero percent" eventually. The "20-25 percent" option admits establishment of new nuclear plants on condition that thoroughgoing security measures be taken. Interestingly enough, the "zero percent" option would in effect "promote thermal power generation," and the "20-25 percent" option would in effect "promote renewable energy generation." Japan boasts technology and human resources of the highest degree in the world in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy. If Japan should fall behind, it would not be possible to guarantee hereafter the safety of nuclear plants across the globe. Also from the standpoint of responsibility for, obligation to, and contribution to the international community, Japan should continue to maintain technologies and to secure human resources in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy.

(JFIR secretariat is responsible for this article)

The Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR)