All Japan Civil Society Rally on Nuclear Waste ~ Part 2: Panel Discussion and Rally Appeal

By Takano Satoshi (CNIC)


Following the first part of the report of the May 27–8 All Japan Civil Society Rally on Nuclear Waste, which appeared in the previous issue of Nuke Info Tokyo, this article mainly introduces events on the second day of the rally, focusing on the panel discussion. It also includes the rally appeal, which demands the government fundamentally change the current final waste disposal policy and legislation.

Panel Discussion

Entitled “The Responsibilities of Current Generations — In Protest against the Accelerated Disposal Site Selection Procedure by the Government,” the panel discussion was chaired by CNIC co-director Ban Hideyuki. The panelists were Aoki Miki, a journalist originally from Sapporo, Hokkaido; Okamura Lila, professor at Senshu University, who has detailed knowledge of the radioactive waste policy in Germany; Teramoto Tsuyoshi, professor at Chuo University and an expert in intergenerational ethics, and Hasegawa Koichi, professor emeritus, Tohoku University, who participated in the preparation of Policy Recommendations for the Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Waste, compiled by the Science Council of Japan in 2012.

The discussion began with the irrationality of the current high level waste (HLW) final disposal policy, which keeps the final total volume of the waste undetermined. Okamura pointed out that while Germany has stopped the reprocessing of nuclear waste and ended nuclear power generation, thereby determining the total amount of nuclear waste, the Japanese government insists on a “nuclear fuel cycle policy,” whose feasibility is unknown, and continues to promote nuclear power generation, causing the Japanese HLW disposal policy to involve too many uncertainties. Hasegawa explained that promoting a policy that lacks a social consensus is preposterous and that the government’s disposal site recruitment practice itself, whose purpose is to continue nuclear power generation, raises social disbelief in the disposal policy. He proposed that, as a primary step to building a social consensus, the total volume of the nuclear waste must be determined.

To make up for the irrational premises of the policy, the government promotes it high-handedly, resorting to subsidies. Teramoto introduced “justice of participation,” which is one of the rules of environmental justice. The core of the justice of participation is people’s autonomous decision making, and to ensure this, it is necessary not only to provide them with correct information but also to enable them to make decisions based on a full understanding of the information. What the Japanese government is doing is to pass the words down unilaterally while waving subsidies under the noses of locals, manipulating their decision-making practices. Aoki indicated that the government and power companies have the know-how on selecting nuclear plant candidate sites by waving subsidies and by persuading locals, and that those who have such know-how are in action in Suttsu and Kamoenai. Okamura explained that the German government promotes its siting policy not by presenting the concept of subsidies but by offering compensations. Namely, the German government may provide compensations for the damage that may occur from the construction of a repository but does not use the money as an incentive for the acceptance of the siting.

The panel indicated the necessity of placing stress on ethical points of view as a countermeasure against the promotion of irrational policies. Teramoto mentioned that the concept of intergenerational ethics, which analyzes the conduct of current generations from the viewpoint of future generations who are yet to be born, is crucial. What is critical in this respect is that the current HLW disposal policy, which is required to ensure safety for a period of hundreds of thousands of years to come, must consider uncertainties as the premises.

The burial disposal policy may be ethical in a sense; the beneficiaries, namely, the current generation who have produced nuclear waste, can thereby carry out the responsibility of waste disposal that does not leave risks to future generations. This may be reasonable in light of fair burden sharing. Teramoto, however, indicated that burial disposal is problematic in terms of fair decision making. According to him, an ethical attitude should be to leave the decision open to future generations, because the disposal of nuclear waste involves highly uncertain issues. He said that it is in a sense irresponsible that the current generation makes the decision of labeling geographical burying as the only possible method without considering uncertainties. According to Teramoto, it is an undeniable fact that once radioactive waste is produced, there is no intergenerational ethics that satisfies fairness both in burden sharing and in decision making, and that it is better in terms of intergenerational ethics to temporarily store radioactive waste, instead of finally disposing of it, and to leave the option of making a more suitable choice to future generations.

