Archive for ‘Energy Issues in Japan’

February 4, 2012

Japan must reject American pressure against oil sanctions on Iran

Japan must reject American pressure against oil sanctions on Iran

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States is continuing to put pressure on Japan about sanctions against Iran’s oil industry and thankfully the Finance Minister of Japan, Jun Azumi, was sidelined after appearing to cave in several weeks ago. However, foreign policy specialists and many bureaucrats in Japan understand that this issue is extremely delicate and Japan doesn’t want to appear to be hostile towards Iran. After all, other nations have developed nuclear weapons like India and Pakistan and after making a lot of noise it appears that this issue is on a backburner in Washington.

Similar pressure is being put on South Korea but the issue in Japan is extremely severe because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Therefore, now is the wrong time for Japan to put even greater stress on a valuable source of energy. Surely America must understand that the “special relationship” between both nations must be based on greater equality and that this demand is too great given the internal energy crisis in Japan.

The vast majority of nuclear reactors are not in working order in Japan at the moment and nobody knows the real future of this sector within Japan. At the same time, alternative sources of energy will mean that Japan is taking sides in a dispute which doesn’t concern Japan at the moment. After all, Iran is not a threat to Japan and both nations have cordial relations.

From a Japanese perspective, if Washington truly cares, then why is Iran a bigger concern than the nuclear stockpile of China and continuing modernization of the armed forces of this nation? It is unimaginable that Iran would ever threaten Japan or create a major international war based on irrationality.

Also, from Iran’s point of view then it is inconceivable that nations like Pakistan and Israel have the right to defend themselves but Iran doesn’t. This isn’t implying that Israel and Pakistan don’t have the right to develop nuclear weapons when all the major powers have a nuclear arsenal. However, from Iran’s geopolitical point of view then the nuclear arsenal of Israel and Pakistan may be making policy makers in Tehran nervous.

While all the focus is on relations between Iran and Israel the real uncertain nation is Pakistan. The Taliban and other Sunni Islamic extremists have killed and massacred Shia Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for this reason Iran supported anti-Taliban and anti-Al Qaeda forces in the past. Ironically, Iran had this policy when America still had open relations with the Taliban prior to September 11 which was done by Sunni Islamic extremists who were mainly Saudi Arabian nationals.

Also, the central state of Iran is much more dynamic and in control of the nation rather than the reality in Pakistan. This fact can’t be debated currently and China is seriously concerned about this issue despite having very good relations with Pakistan. The possibility of a failed state in Pakistan is a nightmare because radical Sunni Islamists in this nation are extremely militant and this applies to being anti-Shia, anti-India, anti-democratic, anti-secular, and so forth. Therefore, nations should be more focused on the power of central forces in Pakistan and the internal Sunni Islamic jihad against the Pakistan army rather than Iran.

This isn’t underplaying the Iranian issue but surely this “game” concerns America, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon (Hezbollah and links with Iran), and other regional nations, irrespective of being pro or anti Iran. However, it isn’t an issue which should concern Japan from a military angle. Instead, Japan should be trying to influence greater restraint on all sides and be a “middle broker” in order to contain negative forces from either side.

Much is mentioned about the US and Iran relationship but this is also complex because America left “a window of opportunity” for Iran to break the arms embargo which had been put on Bosnia during the three sided civil war. Also, Iranian intelligence clearly gave tacit approval of the American led invasion of Iraq because Iran knew that this would end a regime which was anti-Iranian and in the long term the power shift would work in the favor of the Shia.

In a recent article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “If political leaders in Tokyo believe that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan or that Iran is an international threat, then clearly Japan must state this categorically and not hide behind the political intrigues in Washington. However, Iran does not have any ill intent towards Japan and clearly with China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, having nuclear weapons in Asia, it is understandable for Iran to be concerned about this reality from their respective geopolitical point of view.”

“It must be stated that September 11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, have one common theme and this applies to radical Sunni Muslims being involved in the deaths of American civilians and American soldiers. The Shia community in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have not protected or funded global terrorist networks which were responsible for September 11, London, Bali, and countless terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan. Therefore, the government in Tehran is much more responsible than the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia which have many ratlines and hidden agendas.”

