Thursday, May 24, 2012

Japan: 'Secret meeting' on fuel cycle was like gathering of 'nuclear villagers'

A preposterous scene was recently played out behind closed doors in central Tokyo. A secret meeting on Japan's policy for its nuclear fuel cycle, dubbed a "study meeting," was held in the Kasumigaseki district on April 24. Government officials and businessmen from the power industry, who are supposed to draw a sharp line between the two sides, enjoyed chatting and laughing with one another. It was something like a gathering of "nuclear villagers."

A mysterious document was distributed to each participant. The Mainichi's reporting team later found out that the document was in fact the original draft report that was to later be presented to the subcommittee of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).

Shortly after 5 p.m. on April 24 -- at conference room 743 on the seventh floor of the Central Government Building No. 4 -- a reporter witnessed men in business suits filing into the conference room one after another through doors that were kept open. They were all pro-nuclear people from JAEC, the Cabinet Office, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., Tokyo Electric Power Co., etc. There was no one there who was opposed to or cautious about the use of nuclear power.

Holding a pile of documents under his arm, a man in a blue shirt entered the room and put the documents on a desk somewhat roughly. He divided the documents into two piles because if he put them in one stack, it could crumble. One of the piles was about 20 centimeters high and the other about 10 centimeters. It was later found out that the documents were the original draft report for the "Technical Subcommittee on Nuclear Power, Nuclear Fuel Cycle, etc." The draft report was actually discussed at a subcommittee meeting 14 days later.

Two officials from the Cabinet Office distributed one set of the documents to each participant sitting at desks arranged in a square shape. Sitting near the doors, a top official of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which operates the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju, was poring over the documents. Soon afterwards, the participants started chatting with one another. When one of the members criticized Tetsunari Iida, a staunch opponent of nuclear power and head of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), by name, the participants burst into laughter. Read More