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01-02 July 2011

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ATHENS COUNCIL: Arab world - Middle East peace - nuclear energy

01-02 July 2011

Speech by Mizuho Fukushima, Leader of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, Vice-President of the SI
at the Council meeting of the Socialist International, Athens, 2 July 2011

Good afternoon, everyone. I am Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Japan and a member of the Upper House. It is a great honor for me to be given the opportunity to speak at this meeting today.

Let me begin by stating my grateful thanks for the various assistance Japan has received from countries around the world following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

At 14:46 on March 11, Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, one of the largest tremors ever recorded in our country. The earthquake produced a massive tsunami with a maximum height of 38.9 meters, swamping the coast of the Tohoku Region. 15,000 people died, around 7500 people remain missing, and around 112,000 people have been forced to evacuate.

Most of the fatalities were due not to the earthquake but the subsequent tsunami. "Super flood defenses" had been constructed, but the tsunami easily overwhelmed these barriers drowning many people. The main industries on the Pacific coast of the Tohoku Region are agriculture and fishing, but many fields are no longer viable due to salt from the waves. The tsunami destroyed fishing ports and processing facilities for marine products devastating the area's industrial base and employment.

Many reconstruction programs are currently underway but their pace is slow. These delays are due to the crisis at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant which resulted from the earthquake and tsunami. The nuclear power crisis remains unresolved. As the government is struggling to deal with crisis, it is unable to focus fully on reconstruction efforts.

When the earthquake struck, the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant's operating reactors automatically shutdown but all electrical power was lost and it became impossible to cool the reactor's fuel rods and used nuclear fuel. The crisis is now ranked at level 7, the same level as the Chernobyl disaster. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 have melted down and may even have melted through with nuclear material leaking outside the containment vessel. The damaged power plants released 770,000 tera-becquerels of radiation. The situation is extremely serious.

Currently, residents have been evacuated from within 30 kilometers of the power plant. Villages more than 30 kilometers away have also been evacuated where yearly radiation exposure is 20 millisieverts or more. Despite this, the government has declared that students can commute to schools in Fukushima Prefecture where annual radiation exposure is 20 millisieverts. The Social Democratic Party believes that for the sake of these children's health, further restrictions are required.

The crisis has also resulted in the release of radioactive water into the ocean, but the monitoring of ocean contamination is extremely inadequate. This is another issue our party wishes to address.

Please allow me to apologize for the serious impact that this crisis has had on other countries around the world. The Japanese Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company are currently doing all they can to resolve the crisis but I think they will need to seek knowledge and opinions from abroad.

The Social Democratic Party of Japan has been the only party in Japan consistently pointing out the dangers of nuclear power and calling for its abolishment. The crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has demonstrated not only that once a nuclear accident occurs, human beings cannot control it, but also that a nuclear accident following an earthquake results in enormous difficulties in tackling the accident at the same time as assisting those affected. We should also remember the workers at the nuclear power plant who are suffering considerable radiation exposure.

The accident has shown that anti-earthquake measures at Japanese power plants were insufficient and measures against tsunamis were also inadequate. The Social Democratic Party of Japan repeatedly warned about the dangers and the Japanese government and authorities overseeing nuclear power generation bear a heavy responsibility for failing to take any action despite these warnings. We believe that the current situation is a man-made rather than a natural disaster.

Despite being extremely seismically active, Japan currently has 54 nuclear reactors. The majority are sited in areas where earthquakes are expected. What is more, they are on the coast and vulnerable to tsunamis. The government says that they will build "the world's safest nuclear power plants". However, the power of nature is such that even the world's safest nuclear power plant could cause another accident. The Social Democratic Party of Japan believes that nuclear power plants should not be built anywhere in the world but we think it is particularly dangerous to build nuclear power plants in Japan. Nuclear power should be abandoned. Nuclear technology and human beings cannot live side by side.

Up until two years ago, Japan was ruled by a long-standing Liberal Democratic Party Government that worked together with the civil service and the power industry to pour revenue from taxes and electricity fees into the nuclear industry, rewarding local authorities that accepted nuclear power plants with subsidies and beneficial treatment. That policy must change.

Prime Minister Kan called for the shutdown of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, said to be the most dangerous nuclear power plant in Japan. The plant is now offline. However, at the recent G8 summit, the Prime Minister declared his intention to improve nuclear power safety and maintain the nuclear power industry while also promoting natural energy sources. This policy was decided behind closed doors through internal government discussions. As an extension of this policy, Japan is planning to export nuclear power plants to Vietnam and the United States. I believe we must do all we can to prevent the export of this dangerous technology.

Japan and the international community must learn from the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

The government has recently established an independent accident investigation committee to examine the accident in Fukushima. The Social Democratic Party of Japan believes that, at the very least, nuclear power plants should not be operated until the investigation is complete and the results are used to review safety guidelines and standards, implement new policies and win back the approval of local residents for power plant operations. The Japanese government has also included 28 proposals for improvement in a report submitted to the IAEA. Clearly, safe operations cannot be guaranteed until these measures have been put in place. However, despite the lack of progress on examining these measures and reviewing safety guidelines, the government is deciding nuclear power policy in private and is currently looking to restart some power plants. The Social Democratic Party is strongly opposed to these plans.

The Japanese Government has not learned from the Fukushima accident.

I hope we would all agree this accident demonstrates incidents at nuclear power plants do not simply affect one country but also have a major impact on neighboring countries and other nations worldwide. The crisis at Fukushima is not an issue simply for Japan but for the whole international community.

The Social Democratic Party of Japan has produced an action program for the abolishment of nuclear power which aims to phase out nuclear power plants by 2020 and build a society based on 100% natural energy by 2050.

Japan is strong in natural energy technology fields including solar power, wind power, geothermal power and biomass power. The Social Democratic Party of Japan proposes that 100% of Japan's energy should come from natural sources by 2050.

Japan is technologically advanced, but was still unable to prevent a nuclear power plant accident. Japan and all countries around the world must start to move away from nuclear power. Once a nuclear accident occurs, the scope of the damage has no parallel. The problem of radioactive waste is also insoluble. We are convinced that in Japan, and other countries, we must work towards abolishing nuclear power.

I propose that we all work together to move away from reliance on nuclear power, a dangerous technology with which human beings cannot coexist, and instead invest personnel and financial resources in natural energy to achieve a shift towards more sustainable, people-friendly energy sources. I would ask you all to support taking strong steps away from nuclear power and towards a society based on natural energy so that human beings can live safely through future generations.

I would like to conclude by asking for Socialist International to clearly refer to the abolishment of nuclear power in the Council Resolution and take a leading role in this movement.