Liu Weimin a ministry spokesperson for the government of China commented that “To place one country’s domestic law above international law and press others to obey is not reasonable.” Other nations share this point of view and if America believes that Iran is a threat to the security of America, then Washington should deal with this without putting pressure on Japan. After all, the pressing concerns for Japan are many and this notably applies to the energy shortfall after the devastating March 11 tsunami and the ongoing Fukushima crisis.

It must also be stated the tangle web of America and Saudi Arabia is not aimed at democracy and human rights, after all just look at the crisis in Bahrain whereby the Shia face daily oppression and outside meddling from Saudi Arabia. The Shia community is also often attacked in Yemen and Japan can’t afford to take sides in “a dirty political game” which is taking place.

Of course Japan must maintain the strong relationship between Washington and Tokyo when it applies to Northeast Asia and other important issues. However, the nuclear crisis in Iran isn’t a national security issue for Japan and the neutral nature of Japan’s foreign policy must be respected.

If political leaders in Tokyo believe that the government of Tehran is a threat to the security concerns of Japan and the international community, then Japan must fall in line. Yet clearly senior politicians in Japan don’t share this view and the main concern for the people of Japan is maintaining the economy and having a steady flow of energy. Therefore, the timing is wrong and Japan shouldn’t get involved in the American-Saudi Arabian alliance against Iran.

January 14, 2012

Japan bows down to America and reduces Iran oil imports: China remains neutral

Japan bows down to America and reduces Iran oil imports: China remains neutral

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States put pressure on China and Japan to introduce sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and sadly Japan showed its weakness once more. However, China showed its independence by remaining neutral. After all, the government of America is an ally of Pakistan despite the complex relationship. Also, it is clear that India and Pakistan continue to spend vast sums on their respective military capabilities, including the nuclear angle. This in itself shows the lack of either sincerity or commitment on behalf of America and other nations like France which lambast Iran over the nuclear issue.

If political leaders in Tokyo believe that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan or that Iran is an international threat, then clearly Japan must state this categorically and not hide behind the political intrigues in Washington. However, Iran does not have any ill intent towards Japan and clearly with China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, having nuclear weapons in Asia, it is understandable for Iran to be concerned about this reality from their respective geopolitical point of view.

Therefore, Japan should only follow suit on the grounds of national interests and the interest of the international community. However, the national interest of Japan isn’t threatened by Iran and the international community is divided on this issue because of so many internal pressing issues throughout every continent. This fact would imply that Japan bowed down to the “messenger,” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, because why is Japan deciding on this now?

It must be stated that September 11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, have one common theme and this applies to radical Sunni Muslims being involved in the deaths of American civilians and American soldiers. The Shia community in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have not protected or funded global terrorist networks which were responsible for September 11, London, Bali, and countless terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan. Therefore, the government in Tehran is much more responsible than the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia which have many ratlines and hidden agendas.

The Finance Minister of Japan, Jun Azumi, commented that “In the past five years, we have reduced… the amount of oil imported (from Iran).” He further continued by stating that “We wish to take planned and concrete steps to further reduce this share, which now stands at 10%.”

However, after the devastating March 11 tsunami hit Japan in 2011 this unleashed the tragedy of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Therefore, Japan is already facing many energy shortfalls and this political burden will further put pressure on political leaders in Tokyo.

Timothy Geithner commented that ”We are working very closely with Europe and Japan and allies around the world to substantially increase the amount of pressure we bring on Iran…We very much appreciate the support Japan has provided standing with us and the international community in support of this very important strategic objective.”

China took a neutral stance because political leaders made it clear that they hoped for a resolution to be found between Iran and the nuclear watchdog (International Atomic Energy Agency). Also, political leaders in Beijing stressed that oil related issues should not be solved by relating this to the nuclear issue. Liu Weimin a ministry spokesperson for the government of China commented that “To place one country’s domestic law above international law and press others to obey is not reasonable.”

Japan also stressed that they will seek more oil exports from other nations in the Gulf. However, at a time when Shia Muslims are being persecuted in Bahrain and continue to be second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia – then this would appear to be taking an anti-Iran stance for no reason. Therefore, political leaders in Tokyo should think more deeply before becoming entangled in the web of America and Saudi Arabia.

