Sendai, Japan and the Resumption of Nuclear Power Generation on Taiwan
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 13, 2015
Executive Summary: The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant Number One, in Kyushu, Japan went back
online on August 11. It is expected to resume operation in mid August,
ending Japan's nearly two year long "no nukes" regime. The Sendai One
plant is the first nuclear power plant built to Japan's new safety
standards since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Full Text Below:
The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant Number One, in Kyushu, Japan went back online on August 11. It is expected to resume operation in mid August, ending Japan's nearly two year long "no nukes" regime. The Sendai One plant is the first nuclear power plant built to Japan's new safety standards since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The restart of nuclear power generation is considered a major energy policy victory for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan suspended operation of all nuclear power plants. The Kansai Electric Power Company's Ohi Nuclear Power Plant was restarted briefly. But most of Japan remained in a "no nukes" condition. Now that the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant has been restarted, other power plants are also expected seek permission to restart. That makes this a major turning point for Japan's energy policy in the wake of the disaster of 3/11.
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan shut down all of its nuclear power plants. It was forced to rely on alternative power generation, with natural gas accounting for the lion's share. Japan imported large quantities of natural gas, exacerbating its trade deficit. Having re-embraced nuclear power, Japan can now reduce purchases of fuel from abroad. This will have a major impact on Abe's economic policies.
The restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant was greeted by vigorous protests and legal appeals. The process was troubled. Polls show that over half the people on Japan still oppose the restart of nuclear plant operations. Despite intense anti-nuclear sentiment, the Abe government has allowed the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant to resume operations. The decision involved emotions, reason, and legality. The Japanese government found it difficult to win over the public emotionally. But Japanese officials did their homework when it came to reason and legality.
Following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan reformed its nuclear regulatory mechanisms. It established a Nuclear Regulation Authority to implement a more stringent nuclear regulatory regime. Review by the new mechanism confirmed that the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant would not be affected by tsunamis or active faults. Reactor waterproofing was improved, and emergency power supplies were increased to avoid a replay of the power outages and radioactive leaks resulting from the Fukushima power plant disaster. The restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant was approved by the Satsumasendai City Council in Kagoshima Prefecture, where the nuclear power plant is located. The Kagoshima District Court dismissed injuctions obtained by non-governmental organizations to prevent the restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. This completed the legal process.
In other words, Japanese official were unable to persuade the Japanese people to accept the restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. But they devoted considerable attention to reason and legality.
The restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant provides a mirror for nuclear energy policy on Taiwan. Our own nuclear power generation policy remains stalled. Taiwan's energy policy remains on hold. This shows that people on Taiwan respond to nuclear issues purely on emotions. They completely ignore reason and legality.
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the public on Taiwan raised concerns about the safety of the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant. The government planned to conduct a thorough examination, submit a report, then hold a public referendum on whether to abolish nuclear power plants. But last year the Sunflower Student Movement protests and Lin Yi-hsiung's hunger strike put the government on the spot. Even though the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant passed muster, the Ma government did not bother with a referendum. It simply mothballed the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant on its own without bothering to consult anyone. It considered only emotions. It ignored legality. It betrayed an abysmal lack of resolve. It acted willy nilly, without any effort to solve the problem within the framework of the law. It simply mothballed the Number Fout Nuclear Power Plant, temporarily burying the controversy, Taiwan energy policy continues to mark time, or even retreat. Will Taiwan continue to use nuclear power? Will the three existing nuclear power plants remain in operation? No one bothers to ask. This can only be blamed on electoral politics and blue vs. green confrontation.
Taiwan is geographically similar to Japan. It too is surrounded by the sea. It too faces the threat of earthquakes. The Fukushima nuclear disaster provided Taiwan with a warning. The threat posed by earthquakes and tsunamis to nuclear power plants is worse than envisaged in the early years of nuclear power plant design. In-depth research on the threat posed by faultlines and tsunamis to nearby nuclear power plants remains lacking. Consider the Shanchiao Fault in northern Taiwan. This fault passes between the Number One and Number Two Nuclear Power Plants. and extends north all the way into the sea. But the government's study of the Sanchaio Fault was limited to the land portion. The section extending into the sea was investigated only by Taipower, which was limited by its ability and its funds. Its investigation has remained stalled.
Beginning next year, Taiwan will face a critical review of the Number One and Number Two Nuclear Power Plants, to determine whether thay should remain in operation. But a scientific investigation of the Sanchiao Fault is required. Without it, reliable data about the impact of tsunamis on these two nuclear power plants will be lacking. Nuclear power plant construction may be delayed. Public debate will surely be based on emotions rather than reason. How can any decisions made possibly be consistent with the greater good?
Energy policy is a multiple choice issue. not a true/false issue. Consideration must be given to safety, environmental protection, and cost. The trade-offs are difficult. Therefore the government's energy policy must consider emotions, reason, and the law. Only then can it ensure smooth, long-term benefits.
The restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant is an important step for Japan's post-Fukushima energy policy. We must ask ourselves why Taiwan cannot take the next step in energy policy. How long can Taiwan afford to keep spinning its wheels?
2015-08-13 02:08:13 聯合報 聯合報社論