Landscape (2015)

Could you tell me your opinion on nuclear power? Sure. Well… Certain people explained that the Fukushima nuclear crisis was caused by an unexpected tsunami. That’s an unresisting and uncomplaining word they coined…(laughs) It’s first of all, unacceptable that no one can settle a crisis. Well, at first, we didn’t disagree with nuclear power.
I was more or less on the side of pro-nuclear power. I thought it was OK because many people got jobs from TEPCO. TEPCO and the government have run into an unbreakable barrier, which even the world has never broken through, that of the Fukushima crisis. It has opened a question- whether we have to have such a thing. The most arguable is the aftermath. How can they restore things? It takes 40 years to decommission the reactors. The government plans to solidify them with concrete and bury them underground, although a feasible disposal location hasn’t been identified yet. Nothing attainable has been presented. They are only hungry to refurbish closed reactors.

Well, regarding the re-opening, we visited the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant the other day. I’m now an old man, but was once an assemblyman. I served this village for a term. So, I once visited it as a politician. Its facilities were enormous. That might be important, but what’s more important is the build-up of risk management. The Governor of the Niigata prefecture often insists the same. (laughs) He has deep-considered opinions on it. A bunch of assemblymen are, oh how should I say… favored by the nuclear power industry, prefectural assemblymen of the Liberal Democratic Party, for example. Perhaps the Mayor of this village would too somehow. He went to university in Tokyo and returned. He runs a petro station. We don’t know if he sells oil to the power plant, but people suspect so. Although it brings them money… money (laughs), once accidents occur, it brings us only catastrophes.

The biggest controversy is the ability to handle accidents and evacuation.
Distribution of iodine is considered the most important first aid, but there isn’t anything more important for us than evacuation. We have to evacuate. We will definitely flee to this direction. The Northeast wind is strong in this area, so we will do so. We actually want to do to Joetsu, but there are a mountain, an express highway, and the Route 8 highway. So, we think that will be overcrowded. Another destination is Yuzawa, but the road conditions won’t allow us to do so. It’s equally important to equip and maintain the infrastructure for smooth evacuation. No one can say that accidents will never occur. No one predicts them. People engaged in the nuclear industry would want to say never. I’m not sure about that. (laughs) The Fukushima crisis did subscribe to the word. It did testify to that fact. Since the crisis, TEPCO has invested so much in counter-risk systems. We have to consider fundamentally, if we truly need nuclear power, pouring such lots of our money into it. As mass media often report, all the nuclear power reactors across Japan have been closed. In fact, we can use air-conditioning and live everyday life without any inconvenience. (laughs) So, I don’t believe we particularly need nuclear power. These days shale gas doesn't look positive, as is the case with nuclear power plant laborers, too. Their health is a serious issue, as exactly it has been problematized. Instead of the nuclear industry, through placing solar panels or wind turbines, many new jobs would be generated. Nuclear power plants are not the only way to provide us jobs. I believe that there will be new jobs after leaving off nuclear power.

When we built our house, solar panels were very expensive, and carpenters said that with them, we wouldn’t make ends meet. But, nowadays, the government and electronic companies buy solar-generated power at a good price. I think it’s profitable enough if placing several panels at several locations. Some companies probably do that here. Niigata prefecture has landmass, like mountains, or, rice fields, which are controlled under the policy of reducing rice acreage. We could replace them. It is good to reduce rice, because that increases its value. (laughs)
Yes, at the end of the day I don’t like nuclear power because it is impossible to handle accidents. ‘Cheaper must be better’ someone would say, but it means nothing. When accidents occur, what the government could do for us is almost nothing at all. Iodine would mean nothing. We have to evacuate somewhere far away. There would be nothing the country could prepare for us.
What do you think of nuclear power?
I can’t agree to having it… Right. Well… how can I tell you? Um, it is a difficulty, because we are handling something we can’t handle the problems with. If we can always solve serious problems or at anytime stop reactors immediately and if radiation never leaks, it is acceptable, although risky. We never can do so in reality. The government is still trying to freeze the soil with underground water at Fukushima Daiichi NPP. I estimate its costs to be outrageous. Its attainability is controversial. Decayed tanks of radioactive contaminated water hang in my head, too - dreadful, allowing it keep dropping into the ocean. It would never be possible to control. I suspect in the end, it would just be released into the ocean. (laughs) It’s not nice to say this… (laughs) We can’t imagine how all those issues will be brought off. The mass media don’t even report on what any other feasible solutions there are. This might be TEPCO’s slovenly manner. (laughs) I guess they don't know what to do. They just try what they can think of for now.
That’s what I think at the end of the day. Not much to say any more but just: safety should be provided in our lives. If there weren’t an ample supply of electricity and we had to switch off the lights at night, I’d do that. (laughs)