If Japan sincerely believes that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan and that this nation threatens the international community, then by all means Japan must stand firm with America. However, it would appear that Japan doesn’t believe this and that the only binding factor is the pressure put on Tokyo by political leaders in Washington. The timing for Japan, with internal energy problems, could not be worse and domestic issues should have meant more than the political meddling of America and Saudi Arabia.

September 29, 2011

Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In the last few weeks it appears that the nuclear reality is gaining momentum in Japan. This applies to Prime Minister Noda insisting that the nuclear reality will exist in Japan for the next few decades at the very least.  This was followed by a pro-Nuclear mayor winning a local election at the expense of an anti-nuclear campaigner. Then to top it off a nuclear consortium from Japan just signed a feasibility study with Vietnam with regards to two new reactors.

The Tokyo-based utility consortium played on the strengths of the nuclear sector in Japan which is amongst the best in the world. Also, Japan and Vietnam have very strong relations and both nations share similar geopolitical concerns in relation to China.  Therefore, with a powerful political and trade angle between Japan and Vietnam, it is not surprising that Vietnam listened carefully because nuclear power gave a fresh momentum to Japan’s economic rise and stabilized the energy supply.

Japan’s recently maligned nuclear industry appears to be gaining momentum and with China, India and South Korea expanding their nuclear industry, it would be travesty if Japan gave up on a sector which is powerful.

The Fukushima Daiichi crisis was clearly based on human failing but the reaction in some media outlets and in Germany was over-the-top because powerful lobby groups have vested interests.  Also, where will Germany get its new power supply from and will it rely on “dirty energy” in order to eradicate nuclear power? 

In an in-depth article related to Germany by the New York Times which was written by Elisabeth Rosenthal (Germany Dims Nuclear Plants, but Hopes to Keep Lights On), the author raises important questions. 

Elisabeth Rosenthal comments As a result, electricity producers are scrambling to ensure an adequate supply. Customers and companies are nervous about whether their lights and assembly lines will stay up and running this winter. Economists and politicians argue over how much prices will rise.”

“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said . He characterized the government’s shutdown decision as “emotional” and pointed out that on most days, Germany has survived this experiment only by importing electricity from neighboring France and the Czech Republic, which generate much of their power with nuclear reactors.”

“Then there are real concerns that the plan will jettison efforts to rein in manmade global warming, since whatever nuclear energy’s shortcomings, it is low in emissions. If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, falls back on dirty coal-burning plants or uncertain supplies of natural gas from Russia, isn’t it trading a potential risk for a real one?”

Ironically, it would appear that Japan is enacting a more realistic approach and this applies to maintaining nuclear power plants until a genuine alternative is found. Japan also may be biding its time until the Fukushima Daiichi crisis loses its potency and the nuclear issue gradually loses its power within Japan.

Alternatively, Japan may be sincere and actually reduce its dependence on nuclear power at home but maintain a powerful lobby for exporting its nuclear industry abroad. In other words, nuclear energy is ok but “not in our backyard” and given the fact that Germany will import electricity from nuclear energy France, and from other nations, then it is difficult to see a moral principle emerging.

Vietnam, noticing how the nuclear sector helped Japan in the past is following the same route in order to maintain rapid economic growth.  Therefore, Vietnam is planning to build eight new nuclear plants which will hold thirteen nuclear reactors by 2030.

Japan, the Russian Federation, and other nations, see a chance to expand the nuclear sector in Vietnam and in other nations.  Yasuo Hamada, the President of Japan Atomic Power Co., comments that “We pledge to work hard to ensure the nuclear power development of Vietnam.”

In an article written by Chester Dawson and Vu Trong Khanh (Vietnam, Japan Sign Deal for Nuclear-Plant Study) in The Wall Street Journal. They comment that On Thursday, a larger consortium of 13 Japanese companies, including the nine electric utilities, along with Hitachi and Toshiba, plan to sign another memorandum with Vietnam Electricity to start talks on reactor bids. Called the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co., it was set up last year under the trade ministry to promote reactor exports.”

