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Japan Still Pushing Nuclear Power

New plan changes 40-year limit to 60 years; nuclear opponents outraged

Common Dreams staff

The Japanese government's decision to allow nuclear reactors to run as long as 60 years has anti-nuclear activists worried that lessons of Fukushima have not been learned.

The Japan Times reports:

The central government announced its plan Tuesday, the 17th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe. Under the proposal, once a reactor hits its 40th year, its operator could apply for a one-time extension of up to 20 years under certain conditions.

The plan had been to shut down reactors after 40 years.

Yesterday a group of citizens protested at a nuclear hearing on two reactors. Reuters reports:

In a rare protest, a group of citizen observers delayed for hours a hearing at the trade ministry on Wednesday, at which the nuclear watchdog presented to experts its first completed review of stress test results for two reactors from Fukui prefecture's Ohi nuclear power plant.

The watchdog, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said in a draft report the tests showed the reactors were capable of withstanding a severe shock similar to the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima plant. But the report's review by a panel of experts is set to continue after observers demanded access to the deliberations and questioned the expert panel's impartiality.

The Japan Times notes that nuclear experts believe the extension decision came from political and profit motivations. 

"Deciding to extend the life of the plants to up to 60 years was a purely political decision made due to pressure from the nuclear power lobby. It wasn't based on scientific data. And it was made despite the fact we don't know the exact cause of the meltdowns at Fukushima," said Hiroaki Koide, a nuclear physicist at Kyoto University Reactor Research Institute who turned against nuclear power years ago and wrote extensively before March 11 on the dangers of aging plants in quake-prone Japan. [...]

Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Kyoto-based Green Action, warned that operating reactors for six decades runs a high risk of another Fukushima-like accident occurring and is unnecessary, given that even with about 90 percent of the nation's nuclear plants currently shut down, there is enough electricity.

"The decision is a clear indication that the Japanese government has trashed safety concerns in order not just to protect the utilities from their investments but also to allow them to make even more money on decrepit nuclear plants," she said.

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