Could you tell me the story of the moment Kariwa village accepted the power plant?
It was the heyday of Kakuei Tanaka when we were lobbying for it. He was a member of national Diet, and favored prefectural assemblymen purchasing the land. It was first said that the land had been allocated for the Defense Army. I was young, so didn’t remember much about its details. The land belonged to a farm called Aoyama-Noujo and a few other poultry farms. Most of it belonged to the farm. When we were kids, we used to walk to our primary school across a sand hill there. We also crossed it to go to the beach. There were black pigs. (laughs) We often dropped by the farm to peep at them. (laughs) They looked interesting to us as kids. (laughs) And, then we swam.
Now, it’s become the middle of a nuclear power plant. The original plan of the Defense Army was somehow rejected and was revised for TEPCO’s plant. I don't know what the reasons were. I was a salary man then, and was involved in a labor union. There were leftist and right-winged unions. I don't know if you know, but if I say I worked for Colona, you may understand.
Yes. I worked for its union, too. It was the middle of the commotion of lobbying for a nuclear power plant. Both pro- and anti- nuclear supporters were very aggressive. TEPCO’s trade union was like us, right-winged. The Chairman at the time was Mr. Sasanuma. I don’t know how the old boy is doing now… I guess he’s like me. (laughs) The anti-nuclear side complained to us, but we said to them, ‘There isn’t anything else that helps. People will get jobs. Their life is hard. It will save them from hardship.” We never thought no one could settle a crisis. We never imagined it would occur. We believed any problems would be resolved. In reality, the government coined the term ‘unexpected’ and so on. The earthquakes might have been so; it’s acceptable if anyone can handle the crisis. See what they did! That’s far from acceptable. During the lobbying movement, we made an arduous effort to lobby for the plant. As such, our effort has turned to crumbs. There were once overnight meetings to debate the lobbying effort. When I left home to join a pro-lobby group in Kashiwazaki, the anti-nuclear side crept up and blocked me from going. (laughs)

[His dog comes in] Papi, no! You can’t come here. No! Shiiiii……

It was real turmoil during the lobby campaign. In the end, we did it. It was good then, but since the Fukushima crisis, I’ve had enough of it. (laughs) After my retirement, I went to the plant for work. It facilitates huge air conditioning systems. One discharges the air inside the plant and another charges the one outside. I went to install them. Doing so, I was asked to run for the local assembly. I hesitated, but people insisted I do it. Eventually, I served for a term. I’d decided to do farming after my retirement. My son has another job outside farming as well. We can make enough on this for a simple life.

We don't have anything else really. In case of accidents, ensured evacuation routes are our only life-saving option. We now know the government and electronic companies can’t handle the aftermaths of accidents. They won’t be able to in the future, either, probably. If they learnt to, the issues of…radiation…well…atomic bombs would eventually come up, too. (laughs) Anyhow, it will be impossible. I’m not a scientist and don't know much about atomic bomb issues. They wouldn’t be worked out. They wouldn’t. Both are more or less the same. Their little difference is whether to use the energy effectively as electric power. I think they have no difference in their nature. A nuclear bomb bursts and we see annihilation. I imagine such brutal destructive power. So, nuclear power isn’t anything good. I believe we should consider alternative energy, wind, solar and hydroelectric power etc. It is not very common here, but in Mie prefecture, many wind turbines have been installed. In Aomori prefecture, too. Yes. Aomori’s Rokkasho village was also meant to be a capital of recycling technology. Some of the used nuclear fuels stored there were generated here. It’s been obviously unsuccessful. Because of that, storage facilities at local plants are filled with that waste. It is sorry to say, but the village is on very remote, barren land. It still sounds OK, but it didn’t for the locals. I wonder how radioactive contaminants should be dealt with. It takes 40, no 400 years? I can’t remember the exact number, but it is a lengthy amount of time for the land to recover from contamination. It will pass to more than a few future generations. Traces of high-contaminated concrete blocks will still remain. I don’t know if it might be ok to have the leftovers or if future generations might not mind that. Although, either way, I don’t think it will bring them anything good. It’s true that we need electricity daily. We tend to find it impossible to survive without it. It should be consumed as little as possible.

We don't usually use air-conditioning, because we utilize the cool underground air under our house. Some people use underground heat as a heating system. It’s becoming popular to install such housing systems here in Niigata. The river that flows by us is 11 degrees Celsius throughout the year. We utilize the water. A pipe could be installed under a stream for the chilled air to be transmitted into a house. There are many possible methods. People should think about that. In Niigata, a rural city unlike Tokyo, many rivers flow, which can be utilized for small amounts of hydroelectricity throughout the year. It sounds easily sweet that nuclear power is the best for anything and everything, but it isn't.

Supplying the sky-scraper demand of greater Tokyo is another story. I believe the capital functions should be decentralized. That’s an issue we face through the filter of energy, too. There was once a debate to move the Ministry of Defense to Gunma prefecture.
Fukushima was, too, for the capital. Those plans have all gone. Tokyo is still the capital.

This interview was conducted in Niigata in 2014.

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