“The Japanese government is expected to foot most of the bill for the plant through development aid and export-promotion programs run by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. The government will cover the entire ¥2 billion ($26 million) cost of the 18-month feasibility study.”

“The planned Japanese reactors will each have a 1,000-megawatt capacity and are slated to begin operation in 2021 and 2022, immediately after two Russian reactors planned for nearby. The sites of the two twin-reactor plants are about 20 kilometers apart along the coast of southern Vietnam, about 400 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.”

Irrespective of the final outcome, the most likely being that it will be favorable towards Japan and the Russian Federation, it is clear that other nations like Turkey are interested in Japanese nuclear technology.  Also, the government of Japan will continue to support the export side of the nuclear industry. – NEW YORK TIMES  -THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan – MODERN TOKYO TIMES

July 23, 2011

Nuclear policy in Japan: PM Kan, Masayoshi Son and Yoshito Hori. Who do you trust?

Nuclear & Energy policy in Japan: PM Kan, Masayoshi Son and Yoshito Hori. Who do you trust?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The March 11 earthquake which unleashed the potent tsunami continues to cause problems for parts of Japan.  However, these problems are multiple and this applies to housing, restructuring, helping orphans, and a host of other important areas.  Therefore, the knee-jerk reaction to either dismantle nuclear power or to fundamentally change Japan’s energy policy needs to be considered much more deeply.

Softbank President Masayoshi Son clearly supports the “alternative energy” theory but given the reality that earthquakes are nothing new to Japan; then what were the policy statements of Masayoshi Son in the last twenty years about this issue? 

This is a very important question because the Kobe earthquake killed thousands of people and clearly it was the tsunami which killed the overwhelming majority of people on March 11, 2011, and the following days.  The death count from radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant is zero but the death total from the tsunami and earthquake totals around 25,000 people.

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich who is a PhD holder in nuclear engineering and is a retired nuclear safety specialist is rightly skeptical. Dr. Vojin Joksimovich in his article titled EU, US, & Japan: Dysfunctional Leaderships are Gambling with leading Capitalist Economies, comments in the area based on Japan that “In mid-July Kan stated: “Our nation should aim to become a society that can manage fine without nuclear power.” A leading contender to replace Kan, Seiji Maehara one of the most popular figures in the ruling Democratic Party, said that Japan should phase out nuclear power over the next two decades and that construction should “basically be stopped.” This policy would have far reaching implications for the energy sector providing one third of the nation’s electricity. Nuclear technology companies: Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would be severely hurt while the existing prospects for international orders would all but disappear. Like Chancellor Merkel in Germany, PM Kan sees adoption of anti-nuclear policy as a way to rebuild his image as well as that of his party. It is understandable that triple reactor meltdowns after the reactor cooling systems were wiped out by tsunami had shaken the Japanese faith in nuclear safety. The Japanese nuclear establishment has overlooked the need to provide a need for adequate tsunami protection. San Onofre nuclear power plant in my neighborhood is protected by a 30 foot high tsunami wall. The Tohoku earthquake originated in a subduction zone and the tsunamis generated in a subduction zone are much larger than those resulting from earthquakes in a strike slip geologic fault systems such as faults near San Onofre.”

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich raises many important points and how is it that San Onofre is better protected than the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant?  After all, the greater danger applies to the Fukushima coastal region but despite this the tsunami wall and other important areas were much more modern and prepared for the ravages of nature?

Therefore, the nuclear crisis was based on the failure of past Japanese governments, TEPCO and nuclear related agencies which allowed such folly in the first place.

The anti-nuclear lobby or business individuals who may see a fresh killing to be made by government subsidies are clearly lining up.  However, while the anti-nuclear lobby will have been consistent, irrespective if rhetoric or not.  Can the same be said about politicians and business individuals who see opportunism?

The founder and president of Globis Management School, Yoshito Hori, appears to be skeptical by the motives of elements within the government of Japan and he certainly does not follow the logic of Masayoshi Son. 

Masayoshi Son is a very powerful business leader and all of a sudden it appears that he is a great follower of “alternative energy.”  Others may point out that this issue is nothing new and why is he plugging for this now in such a bold way?  

