Japan's continued use of nuclear power requires the public to be informed about the importance of the energy source and for its confidence in the industry to be restored, according to Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) chairman Takashi Imai.
In a keynote speech at the opening of the 50th JAIF Annual Conference in Tokyo, held 11-12 April, Imai said the debate about energy policies in Japan was "thrown into confusion" following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011. The government maintained that nuclear energy would remain an "important baseload power source" but said Japan's use of nuclear power would be reduced.
All of Japan's 48 operational nuclear reactors were gradually taken off line following the accident. A new regulatory regime has since been created and by mid-2013 the Nuclear Regulation Authority had rewritten the country's requirements for nuclear power plant safety. Power companies then submitted applications for reactor restarts, which have progressed slowly and so far only five units have been given approval to restart.
"The domestic nuclear industry must overcome the current challenges by fully reflecting on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, allowing nuclear power to again be trusted by the public so as to help society."
"From here, will nuclear power in Japan just be allowed to decline, not to be needed anymore, and be replaced with other types of energy?" Imai asked. "I think that such a thing should never be allowed to happen."
He stressed that the importance of nuclear power - "a semi-domestic form of energy in terms of stable supply" - has not changed for Japan, which has again become reliant on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demand.
Japan has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gases emissions by 26% in 2030 from 2013 levels. Imai said, "While maximising energy conservation and disseminating renewable energy, it will be impossible for us to achieve that goal unless a certain degree of nuclear power is utilised."
He said nuclear power is "indispensable" to Japan as it is a "very important power source from the viewpoint of the 'three Es' of energy security, economy and environmental protection, all based on the premise of safety".
"Therefore, we in the domestic nuclear industry must overcome the current challenges by fully reflecting on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, allowing nuclear power to again be trusted by the public so as to help society," Imai said. "I would like the Japanese government to make a firm explanation of its importance to the public, and to clearly demonstrate Japan's intention to continue utilising nuclear power in the future."
He suggested nuclear power plant operators make safety "their highest priority as they accumulate a steady record of operation" for their restarted reactors. "At the same time, they need to talk with the public with a sense of transparency, so as to restore confidence in nuclear power."
He added, "It is incumbent upon us to collect and utilise various technologies and wisdom when developing decommissioning measures for Fukushima Daiichi - an activity which is capturing the world's attention - and to strive to rebuild Fukushima."
Imai said it is also necessary for the Japanese nuclear industry to respond to issues such as the nuclear fuel cycle, the disposal of high-level waste, the decommissioning of retired reactors, and "securing and fostering the human resources necessary for those activities". In doing so, the industry would "steadily promote the nuclear power business".
"For the Japanese nuclear industry to overcome its present difficulties, it must concentrate its resources and unite more than ever, while working in cooperation with other countries," Imai said. "By promoting such cooperation and collaboration, JAIF will continue to support the development of the nuclear industry."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News