Saturday, July 16, 2011

Japan On Its Way To Nuke Free Society (1): Summary of Public Polls

World Trend in Anti-Nuclear Power

Japanese version of this blog previously introduced a summary of the Gallup Poll on nuclear power plants in many countries reported on 4/19/11. In this catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, anti-nuclear power plant became majority of public opinions in many countries, and the World seems to have begun awakened from the Nuclear Renaissance.

Even these countries, the United States and France, where public opinions had been strongly leaned toward pro-nuke stance for long years, are going through much change in people's opinions. In the United States, ABC conducted a public opinion survey from 4/14/11 to 4/17/11. According to the survey, people who agreed on building more nuclear power plants marked 33% (previously it was 44% on the same survey in July 2008) whereas people who opposed to new plants marked 64%, increasing from 53% in the previous survey. Also, those who "strongly" opposed to building new plants went double from 23% to 47%. In France, Journal du Dimanche conducted a survey from 6/1/11 to 6/3/11, and the result shows only the 22% supported in maintaining the strong reliance in nuclear power, 62% in gradually decreasing the existed plants, 15% in immediately stopping all the plants, which totaled amazing 77% in the anti-nuclear power sentiment in a country where most of electricity is relied on nuclear power.

In Germany and Italy, which have gone ahead for the anti-nuke movement as we know, the governments have decided to phase out from all the nuclear power plants in the countries. In Germany on 7/8/11, the nuclear exit law was established, and it decides for immediately closing already non-operating 8 reactors and stopping all operating reactors within 10 years. In Italy where there already are no nuclear power plants, the national referendum resulted in 94% on opposing reopening of nuclear power plants in the future.

Japanese Public Polls on Nuclear Power: Landslide Trend in Anti-Nuclear Opinions

How about the very country that is facing the nuclear catastrophe? In sum, Japan went through a dramatic change from pro-nuke to anti-nuke stance in a short time period after the 311. I describe this as a dramatic and blasting change that we have never seen in the Japanese history. The change accelerated from the end of April to the beginning to May, and the movement was led by women. Currently, majority of public opinions shows 1) disapproval on restarting nuclear power operation in current conditions, 2) call for phase-out from all nuclear power plants within 5 to 10 years, and 3) call for renewable natural energies as the next generation of power.
Below is a summary of public polls conducted by Japanese mainstream newspapers.

Pro Nuclear Power = Building more nuclear power plants + Maintaining the status quo 
Anti Nuclear Power = Phasing out of nuclear power + Immediately stopping all nuclear power plants

Asahi Newspaper has conducted a survey which simply has two options on either agree or disagree on the use of nuclear power. In this method, results can frequently change from one extreme to another because of moves of those who go between pro and anti-nuke opinions. But, even in this survey method, people who disagree on the use of nuclear power became majority in June. 

Both Yomiuri Newspaper and NHK use a method in which people choose one answer from 4 options. These graphs show anti-nuke opinions, which was still minority by mid-April, went over 60% of the total opinions by mid-June. Also, those who ask for immediate closure of all nuclear power plants are showing a slow but clear increase in the total numbers.   

Mainichi Newspaper's survey uses 3 multiple choices by having only one pro-nuke choice. The Mainichi survey is also unique in having gender differences in the results. It shows that women's anti-nuke stance has been stronger and more consistent, especially in the opinion to immediately stop all nuclear power plants. 

In terms of polls on whether to reoperate nuclear power plants that are tentatively stopped for regular checkups, it also shows current trend in opposing reoperation of nuclear plants. Asahi's question includes a postulate "if safety assessment by the government is achieved" so it cannot be compared with other surveys that do not have such condition. But at the same time, it can be said that more people became critical over restarting nuclear power plants.

Asahi Newspaper's July survey shows that the 58%, who answered for stopping all plants, said these plants should all be stopped within 5 to 10 years. Also note that the 9% who either did not answer or answered "other" might have been dropped out from the 5 to 10 year category. 

People are less and less supportive of the Kan administration since May. The number one reason for this is lack of executive ability, but this itself does not show which policies are making people less supportive of the administration. It, however, can be said that it is nothing to do with Kan's slow yet gradual leaning towards phase-out of nuclear power reliance as it is shown above how majority of people are going to anti-nuke stance. For example, majority of people support Kan's decision on tentatively stopping the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant. The reason of his unpopularity comes from several reasons such as still out-of-control Fukushima Daiichi reactors, on-going spread of radioactive contaminations, concealment of the important information especially the early SPEEDI data that could have lowered health risks of so many people, extremely inhumane safety standard of 20milliSv for children, and so on. So people have lost much trust in the administration even with Kan's slow leaning towards anti-nuke stance.

Chronology of Post-311 Events

I created a chronology of post-311 events in order to understand how public opinions shifted towards the anti-nuclear plant sentiment from the end of April to May.

