Power Subcommittee1) convened on June 19. As this writer was nominated
as a member, I accepted the post with the intention of continuing to
assert my anti-nuclear position at the committee meetings. The
government organized this subcommittee to discuss and devise necessary
measures in accordance with the Basic Energy Plan endorsed by the
Cabinet in April 2014. Our Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC),
however, does not approve the contents of the basic plan. Hence, I
became a subcommittee member after I notified the secretariat in the
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that my acceptance of
the post did not mean that I had changed my mind and would support the
basic energy plan. I reiterated this point at the first subcommittee
The subcommittee is comprised of 27 members, many of whom are
uncompromising proponents of nuclear power generation, such as Koji
Okamoto, Akira Yamaguchi and Hajimu Yamana. Some of the other members
are experts on investment and business management, probably because the
current government has already announced a policy to reduce Japan’s
dependence on nuclear power.
Selection of the members was conducted behind closed doors at METI,
just as on previous occasions. Due to the lack of transparency in the
selection process, it remains uncertain for what purpose and with what
kind of intention the selection was carried out. This writer thus
called on the ministry to improve and enhance the transparency of the
selection process by following the example of Britain’s Commissioner
for Public Appointments system.
In this system, committee members are chosen through an open
recruitment system and a panel independent of the government’s
ministries and agencies selects members from the applicants. The
minister appoints the successful candidates to the post. However,
citizens are allowed to raise objections to appointments.
My demand for the improvement of the current selection system was
ignored and this issue was not taken up in the committee discussions.
Nevertheless, I think that the British system should be introduced into
Japan sooner or later.
The secretariat has presented to the subcommittee eight issues to be deliberated on:
1) Efforts for reconstruction and restoration of Fukushima,
2) Problems to be resolved for reduction in the
dependence on nuclear power (e.g. decommissioning of nuclear reactors),
3) Consistent efforts to enhance safety,
4) Development and maintenance of nuclear technologies and personnel,
5) Nuclear power business in a competitive environment,
6) Efforts to solve the problems of spent nuclear fuel and promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle policy,
7) Establishment of a relationship of trust with the public and local communities, and
8) Contribution to the peaceful use of nuclear power and nuclear non-proliferation worldwide.
Up to the end of July, the subcommittee held two meetings. In the
second meeting, it decided on the order in which the eight issues would
be discussed by giving priority to those where there is a need to reach
a conclusion as promptly as possible. Issues 2), 5) and 6) were
classified as those that should be discussed as soon as possible.
Issues 4), 6), 7) and 8) were categorized as those that need to be
implemented continuously, and 2) (development of alternative power
sources) and 6), as those to be tackled on a mid-term and long-term
basis. Issues 1) and 3) were not mentioned in the materials of the
Two guest speakers gave presentations at the second meeting. One of
them was former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy,
William Martin. He admitted that renewable energy is important for
Japan, but added that nuclear power generation is indispensable when
considering national energy security. The other speaker was Chairman of
the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent
Investigation Commission Kiyoshi Kurokawa. He repeatedly emphasized the
need to increase transparency of the government’s entire administrative
processes involving nuclear power generation by saying that this was
the lesson we must learn from the 2011 nuclear accident.
In the first meeting, mass media were allowed to film only the outset
of the meeting. It was at this time that this writer came to know that
the video of the meeting would not be made public. The reason for this
decision was allegedly that some of the members would hesitate to
express their views fully at the meeting if the video were to be
released. This reason seemed to be totally unconvincing to me.
According to my experience, it is hardly likely that some members
accepted the job on condition that the video of the deliberations would
not be published. Therefore, it is certain that all the members would
have accepted the policy to publish the video, if the secretariat had
announced it in advance. This probably means that the closed-door
policy was decided at the discretion of the secretariat.
However, the release of the video of the deliberations is generally
considered to be a matter of course and should be carried out for the
following three reasons. Firstly, it is necessary for securing
transparency of the deliberation process. Although it is regrettable
that Mr. Kurokawa did not make direct comments to support the video
release, he insisted that the lack of transparency in nuclear power
administrative processes was the fundamental cause of the Fukushima
nuclear accident, and this is true.
Secondly, the atmosphere of the meeting cannot be conveyed to the
public through written documents alone. Thirdly, the subcommittee
deliberations should be reported to the public as quickly as possible
and the release of the video is a very effective way to do this. The
minutes of the meeting are to be released within one month, and the
meeting is expected to be held twice a month.
The secretariat claims that they are writing the summary of the minutes
carefully, and that the document will be released within a week. But
the names of the speakers are not written in the summary because the
secretariat is the credited writer. (The secretariat must obtain the
approval of speakers in order to disclose their names.) This means that
no reader will be able to trace the deliberation process unless he or
she attended the meeting as an observer. Under the current
circumstances, this writer is determined to continue to demand release
of the video of the deliberations, but it would be more effective if
many other people would also voice similar demands.
Another problem emerged. When one of the members, Hitoshi Yoshioka,
deputy chairperson of the Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy
(CCNE), sought permission to distribute a report by CCNE, titled
“Opinion: The Restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Station should be
Suspended Indefinitely,” the secretariat refused to comply. Eventually
it was decided that the secretariat would notify the participating
members of the report and have them take a copy home if they so wished.
Nevertheless, the secretariat’s notification was extremely sloppy and
did not even mention the title of the report. Mr. Yoshioka tried to add
his own comments, but Chairperson Itaru Yasui rejected his demand. This
was an extremely inappropriate way of conducting a session, and we must
say that Mr. Yasui is ill-qualified for the post.
These questionable actions are likely to nullify the subcommittee’s
target to build up a relationship of trust between the government, on
one side, and the public and local communities on the other. Former
Fukushima prefectural governor Eisaku Sato criticized the government’s
forceful way of implementing nuclear energy policy, saying it is like a
tank crushing local governments. It seems that the situation has
deteriorated and the government has begun to use the tank to crush the
public as well.
(Hideyuki Ban, Co-Director of CNIC)
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