Also, given the reality of huge government subsidies behind the thinking of Masayoshi Son with regards to his projections and the power he holds within Japan; then is this based on sincerity, opportunism, half-baked thinking, manipulating de-regulation, easy source of government subsidies or does he truly believe in alternative energy?

It is also factual that government subsidies aided the nuclear sector in Japan.  However, with the failure of one monolith then is it justified to create another subsidized monolith and all under the name of “a new way?”

Yoshito Hori comments that Masayoshi Son“is using his political connections to lead us in a direction that’s good for him but bad for Japan.” Yoshito Hori refers to a too-hasty policy in the energy sector and implies that change for the sake of change will further hinder the economy of Japan.

It must be stated that Yoshito Hori is not against alternative energy but he is concerned about the possible direction that it may take under the short-term Prime Minister Kan and the business savvy Masayoshi Son. 

In the Sankei Shimbum it is clear that Yoshito Hori is alarmed by ongoing events and the possible “annihilating blow” towards the nuclear sector.  On July 16 in the Sankei Shimbum and which was republished on Japan Today under the title Softbank’s Son, Globis’ Hori trade blows via Twitter; it states that “Hori stresses that he favors increasing reliance on alternative energy – “on two conditions,” he tells Sankei Shimbun. One: No subsidies. Two: If power companies are to be obliged to purchase surplus power generated by homes and businesses via renewable energy, as would be the case under a proposed law backed by Kan and Son, the price should be in accord with market standards and not imposed as what, in effect, would be a subsidy in disguise.”

Turning back to Dr. Vojin Joksimovich then he states that “Japan’s short-lived PMs, five in five years, compare with pre-Berlusconi Italy. Existing PM Naoto Kan has survived a Diet no-confidence vote at the price of a vague promise to resign. It is irresponsible that even after the largest disaster after the WWII, the Japanese political elite is more interested in squabbling over how long Kan should stay in the office as opposed to addressing the burning issues of reconstruction. The Diet has failed to approve new bond issues needed to fund government spending beyond a few months. Ryu Matsumoto, Kan’s long-awaited choice for the cabinet post leading to tsunami reconstruction resigned nine days into the job. With millions of tones of debris yet to be cleared and tens of thousands of residents still confined to the evacuation centers, the north-east coast residents deserve better treatment by their government. There is vast disconnect between the magnitude of the problems facing the third largest world economy and the political response.”

In the same article published on July 16 it states that “(Masayoshi) Son in May announced an 80 billion yen project to build 10 large-scale solar power plants, and in July enlisted the participation of 36 prefectural governors in a new council to promote alternative energy. Almost simultaneously, Prime Minister Naoto Kan made his dramatic declaration that “We should aim to be a society that does not depend on nuclear power.”

However, like Dr. Vojin Joksimovich comments it is clear that political infighting and petty point scoring remains part and parcel of Japanese politics.  This reality, to an astute businessman, and the fact of so much disinformation by the mass media with regards to the nuclear issue, means that it is an opportunistic time for anyone with grand plans and who happens to have political and business muscle.

Yet, is the dismantling of the nuclear sector in the interest of Japan?  Also, was the nuclear crisis because of nuclear power or because of past mistakes by political leaders in Japan, TEPCO, the designers who built the nuclear reactor and nuclear bodies in Japan?

If the current crisis in Fukushima can be completely blamed on nuclear power then Masayoshi Son will become vindicated. However, if the answer is negative, and with the past role of nuclear power helping the modernization of Japan; then Yoshito Hori will be vindicated because the dismantling of the nuclear sector in Japan will be based on falsehood and short-sighted policies which will eradicate a potent source of energy.

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich comments that “Nuclear power plays an important role in the world’s energy mix. It is clean, as the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions. It is steadier than renewables, such as solar and wind, which require a more expensive and sophisticated power grid. In addition, the solar and wind energy storage facilities still need to be developed. The nuclear power, like coal, provides inexpensive source of base power, while solar and wind are useful as supplementary energy sources. The third largest world economy cannot afford to abandon nuclear power. Japan in future could focus on building inherently safe high-temperature gas cooled reactors.”

