No Nukes Asia Forum 2008 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 125

The streets of Kashiwazaki – Photo by Toach

No Nukes Asia Forum 2008 (NNAF08) was held in Kashiwazaki-City and Tokyo from June 28-30. It coincided with a national gathering in Kashiwazaki to mark the first anniversary of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake, which struck the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant on July 16, 2007. Activists from Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Europe came to Japan to participate. They joined Japanese activists in public meetings and a parade through the streets of Kashiwazaki.

From the window of the bus coming into Kashiwazaki City it appeared that most of the damage to the city had been fixed, but at close range the NNAF08 participants could see where the ground had subsided leaving a great big crack at the base of their hotel’s steps. They heard from local opponents of the Kashiwazaki NPP about the damage to their homes and to the nuclear plant and, in particular, about the danger that serious damage would not be revealed by Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) inspections. For activists from countries in the Pacific Rim of Fire, this was all priceless information to take back home and use in their own campaigns. Japan might hold the world record for the most plants sitting on top of active faults, but, as we learned from the presentations of NNAF08 participants, there is no shortage of harebrained schemes to build nuclear power plants in other earthquake-prone parts of the region.

The focus of the presentations varied greatly from country to country. The following comments give a general overview. More detailed information about the nuclear plans of Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea are included at the end of the article. The new government in Taiwan has not yet given a clear indication of its future plans.

Eight people from Taiwan participated. They told us the history of their struggle: how they managed to delay construction of Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power station for many years, but were unable to kill it off completely. In 1996 the Legislative Yuan (parliament) submitted a bill opposing the station, but they were unable to stop construction, because the pro-nuclear Kuomintang (KMT) was in power at the time. The Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000 and took steps to stop construction, but the Constitutional Court ruled that the project could not be stopped because a budget had already been allocated to it. Citizens groups responded by demanding a referendum, but the Referendum Law passed by the Legislative Yuan in 2003 included effectively unachievable conditions. With the election in March this year of the pro-nuclear KMT government, it appears that construction of the partially built fourth power station will be completed.

Four people from South Korea participated. They focused on their struggle against nuclear waste dumps, power uprates for existing plants, plans for new plants and South Korea’s ambition to be accepted into the elite club of fuel-cycle countries. For many years they succeeded in blocking the government’s attempts to find a site for a nuclear waste dump, but eventually, through a combination of bribery, misleading promises and referendum rigging, a site was selected. However, unlike previous plans, the site is only for low and medium level waste, so the problem of spent fuel and other high level waste remains. Like Taiwan, South Korea also has a newly elected pro-nuclear government. Besides power uprates, the Grand National Party government has an aggressive plan for new nuclear construction.

Six people from Thailand and two people from Indonesia attended NNAF08. Neither of these countries has nuclear power plants yet, but both countries have declared that they want to build plants in the near future. Both countries’ nuclear power ambitions can be traced back several decades, but earlier plans were abandoned in the late 1990s when strong domestic opposition and the Asian financial crisis made it impossible to proceed. These plans have been resurrected in recent years and civil society is responding once again with vigorous opposition campaigns. The participants from Thailand and Indonesia were well informed, experienced activists, but they were very eager to learn from their counterparts in countries which already have nuclear power plants.

Readers of Nuke Info Tokyo are well aware of the issues facing the Japanese movement, so it is not necessary to go into great detail here. However, there is one very important difference between Japan and the other countries represented at NNAF08. Japan is the only one of these countries with a complete nuclear fuel cycle. In fact, Japan is the only country in the world that does not have nuclear weapons, but which does have a complete nuclear fuel cycle (leaving aside questions of whether or not it is a functioning fuel cycle). As CNIC’s Co-Director, Hideyuki Ban, pointed out, that does not mean there is no connection between Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy and nuclear weapons. He said, “Japan’s policy is closely connected to its geopolitical circumstances. Located between three nuclear weapon states, America, Russia and China, Japan’s desire to acquire the ability to produce nuclear weapons was probably behind its policy choice.”

NNAF08 was held at a crucial time for the Asian movement against nuclear energy. Rabidly pro-nuclear governments have been elected in South Korea and Taiwan and, as in the past, it was a military coup in Thailand that led to the resurrection of that country’s nuclear power plan. Japanese government and industry are keen to cash in on orders for new nuclear power plants in the region. Even as NNAF08 was being held, the Japanese government was twisting arms of G8 leaders to have nuclear power included in the statement from the Summit in Toyako, Hokkaido.

