Report International Conference to review the Crisis at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants in the Aftermath of the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan GRIPS, 17th March 2011
Introduction The special mock session of the International Conference to review the crisis at Fukushima nuclear plants in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan on the 11th of March, 2011, was held on 17th March, 2011. The Conference took place at National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo. Twenty-three representatives from 12 countries participated in the conference, who were divided into eight groups. Please refer to Annexure 1 for the list of participants. The meeting also acknowledged and appreciated Professor Masayuki Komatsu for his much needed guidance and advice. Opening proceedings A. Opening statement by the Secretariat: Professor Masayuki Komatsu delivered the opening statement on behalf of the Secretariat. He expressed his gratitude for all the participants who gathered at a time of great anxiety in the aftermath of the unprecedented natural disaster and the resulting crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plants. In the opening remarks, he briefly described the damage to the nuclear power plants at Fukushima Prefecture caused by the massive tsunami triggered by the earthquake and the steps being undertaken by the government of Japan to deal with the possible threat of nuclear radiation from the damaged plants. He also explained the special character of the meeting and clarified the objectives of the session. He encouraged all participants to be fully involved in the deliberations so as to make the session as fruitful as possible.
B. Election of Chairperson, Vice-chairperson and the Rapporteurs: The participants elected Mr. Mukhtar Paras from Pakistan as the Chairperson, Mr. Dorin Panfil from Moldova as Vice-chairperson and Mr. Muhammad Tayyab Abdullah, Mr. Khalil-ur-Rehman along with Ms. Magdalena Rokosz from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Poland respectively as rapporteurs. 1
C. The Chairpersonâ€™s address: The Chairperson of the mock session thanked all participants for their readiness to cooperate and discuss the aftermath of the tragedy which hit Japan. He offered his deepest condolences to the people and government of Japan for the extensive loss of life and property on behalf of the representatives of the international community gathered in the mock session. The Chairperson highlighted that the international community stood ready to help Japanese people in the crisis and truly believed that people of Japan will overcome this tragedy.
D. Adoption of agenda items: The Chairperson proposed three agenda points for discussion to the participants. After some deliberations and slight amendments, the following three agenda points were unanimously agreed upon: 1. Interaction with the embassies of the respective countries together with the view points on the current situation in Tokyo 2. The possible ways and means of providing help to the affected population 3. The future of nuclear power plants
AGENDA ITEM 1: Interaction with the embassies of the respective countries together with the view points on the current situation in Tokyo
The general statement regarding the current situation in Japan was made by the representative of Bangladesh from Group H. He also stated that at first the government of Bangladesh thought of shifting its embassy from Tokyo to Osaka but later on decided against it. Representatives from Group G highlighted the difference between the reaction to the crisis among the embassies of the respective countries. Some of them claimed that the steps taken by European countries were different from those taken by Asian countries. However, representatives from group C asserted that the difference in the procedures adopted by each embassy varied from one country to another and there was no division between European and Asian behavior in this connection.
Representatives of Group B pointed out that they were facing lack of information and were confronted with contradictory reports; the accounts of major western news channels didnâ€™t concur with the information provided by the Japanese government. Group A members added that they were not getting enough information from Japanese news channels in English. They proposed that English subtitles should be given for each of the important press conferences by the Japanese authorities. The participants from Group E observed that this lack of information was leading towards panic in the foreigners who canâ€™t understand Japanese. Group F emphasized the need for putting more concrete and detailed information by the Japanese governmental agencies online.
Members of Group B maintained that despite assurance by the Japanese government that there was no danger to population in Tokyo from radiation leakage in Fukushima, some European countries like France have told their citizens to evacuate from there. This, they believed showed that some countries were unwilling to fully trust the credibility of the information provided by the Japanese government. Finally, the representatives from Group D maintained that the decision to evacuate was based more on an over cautious approach rather than any verifiable scientific data. The Japanese government was in a position to be best informed about the ground situation and it had a very good track record of providing credible information. Therefore, there was no reasonable ground for treating the facts and figures provided by the Japanese government with suspicion. They also suggested that a Crisis Communication Cell should be established by the Japanese Foreign Ministry which should circulate updated information regarding the situation at the power plants with particular emphasis on the levels of radiation in and around them to all the embassies on a regular basis.
AGENDA ITEM 2: Possible ways and means of providing assistance to the affected population
Professor Komatsu explained to the participants prior to the discussion on the agenda point that they should try to focus on both short term assistance like provision of food, medical support etc. and long term assistance like reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.
