Statement Calling for the Ceasing of Operations of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plants

May 20, 2002

Atsushi Shimokoube
(Former Vice Minister of the National Land Agency)
Yukika Souma
( Vice Chairperson of Yukio Ozaki Memorial Foundation)
Toshiro Nishigori
( Former Vice Chairman of the Japan Association of Solar Thermal Utilization)
Akira Hasegawa
(Former Chairman of Plasma Department, American Physics Society)
Seiichi Mizuno
Former Member of the House of Councilors)
Mitsuhei Murata
(Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland)

This statement signed by the above members calls upon the leaders and people of Japan to initiate immediate action to prevent a catastrophic accident at the Hamaoka nuclear plants run by Chubu Electric Company, and located at the center of a source region where a M8 earthquake is predicted.

Last November, Hamaoka Unit 1 had a pipe rupture accident in its Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS). Two days later, a radioactive water leak was found from the reactor vessel of the same unit. The exact causes of the pipe rupture are yet to be clarified. These serious accidents substantially undermine, once again, the credibility of the nuclear power industry.

Dr. Kiyoo Mogi, an honorary professor emeritus of Tokyo University, and former chairman of the Coordination Committee for Earthquake Prediction and also former chairman of the Earthquake Assessment Committee for Tokai Earthquake gave warnings about the Hamaoka nuclear plants in relation to the predicted Tokai Earthquake. He wrote four articles in the editorials of Shizuoka newspaper dated November 13 and December 9, 2001, and March 5 and June 5, 2002. The following are the main points from Dr. Mogi's articles.

  1. Compared to the very stable ground of western nations where most nuclear plants are located, the ground in Japan is quite unstable and big earthquakes frequently occur.
  2. As we have seen from the experience of 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Disaster, the so-called the "Safety myth" about earthquake-resistant structure is not dependable. Each time a big earthquake occurs, revisions are repeatedly made on earthquake-resistance standards. It is a fact that we can never avoid uncertainty regarding the earthquake resistance issue.
  3. The Coordination Committee for Earthquake Prediction has been pointing out the possibility of a M8 class earthquake in the Tokai region since 1969. Consequently, the entire nation has been making efforts to predict the Tokai Earthquake and mitigate its foreseen disasters. In the meantime, four nuclear plants have been constructed one after another at the center of the predicted source region. This is simply an abnormal situation and can never be accepted.

It is extremely regrettable that these persuasive warnings have never been taken seriously by the parties concerned. Regarding the possibility of a nuclear disaster caused by an earthquake, it was first announced by a professor of seismology, Katsuhiko Ishibashi of Kobe University in the October 1997 edition of "The Science" published by Iwanami Shoten.

Japan was the first victim of the military use of nuclear energy. However, our country is still promoting civil use of nuclear energy, without taking any lessons from frequent serious accidents including the criticality accident in Tokaimura in 1999. It is as if we are now treading the path towards becoming a victim country because of the civil use of nuclear energy. The reason why we have decided to issue our statement is to prevent such a situation by any means possible.

Even if we are able to stop operation of a nuclear reactor immediately, it will take approximately three months to let the decay heat to settle down under the safety level. In other words, if the cooling mechanism does not function properly during that period, there is a high possibility that a core meltdown will take place.

Imagine a situation in which a Chernobyl-class accident occurs in Japan. Unlike the former Soviet Union, we do not have any system that enables the mobilization of nearly 900,000 people to overcome the accident. There would be immeasurable consequences, not only on the current generation, but also on generations to come. In addition, we cannot expect any rescue teams from overseas at the accident site, where controlling the situation would most likely be impossible. There would be a huge scale of radiation damage not only on citizens, but also on related industries, local municipalities, fire and police department personnel and the Self Defense Forces.

When it comes to a nuclear disaster caused by an earthquake, it will be impossible to overcome the aftermath of the accident, which could lead to a situation in which “Japan destroys the world.” It is self-evident that Hamaoka nuclear power plant should be made to cease operations at the earliest opportunity, whatever the costs.

After September 11, 2001, it has become commonly recognized that more than 430 nuclear plants and nuclear facilities such as reprocessing plants could become weapons of mass destruction once they become the targets of terrorism. It is manifested by the unanimous agreement reached by the New York City Council on March 19 to study the possibility of closing the Indian Point nuclear plants. Before reaching this agreement, 30 municipalities and two counties came up with their own resolutions and some environmental groups gathered 7000 petition signatures from local citizens. In western nations, we can see that civil society has played a key role in making nuclear phase-out a main current.

Japan is now facing a numerous of problems- a stagnating economy, the deepening unemployment issue, widespread social destruction and so forth. But the nuclear disaster caused by an earthquake is a problem incomparable with these. It could cause catastrophic consequences to the people of Japan. This notwithstanding, the sense of crisis is totally lacking among the people. This current situation needs to be corrected immediately.

Even if we close all the nuclear plants in Hamaoka, we can cover the electricity demand sufficiently. If private companies suffer from a large amount of losses due to the ceasing of operations of the nuclear plants, the government and local municipalities should provide them with compensation from the standpoint of disaster prevention and crisis management, as is the case in western nations. Needless to say, it should be the top priority for those who are engaged in politics, to protect the lives and properties of the people.

In order to solve this problem in such a direction, each one of us should recognize our responsibility and engage in action. What is now needed is the initiation of a process in which citizens create a public opinion, calling for the ceasing of operations of the Hamaoka nuclear plants and, local municipalities, against this background, acting in consequence. This will eventually move the central government. We sincerely hope leaders and every citizen in Japan will stand up and initiate action to achieve this goal.