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich also comments about the crisis in Fukushima and where the real blame belongs. In his article called Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Tsunami Induced but Man-Made Disaster many powerful comments are made.  Dr. Vojin Joksimovich states that “Initially, severity of the accidents was not grasped and no adequate staff was provided to handle probably the most complex accident in the commercial history of nuclear power. TEPCO and NISA seem to have believed that such an accident scenario was not credible and thus no adequate precautions were in place. There was obviously a lack of emergency drills as several missteps took place. The response boiled down to hesitation, delays, and indecision. The coordination between TEPCO and NISA were inadequate. The Japanese law must be amended to address clearly a division of responsibility between the utility and the government agencies. The PM was mad at both of them and hired his own advisers. Some of these inadequacies were of course recognized as the public apologies were offered. The media in Japan has zoomed in on cozy regulator to utility culture, the culture of complicity or an amakudari system. An example was given that 68 former government bureaucrats assumed executive posts in utilities. In addition, the author wishes to point out a lack of safety culture as well as stifling Japanese top-down culture, which doesn’t empower lower levels to make decisions in these types of situations when timing of decision making is crucial. Management training courses including in particular responses to severe accidents, beyond the design basis should also be on the agenda. Once the damaged plants have been stabilized and brought to the safe shutdown level, an independent team of international and national experts should be assembled to provide a thorough accident assessment and propose applicable lessons learned. This should then be shared with operators of the remaining 442 power reactors operating in over 30 countries worldwide as well as 109 forthcoming. A due attention should be paid to multi-unit site in excess of, say, four units.”

In The Daily Mainichi News in the article called Softbank, 35 prefectures launch council to promote renewable energy it states that “With the backing from the 35 prefectures, Son wants to help Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) push for the enactment of a bill obliging utilities to buy power from green sources at fixed prices. In the longer term, Son also envisages building a smart grid next-generation electricity transmission and distribution system.”

I had never thought of going into electricity business before the quake-triggered disasters,” Son said. But he said when he visited Fukushima in late March; he had the impression that local residents were not complaining because they were caught in the grips of government subsidies and jobs. Therefore, he said he came to think more strongly about the need to reduce dependence on nuclear energy.”

The same article also states that “…some people are concerned about the way Son has positioned the business. Son has sought changes to systems hampering the expansion of his business, involving politicians and public opinion in debates on such issues as the opening NTT Corp.’s fiber optic networks to third parties. “If a major company seeks special treatment on farmland regulations or start a new business with the help of local governments, it may disable fair competition with other companies,” said Toshinori Ito, a senior analyst at UBS Securities.

Therefore, it is apparent that Masayoshi Son “…had never thought of going into electricity business before the quake-triggered disasters” and this business applies to “the enactment of a bill obliging utilities to buy power from green sources at fixed prices.”

In a nutshell Masayoshi Son never really concerned himself about this business sector before and this implies that he was not overtly against nuclear energy.  Also, getting involved in this new business is based on “obliging utilities to buy power from green sources at fixed prices” and issues related to “fair competition” and “seeking special treatment on farmland regulations” leads to a sour taste.

Therefore, Yoshito Hori is right to be skeptical and Dr. Vojin Joksimovich also raises serious doubt about the sincerity of PM Kan.  Added to this is the fair comment made by Toshinori Ito.

It would appear that one monolith and a comfortable relationship with central and local government, to be replaced by a new comfortable relationship with central government and local government, happens to be dynamic to Masayoshi Son and others who follow the same logic.

However, is the dismantling of the nuclear sector in the interest of Japan and if so, then is the Masayoshi Son idea the right way or should more time be taken seriously in order to consider important questions related to the future of Japan?

Alternative energy can enhance the energy demands of Japan alongside a well maintained nuclear sector but the phasing out of nuclear energy appears to be over dramatic and ill-considered in such a short space of time.  


Dr. Vojin Joksimovich :  PhD in nuclear engineering and is a retired nuclear safety specialist.  Also, an author of several highly acclaimed books and a specialist in many fields.  

May 26, 2011

Does Fukushima show a split in philosophy between Asia and Europe?

Does Fukushima show a split in philosophy between Asia and Europe?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The March 11 earthquake in Japan led to tens of thousands of people being killed and clearly the overwhelming majority of people died because of the tsunami.  However, it is the nuclear energy issue which is still raging in Europe which appears to be of much greater importance despite nobody dying from radiation.