It was against this backdrop that on July 1, one week before the G8 Summit, NNAF08 participants handed a letter to officers of the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The letter demanded that:
1. Countries with nuclear industries such as Japan, not give permission or support for proposals to export nuclear power plants and related technology, including to Asian countries;
2. Transfers of energy related technology, including to Asian countries, be restricted to renewables and energy efficiency, and not include nuclear technology;
3. Climate and energy policies not be based on promotion of nuclear energy, but on renewable energy and energy efficiency;
4. Financial support mechanisms for measures to prevent dangerous climate change not include nuclear energy;
5. In order to avoid the risk of major accidents caused by earthquakes, existing nuclear power plants should be closed and construction of new nuclear power plants should be stopped.

Click here for the full text of the letter.

Jan Beranek, from Greenpeace International, explained to participants why nuclear energy is not the solution to global warming. According to an energy scenario recently produced by the International Energy Agency, even if 32 gigawatts (32x1000MW plants, or 2.6 plants a month) of nuclear power were added globally each year to 2050, Greenhouse Gas emissions from the energy sector would only be reduced by 6%, or less than 4% of global GHG emissions. Besides being of no use in addressing climate change, nuclear energy actually undermines the development and introduction of effective measures to avert global warming: increase of energy efficiency and promotion of renewables. Furthermore, centralized electric power systems based on nuclear energy obstruct the introduction of small-scale and decentralized energy systems.

This message must be communicated clearly and insistently to the people of the Asian region. Asia is viewed by proponents of nuclear power as one of the most promising regions for construction of new nuclear power plants, so it is vital that we counter their propaganda. Judging from the success of NNAF08, there is every reason to be optimistic.

Philip White (NIT Editor)

Information from Country Presentations at NNAF08
Indonesia (Dian Abraham, MANUSIA)
“After the fall of Soeharto, and despite the sentiment of anti New Order regime during the so-called reform era, the nuke plan was covertly prepared by the same advocates of nuclear in BATAN and its newly-formed counterpart, Bapeten (Nuclear Regulatory Board), as well as the Ministry of Research and Technology.”

“In 2004 the Minister of Research and Technology announced the revival of the plan to build nuclear power plants…A year later, the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources confirmed the plan by issuing the Blueprint of National Energy Management 2005-2025. By the signing of Presidential Regulation no. 5 year 2006, the plan has become a final decision of the executives.”

“According to the new scenario, nuclear energy is classified under the category of “new and renewable energy”. The role of this category shall increase from 0.2% in 2005 to 4.4% by 2025. Nuclear energy will share almost half of it, about 2%. The bidding for the first two plants is scheduled in 2008 and the construction will be started in 2010. By 2016, the first NPP is expected to be in operation, followed by the second and so on until 2025.”

“Similar to the non-transparencies of the nukes plan during 1990s, the plan today is somewhat unclear…1. Muria NPP plan in Balong village, Jepara district, Central Java province…2. Nuclear Desalination Plants in Madura Island, East Java province…3. Floating NPP plan in Gorontalo province, northern part of Sulawesi Island…4. NPP in East Kalimantan…”

Thailand (Santi Choakchaichamnankit, Alternative Energy Project for Sustainability)
“In early 2007, the military government has approved the new Power Development Plan (PDP). The PDP proposes a long-term national power development plan in the next 15 years. According to the plan, the government would be committed by its policy to build 4,000 MW nuclear power plants in the year 2020-2021.”

“In order to operate the nuclear power within the year 2020, the government has planned four-phase action plans:
Phase 1 (2008 – 2010): Conducting public campaign; public relations
to achieve public acceptance of nuclear power
Phase 2 (2011 – 2013): Setting up the nuclear power plant projects
Phase 3 (2014 – 2019): Having nuclear power plant constructions
Phase 4 (2020 – 2021): Operating nuclear power plants.”

“The government has not yet specified the prospect locations to construct the power plants. However we realize that their targeted locations would be around Chumporn, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Sri Thammarat in the southern part of Thailand, in which the people are not aware about this issue.”

“For the past few years, we have established the Sustainable Energy Network Thailand (SENT) in order to campaign about the state’s shortcoming energy policy. Our network consists of a number of small NGOs that are AEPS, Palang Thai, Confederation of Consumer Organization Thailand, and some academics.”

South Korea (Lee Heon-Seok, Korea Eco-Center)
Twenty reactors are now operating. According to the 2008 Nuclear Power White Paper, eight new reactors, including six currently under construction, will be completed by 2016. Four of these are APR 1400s, two of which are currently under construction. In addition, a further two APR 1400s are planned to be completed by 2020.

A life extension has been completed for Kori-1 and is planned for Kori-2 and Wolsung-1.
The National Energy Master Plan, which the government is now preparing, proposes to increase the “nuclear power equipment rate” from 26% in 2007 (17,716 MW nuclear out of a total of 68,268 MW) to 29% in 2020 and 37~42% in 2030.

The new South Korean government is very keen to develop a nuclear fuel cycle based on pyro-processing.

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