Review of PhD Thesis “Public Participation in Japan’s Nuclear Energy Policy-forming Process: Comparison of pre- and post-Fukushima processes” by Philip White -Nuke Info Tokyo No.166

Many readers of NIT will have little trouble recognizing Philip as the international liaison officer for the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) and editor of NIT for seven years, including at the time of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Following his return to Australia, Philip studied for a PhD in Asian Studies at the School of Social Sciences, the University of Adelaide, and completed his thesis, the subject of this review, in December 2014.

The thesis is just under 500 double-spaced pages in length, the main text being about 380 pages. The first two chapters address theoretical aspects of public participation and the status of public participation in Japan, both at the national and local levels. In Chapters 3 and 4, on pre- and post-Fukushima public participation in Japan’s nuclear energy policy-forming process, Philip has done a remarkably detailed job of documenting the history of public participation from the early 1990s to the present day.

Pre-1990s, the history of the nuclear energy policy-forming process in Japan was a kind of ‘underground’ history, since for the first 40 years of Japan’s nuclear energy program there was no institutionalised framework for public participation at a national level. During that period the entire official policy-forming process was conducted behind closed doors. Even after that time, despite a certain degree of public participation, the history was still at least partially underground, since policy formation itself and public attempts to influence policy formation very rarely surfaced in the national media.

As we know, this situation underwent a drastic change after the earthquake/tsunami on March 11, 2011, which triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident. Very suddenly, the Japanese public woke up to the surprising fact that there were 54 (or had been) commercial nuclear reactors on Japanese soil. (I have to admit that before the earthquake I could not have given you an accurate figure for the number of nuclear reactors in Japan, which I think shows just how far nuclear energy policy was ‘underground’ before 2011.)

The thesis then documents public action to influence nuclear energy policy post-Fukushima and, in Chapter 5, suggests future directions for public participation. Philip’s thesis therefore represents possibly the first attempt at a detailed chronological documentation of the Japanese public’s attempts to influence nuclear energy policy formation in Japan. It is definitely a document that everyone interested in Japan’s nuclear issues, or nuclear issues elsewhere, should read and/or use as a reference. The thesis also contains a wealth of detail about policy-making in Japan that scholars in other fields will find useful.

Hopefully, Philip will be able to publish the material in the thesis as a book for the general reader, but that may take a year or two. In the meantime, if you are interested in reading the thesis, please contact NIT and we will forward your request to the author.

(Tony Boys, Translator and proofreader of Nuke Info Tokyo)

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