Earthquake and Tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi Plant; meltdowns started in a few days (but it was concealed by TEPCO and the government)
Explosion at the reactor #1
Explosion at the reactor #3; radiation was vented from the reactor #2
Contamination spread over the Capital and even to Izu Peninsula (the info was concealed)
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare publicized tentative safety standard for radiation in food that is way above the international standard
Severely contaminated water started leaking from a crack at the reactor #2
Highly contaminated water intentionally started being leaked from the plant
Anti-nuke rally at Koenji, Tokyo
Evacuation zone was widened to some areas outside of the 20km circle
Level 7 was announced
PM Kan announced revision of the nuclear power policy
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced 20milliSV/yr as a safety limit
Partial SPEEDI data was finally publicized
Special Advisor to the Cabinet, Kosako, announced resignation by divulgating some critical info that the government had concealed
Grass-roots group "Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation" was established
PM Kan ordered to tentatively stop operations at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant
Anti-nuke rallies in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Fukuoka etc.
Radiation leaking was found at the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant (also another leaking on 5/21)
Air monitoring data of actual contamination in Fukushima was released; Partial WSPEEDI data was released including contamination in the Capital area
PM Kan announced revision of the energy policy
TEPCO admitted meltdown at the reactor #1; Tokyo Newspaper article revealed that lack of electricity was a lie by TEPCO and was just a propaganda for making people believe in fake dependency on nuclear power
TEPCO admitted meltdowns at the reactors #2 and #3
NHK aired ETV Special "Map on Radiation Contamination Created by Networking (by volunteer citizens)"
PM Kan announced a consideration in separating jurisdictions of electric generation from transmission
A group of mothers and fathers especially from Fukushima gathered for a demonstration at the Ministry of Education; Anti-nuke scholars, Prof. Koide and Prof. Ishibashi, and other important anti-nuke figures testified at the Upper House committee hearing
Parliamentary motion of non-confidence against the cabinet was rejected
Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) admitted Plutonium emission from the Fukushima Daiichi Plant
Historical Anti-nuclear rallies happened simultaneously in Japan and all over the world
"Tokyo Association for Saving Children" was established
Electric company urged its employees to email pro-nuke opinions to public safety seminar to make it look like the public supports for restarting of the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant (the news came out on 7/2)
Internal exposure testing started in Fukushima Prefecture
PM Kan announced requirements of Stress Test to measure safety at nuclear plants
Cesium-contaminated beef was found to be sold all over Japan
"National Network for Saving Children from Radiation" was established
PM Kan called for phase-out from nuclear power dependency
Fukushima Prefecture called for phase-out from nuclear power plants; Education Minister, Yoshiaki Takagi, spoke about consideration to stop the Monju Nuclear Power Plant (MOX fueled); Mr. Hirose, anti-nuclear writer, and others filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO and several politicians

In a month after the 311, people in Japan, still in great shock, did not have capacity to think of the magnitudes and impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe, plus information was strictly controlled by the government. In April, more people, especially on internet, began to object what TEPCO, government officials, mainstream media, and patronized scholars are providing to the public. Ordinary people gathered information from Mr. Takashi Hirose, Prof. Hiroaki Koide, scholars from ECRR, Chernobyl researchers, and engineers from Japan and other countries, and we started spreading more reliable information to other citizens through internet. Gradually, information on the Fukushima catastrophe but also on risks of radiation contamination started spreading among many citizens.

The Anti-nuke rally in Tokyo, Koenji, was a turning point as being the first of its kind after the 311 that clearly showed people expressing objections to information that had been provided to the public in the mainstream world. The second important turning point was the announcement of Level 7 for the Fukushima catastrophe. More people started making effort to gather information as doubt and suspicion grew in what they get on mainstream TV and newspapers. The most important event, however, was the battle between the government and parents on the 20milliSv standard. That was how the movement to save children from radiation rapidly expanded from Fukushima to the Greater Tokyo area. The movement is mainly led by mothers. Their campaign includes signature collecting, teach-ins, outreach, measurement of radioactive contamination, political advocacy to local governments, and so on. In addition, more young people who are susceptible to radiation started finding information on internet reliable and trust-worthy though such information from internet had been attacked by pro-nuke media and government as an unreliable lies. Meanwhile, food contamination on leaf vegetables, mushrooms, milk, fish, seaweed, teas, meats, etc. spread and became a real concern. It became clear that contamination is real and it is not a "harmful rumor" that the government has used frequently in order to describe people trying to avoid suspicious food. Data from WSPEEDI and soil measurement, and also information from abroad started proving that radiation contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was not even a matter in only Fukushima and Japan but also the entire Northern Hemisphere. The time that people realized the magnitude of this catastrophe and the time that anti-nuclear power opinions increased do match in the post-311 chronology.

In sum, the Anti-Nuke Movement that is happening in Japan clearly comes from ordinary people's fair and sound judgments in calling for nuke free future and in asking for better governmental interventions in food and soil contamination. The demonstration at Ministry of Education on 5/23/11 and the historical national and international rallies on 6/11/11 helped more people to realize the reality, and now mainstream media is not able to ignore these increasing anti-nuke voices. A series of plans that PM Naoto Kan has announced was also pushed by the anti-nuke public opinions. It is not Naoto Kan who is left alone in the Japanese Society (as it is often said in mainstream media) but it is the "other" pro-nuke politicians who is creating more and more distance from the public opinions. We do welcome Naoto Kan's attempts, yet we do not support the administration who still tries to limit talks for phase-out of nuclear power, minimizes damage of contamination, continues concealing critical data, and avoids interventions to food contamination. Ordinary people in Japan are fiercely asking for the government to change their policies from saving the Nuclear Industry to saving lives and health of its people.