We strongly protest extension of operating period of nuclear power plants

October 11, 2022
Tsuyoshi Masuda
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has begun to consider revising a law to enable the operating period of nuclear power plants to be extended over 40 years on the grounds of a stable power supply. At a press conference on October 5, Shinsuke Yamanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), expressed his approval of the proposed amendment. We firmly protest the policy of the government and the NRA to disregard the safety of nuclear power plants and to remove the upper limit of their operating period.

Nuclear power plants initially had no upper limit for their operation period. Based on lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, however, the government stipulated in the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law that the period should be no longer than 40 years in principle and that it can be extended once up to 20 years if approved by the NRA. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida declared his intention to amend this provision and stated that it should be reviewed to reach a conclusion by the end of this year.

The NRA, which has jurisdiction over the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law, has taken the position that it will not be involved in determining the operation period as it is a “government decision”. However, the NRA was originally established, in accordance with Article 3 of the National Government Organization Act, as a highly-independent body separated from the METI, the promoter of nuclear power generation, based on lessons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. If the NRA approves the government policy and allows the METI to intervene in discussions of the legislative revision, its independence will be jeopardized.

Prime Minister Kishida has been promoting nuclear power generation by stating, “maximum use of nuclear energy,” “construction of new nuclear power plants,” and “restart of nuclear power plants.” Eleven years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, many people have not been able to return to their hometowns or receive adequate compensation for their losses. Decommissioning of the reactors has no end in sight, and the amount of water contaminated with radioactive materials continues to increase. The government must have realized that once a nuclear power plant accident occurs, it will be difficult to bring the situation under control. It must not forget the lessons from the disaster or push forward with the promotion of nuclear power plants.

The Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions is determined to support victims of the nuclear accident and build solidarity with a wide range of people in efforts to achieve the closure of all nuclear power plants and shift to renewable energy sources.