It is also factual that the long term effects of radiation will not be known until the future because cancer

clusters may or may not appear?  Therefore, it is the unknown threat and the invisible nature of radiation which is the main cause of concern.

However, the response to the Fukushima radiation crisis is varied and while nations like Switzerland have announced that they will phase out their nuclear energy; other nations like China, India, and South Korea will continue to move forward and develop more nuclear power plants.

Therefore, is the Fukushima crisis about a split in philosophy between a pragmatic Asia and an over sensitive Europe?  Of course, not all of Europe can be labeled together and nations like the Russian Federation will have a stronger mindset but in countries like Germany and Switzerland, to name a few, then clearly the fear of nuclear meltdown is causing major ripples.

In my article called Nuclear crisis in Japan but Uranium price to rebound on news from China and India; I highlight the fact that China and India will continue to develop nuclear energy.  The same applies to South Korea because like China and India it is clear that the government in Seoul believes that nuclear energy is a must. Also, unlike fossil fuels then this energy is also environmentally friendly and all the above named nations believe that a diverse energy policy is essential in order to meet huge electricity demands.

I commented in my article that “Daily images of the stricken Daiichi nuclear plant alongside massive scaremongering meant that national governments which had future plans in the pipeline were coming under the microscope.” 

“However, despite this, and uranium being just below 9 per cent down this year, it appears that the worse may be over for the price of uranium.  This applies to China and India who will continue to forge ahead with their respective nuclear power projects.”

Indeed, according to Bloomberg and other sources, it is reported that nuclear energy will grow by roughly 46 per cent by 2020 amongst the leading five nations which use nuclear energy.” 

Therefore, why are Switzerland, Germany, and other nations in Europe, responding so differently?  After all, even in Japan it would appear that nuclear energy will remain to be a powerful source of energy even if the current Japanese government introduces greater safety measures or focuses on alternative sources of energy.

Maybe the main difference is that environmentalists and the mass media are more motivated by green issues in Europe and they had a long term agenda whereby they could exploit an issue like Fukushima?  Yes, radiation is a serious issue and clearly nations like Japan is hindered because of its earthquake and tsunami fault-line; which means that nuclear power stations are exposed to the ravages of nature from time to time.

However, while Switzerland does have the occasional earthquake; it is clear that China faces a greater threat and the same applies to other nations in Asia which will forge ahead with their nuclear power policies.

Therefore, the current split between Asia and Europe would appear to be based on political motives, the role of the green movement, the mass media which clearly over-hyped the crisis in Europe, and other factors.  Also, maybe some European nations have become overtly self-centered?

After all, I find it rather strange for people to be marching about the nuclear issue when thousands of people are still missing in Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi.  It is also noticeable that the demonstrations in Japan have mainly been tame or often based on economic factors when applied to local farmers and so forth in Fukushima.

The democratic factor could have been raised if it only applied to China but clearly India and South Korea are democratic nations. Also, Japan is democratic despite the frequency of political leaders to resign. Therefore, maybe it is all down to different philosophical thinking between Asia and Europe?

After all, political paternalism is much stronger in Asia and while you have major differences within different nations or within the same nation based on culture, religion, ethnicity, thought patterns, development stages, and so forth; it would appear that individualism and other factors within Europe are different on the whole.

Added to this, the green lobby is very potent in Europe and the mass media also showed the enormous gap in thinking between many nations. 

What is clear is that major nations in Asia are forging ahead with nuclear power but in parts of Europe the opposite is happening and a lot of soul searching is going on.

Therefore, why is the gap between parts of Asia and Europe so huge when it comes to nuclear energy?

May 24, 2011

Nuclear crisis in Japan but Uranium price to rebound on news from China and India

Nuclear crisis in Japan but Uranium price to rebound on news from China and India

Modern Tokyo Times

Lee Jay Walker


The nuclear crisis in Fukushima at the Daiichi nuclear power plant caused major ripples in the nuclear sector.  Many nations outwardly began to question the role of nuclear energy and reliance but with each passing day the cold reality of the importance of nuclear energy is dawning.  Therefore, China and India are to continue with their ambitious plans in this sector.