Group E initiated the discussion by stating that first of all the embassies of the respective countries should try to control panic among their citizens by appealing for calm. In this 3
connection, the embassies need to remain in close contact with their citizens so that the incessant rumour mongering can be thwarted.
Representatives from Group B pointed out that the Japanese government should be asked about the nature and quantity of the required items which fall in the category of short term assistance such as clean drinking water, food, clothes, medicine etc. so that the most needed items can be provided on priority. They cited the Korean governmentâ€™s provision of boric acid to be used as cooling agent for the nuclear reactors. This, they argued was an effective example of providing assistance that was emergently required.
Participants from Group A maintained that because of the difficulties involved in providing emergency help such as lack of Japanese speaking volunteers and coordination with the Japanese relief teams, it will be more appropriate to focus on long term approaches such as the assistance in reconstruction of the destroyed buildings, roads and rehabilitation of the affected communities.
AGENDA ITEM 3: The future of nuclear power plants
The Vice-chairperson presided over the discussion on the fourth agenda item. After observing a moment of silence for the victims of the tragic disaster, the floor was opened for deliberation.
Group D took the initiative by emphasizing the fact that crises similar to Fukushima had occurred before in the former USSR (Chernobyl) and even the USA (Three Mile Islands). This, the representatives argued highlighted the need for greater regulations for nuclear safety at power plants and monitoring by international watchdogs such as IAEA. Thus, it was proposed that all future nuclear reactors should be constructed under strict supervision of the IAEA and the safety mechanisms at the existing ones should be reviewed and regularly monitored by the same agency.
Group H pointed out that owing to the gravity of the prospect of radiation leakage, Germany has decided to decommission as many as seven of its nuclear power plants. The participants 4
contended that perhaps other countries should also review their policy of expanding nuclear energy facilities.
Members from Group B suggested that the crisis at Fukushima should not be viewed with a hyperbolic approach and any decision about the future of nuclear energy should be taken rationally rather than emotionally. They maintained that it was widely recognized that global energy demand would rise substantially in the coming days. Moreover, the increased industrialization and urbanization of developing countries will produce large increases in energy demand in regions that currently have very low per capita energy use. Nuclear reactors provide a very cheap source of energy provided they are operated with the highest level of safety precautions. They further stated that information sharing regarding nuclear technology between the developed and developing countries to promote nuclear safety was not feasible as many developed countries were apprehensive of sharing nuclear related information for fear of proliferation.
Group C observed that it was still too early to learn a lesson from the events in Fukushima power plants as an in-depth and objective analysis of the impact of the nuclear crisis was yet to emerge.
Participants from Group A emphasized the fact that the use of fossil fuel based energy has been identified as a major cause of environmental pollution; it contributes greatly to global warming and it is widely recognized that continued exploitation of fossil fuels and release of carbon dioxide would need to be controlled. Therefore, nuclear energy is cleaner and still remains a viable alternative to environmentally harmful fossil fuel energy.
Participants from Group E and F recognized the utility of nuclear energy and contended that the world should continue its use and construction of nuclear power plants. However in order to make nuclear reactors safer, the global application of safety standards and appropriate security measures are required to ensure acceptable levels of protection considering the latest Fukushima Daiichi accident. In this way, the cost benefit ratio of nuclear power plants can be further improved.
Finally, Mr. Mukhtar Paras from Pakistan proposed a motion to the house declaring that the use of nuclear energy should be continued together with research in the nuclear sector to make power plants safer and more secure. The resolution was accepted by a majority vote, with only four participants from Pakistan, Iceland, Indonesia and Uzbekistan opposing it. The participant from Pakistan was given a chance to make his statement of dissent on behalf of the four opposing participants. He contended that though the production of nuclear energy was cheap as compared to traditional sources, relatively greater expenditure was required for setting up nuclear power plants as compared to thermal or hydral plants. Besides, recurring accidents at nuclear plants such as the Fukushima episode prove that not only fossil fuels but also nuclear energy posed grave environmental hazards such as radioactive contamination of the atmosphere, soil and water. However, the nature of nuclear accidents is so sudden and pervasive that the damage that fossil fuels can cause in years or decades, can be done by a leakage in nuclear reactors with a single bang. After the dissenting statement by the participant from Pakistan, the Chair concluded the conference with a vote of thanks for the participants.
In the backdrop of nuclear disaster of March 2011 that happened in Fukushima, a conference was convened at Tokyo to discuss the situation. T...