Taikichiro Mori Memorial Research Grants

Graduate Student Researcher Development Grant

Research Project Report

Dear President: I would like to submit the following report:

Application Date 2014 / 02 / 10

Name of the Research Project: Energy Security, The Japanese Dilemma after 3/11

Name of the Research Project Leader: Avalos Salgado Andrea Carolina

Following the Fukushima incident in March of 2011, Japan has been struggling securing the energy needed to cover the national consumption. Given the facts that Japan heavily relies on imported fossil fuels, and that the nuclear energy used to fill 1/3rd of the total consumption, the closure of the nuclear reactors impacted negatively on the already declining economy.

By the end of 2012, LDP got back into power and Prime Minister Abe has stated that, since economy must be rescued, the country is not ready to give up on nuclear. Furthermore, projects to build new reactors have been approved, and in recent days Abe has been promoting overseas the safe use of nuclear energy.

Compared to the original research plan, I decided to narrow my objectives to the situation in Kashiwazaki-city. Given this change in my research, the fieldwork changed from different locations (Tokyo, Ohi, etc.) to only this one. Also, the question switched to how the people perceive the restarting process of the Nuclear Power Plant in that location, given the community’s relation to this plant.

Thanks to the resources that Taikichiro Mori Memorial Research Grant kindly allowed me to go through the following points. These are the points I originally proposed for this grant, and how the resources allowed covering them

- Give an analysis of the current situation for Kashiwazaki’s energy panorama

For this point, the first thing to note about this location is that they do not depend on TEPCO for their own electricity. The price of electricity is not directly affected for the closure of those NPP, but for those belonging to Tohoku Electricity.

Kashiwazaki has been considered an energy city even before the establishment of the NPP. There is a refinery that is still pumping oil and natural gas, increasingly after 3/11.

- Determine how the community people feel about this turn back into nuclear

The main concern when discussing the issue of restarting a NPP, is that the people is worried whether it is safe or not. There are many interests aside safety. The reliance of the city on the NPP is very big, considering the direct employment, indirect employment, and the service sector. Politically speaking, the mayor of this city has not expressed any specific position, and rather is waiting for the results in the national level. The governor, on the other hand, has being opposing to this restart and has being very critic on TEPCO’s actions.

The public opinion is divided into those for, against, have not decided yet, and do not care. Excluding the last ones, the other three groups have being moving on their own, trying to build an explanation. These groups tend to be more information/academic oriented, rather than for or against. Constantly they are organizing events and talks for the people to be well, or at least better, informed regarding the risks of living in a “nuclear town�.

- Find out if the public opinion represents a significant determinant in shaping the current energy policy

At the national level the economic interest has proved to shape the energy policy. In this case, I have decided to focus rather on the previous point. The public opinion has been too broad in regards of shaping a policy, which is national level. In case of revising the Kashiwazaki’s case only, the public opinion has not been directly perceived in the previous restarting process. At that time, same as now, the public has directed their opinion to the local government.

Thanks to the fieldwork I have recover a number of texts on how the community has expressed their opinion. As considering the size of the population, those who are directly involved in the events on public opinion show a majority against. Nevertheless, they still represent a minority when compared to the total population.

On a second level, the Grant was also allocated for the expenses on participating in Abu Dhabi Sustainable Week. This set of conferences is focused on the energy sector, and how to take the best of it affecting our environment the least. This event is sponsored mainly by Masdar, an UAE company specialized in renewable energies.

The particular event to which I was invited to participate was the Young Leaders Debate. This debate was conformed by international students from different backgrounds, looking for a proposal for 2020. The format was to take position as a decision maker in different levels, and come up with the best solution for the people involved in such decision.