Likewise, Hasegawa said that it is irresponsible to try to determine the location of a final disposal site based on unestablished scientific knowledge and that the only resolution available at present is to store the waste temporarily. He further mentioned the importance of establishing a group of independent scientists to discuss this issue.

A final topic of the panel discussion was how to realize a social consensus. Aoki indicated that the attitude of the government is problematic in that it does not listen to citizens and asked if it has ever tried to make reasonable efforts to shape a consensus. She also said that, as can be seen in the controversy of contaminated water release from Fukushima Daiichi, it is necessary to closely monitor the government, which may overturn the agreement once reached with locals. Teramoto mentioned that even if civil movements against governmental policies occur, it is undesirable if the pro-and-con division leads to a total disappearance of communication, and that the authorities, who tend to be tough on opponents, should change that attitude because it works negatively against consensus building.

According to Okamura, the importance of a social consensus is recognized in Germany, and locals’ rights to hire their own experts and review builders’ reports are established as part of the siting process when an investigation for siting is conducted in a region. Unlike in Japan, locals are not thought of as the subjects of persuasion, but regarded as independent surveyors, Okamura concluded.

Appeal on High-level Radioactive Waste

Following various issues addressed during the panel discussion, a rally appeal was adopted unanimously by the attendees to demand that the government effect a fundamental policy change. The appeal consists of six proposals. The first is to stop nuclear power generation, thereby determining the total waste volume and enabling long-term storage. Freedom from nuclear power generation should be established as soon as possible to minimize nuclear waste. Giving up the geographical burying method for now, because it involves uncertainties, and by providing a long-term storage period without setting a time limit, will enable a sufficiently long time for discussion.

Secondly, the responsibility of power companies as waste producers and the responsibility of the national government must be clearly stated. The waste producers should carry the primary responsibility for the waste. However, in consideration of the special characteristics of the waste, making it necessary to be placed under control for hundreds of thousands of years, the national government’s responsible involvement and the establishment of a public body should be discussed in a way that will not end up exempting power companies from their responsibilities.

Thirdly, intergenerational ethics and interregional fairness should be considered. Radioactive waste will be merely a negative heritage for future generations who will not use nuclear power, and ethical practices should be exercised to minimize the generation of radioactive waste. Radioactive waste already produced should be controlled in consideration of interregional fairness. The vitrified radioactive waste stored in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, is scheduled to be relocated out of the prefecture by 2045 based on the agreement signed by the prefecture, the village, and Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL). As the time limit is approaching, discussion is required to determine whether the waste will be continually stored at the site or whether another site should be sought. As have been seen, the subsidiary-waving site selection process will lead to divisions in candidate regions and should be avoided. To determine where to store vitrified radioactive waste and spent radioactive waste, comprehensive discussion that will encourage the formation of a social consensus will be the only approach to finding a solution.

Fourthly, the establishment of an expert body is desired to discuss the various issues mentioned previously and to raise public opinion. The body should, of course, be a third-party organization independent of the authorities that promote nuclear power. Economic, scientific, technological, political, social, environmental and cultural aspects should be considered in fair proportions, and to realize such a decision-making process, not only experts should be involved but also deliberative democracy methods that will encourage citizen participation and discussion should be used, such as deliberative polling, thus raising public opinion.

Fifthly, a new research framework is required to enable the storage of radioactive waste over a prolonged period. In the current Japanese legislation, “high-level radioactive waste” only includes vitrified radioactive waste and transuranic (TRU) waste. This should be modified and a framework focusing also on the storage of radioactive waste resulting from Fukushima Daiichi should be established. The consolidation of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) and Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) will be inevitable.

Sixthly, to provide this appeal with a legal endorsement, the current Designated Radioactive Waste Final Disposal Act should be abolished and a new legislative structure should be prepared. The details of the appeal are available at our website.


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