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Should we restart nuclear power plants?

The devastating earthquake (magnitude 9.0) and tsunami on March 11, 2011 triggered many problems. The number of dead is 15,854 and 3,155 are still missing after a year. Many of the 344,000 evacuees are still forced to live in temporary housing. The nuclear meltdown and a series of explosions showered 8 % of Japan with radioactive materials. Radiation is still being released into the air and water. This is a serious problem not only for Japan but also for other countries, even our planet.

The last of the reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant in Hokkaido was switched off for routine maintenance on May 5. Now all 54 reactors in Japan (13% of the reactors in the world) are shut down or destroyed. This raised a debate over the country’s nuclear future. Before last year’s triple catastrophic meltdown at the Fukushima Daiich plant, nuclear power supplied a third of Japan’s energy. Japan depended on nuclear power for one-third of its electricity.

The government of Japan and power companies insist that a shortage of electricity generation capacity could lead to mandatory power cuts. Therefore, they want to force the restart of the idled nuclear power plants. In fact, power shortage is expected only at peak periods, such as the middle of the day in hot weather. The urge to restart the nuclear plants is more threat than warning as the stress tests that some plants passed for restarting are based on obscure, possibly irrelevant criteria.

Another controversy arose in Ohi in Fukui prefecture. Nuclear power plants in Fukui supply approximately half of all the electricity used in the greater Kansai region, which includes the cities of Osaka and Kyoto. The government announced that the Ohi plant was safe to operate and that it is necessary to restart it. However, there is still outright opposition from other adjacent prefectures, such as Shiga, Kyoto and Osaka.

Opinion polls on the anniversary of the March 11 disaster found that about 60 % of the people opposed restarting the reactors with 80 % expressing distrust in the new safety measures. However, at the same time, local people living near the nuclear plants have mixed feelings because their lives depend on the nuclear power industry. One said, “Our jobs and daily life are more urgent than a disaster that may occur only once in a million years.”

Past, Present, and Future in Japan

  • The total quantity fission produced radioactive material since the start of nuclear power plants in 1963: 1.2 million times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
  • Possession of plutonium: 4,000 times that of the Nagasaki atomic bomb.
  • What should we do for the future?
    1. We have responsibility to God who made everything to care for the environment of the earth.
    2. We need reliable and capable leaders both in secular and the religious Church world who can evaluate reality critically, comprehensively, and faithfully.