Immediately after March 11 when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan and it became known that the tsunami had not only killed tens of thousands of people, but had also impacted negatively on the Daiichi nuclear power plant; then the price of uranium slumped by 27 per cent.

Daily images of the stricken Daiichi nuclear plant alongside massive scaremongering meant that national governments which had future plans in the pipeline were coming under the microscope. 

However, despite this, and uranium being just below 9 per cent down this year, it appears that the worse may be over for the price of uranium.  This applies to China and India who will continue to forge ahead with their respective nuclear power projects.

Indeed, according to Bloomberg and other sources, it is reported that nuclear energy will grow by roughly 46 per cent by 2020 amongst the leading five nations which use nuclear energy. 

This increase is mainly down to China and India because these two nations, whose economies are growing rapidly and which have huge populations, believe that nuclear energy is the best option.

China’s Nuclear Energy Association in May announced plans to increase nuclear energy by around eight times by 2020.  India’s Atomic Energy Commission, within one day of China’s announcement, stated that India had plans to increase nuclear production by 13 fold and this ambitious plan applies to this target being achieved by 2030.

Therefore, the statements made by China and India means that the price of uranium should not only stabilize but also rebound because the future looks positive for this sector despite many alarm bells.

It is clear that leaders in China believe that future economic growth depends greatly on a diverse energy policy.  Therefore, the only current option is for nuclear energy to be part of this diverse energy policy in order to satisfy the growth of electricity demand.

If future projections are met then nuclear usage in China, India and South Korea will surpass that of America, France, Germany and Japan, when you combine both groups.

It must be remembered that fossil fuels was the main concern for nations like America, France and the United Kingdom before the Fukushima crisis.  Therefore, the nuclear option was seen to be positive. After all, greenhouse gas emission worries are focused on fossil fuels and not the atomic sector.

These nations may rue their over sensitivity and it must be remembered that the tsunami killed tens of thousands of people and not nuclear energy.  Indeed, the over-hype of the nuclear crisis often relegated the crisis caused by the tsunami and it makes you wonder where the priority belongs?

China and India will clearly look at what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in order to safeguard and implement policies which will lead to greater security and safety mechanisms.

The vice secretary general of the Nuclear Energy Association in China, Xu Yuming, stated that “Of course, the overall plan won’t be changed. China faces power shortages and we need to change our energy mix. To resolve these issues, we must develop nuclear.”

May 4, 2011

Nuclear crisis in Japan is a legacy of political meddling because of the Amakudari system

Nuclear crisis in Japan is a legacy of political meddling because of the Amakudari system

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


In Japan the current crisis within the nuclear sector and other areas of the economy can squarely be pinned on the relationship between the political bureaucracy and its love-in relationship with electricity suppliers. 

The Amakudari system enables senior bureaucrats to find important executive posts after leaving the government and it is reported that 68 high ranking bureaucrats went on and resumed senior positions with the energy sector. 

Therefore, given the relationship between government and electricity suppliers it appears that this all inclusive policy means that when serious issues arise, then it may be pushed under the carpet? 

It is important to state that not all “amakudari” bureaucrats will be inefficient and each former high ranking bureaucrat will respond differently.  Also, many will be highly skilled and it is over simplistic to believe that all will either have ulterior motives or seek to cover up major problems.

However, it is also clear that the relationship between the political bureaucracy and electricity suppliers; could lead to complacency and for the general public it may appear to be both inefficient, corrupt, and about preserving a comfortable relationship.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is new to the power process of the amakudari system but former high ranking political leaders in the DPJ who were former LDP politicians, will know all too well about this system. 

Obviously the DPJ knows about this system because for 50 years and more, the LDP have followed the same procedure in various sectors of the economy.  Democracy and “open business” is rather flawed because you have so much inter linkages and not all the blame can be pinned on politicians because the keiretsu system is embedded within the business community.

Conformity and continuity alongside strong inter-relationships is all too powerful within the Japanese system and inter-linkages and connections is the bottom line for the business and political model in Japan.  Of course, not all companies follow this system but in general it is part and parcel of the business environment in Japan and in South Korea they have a similar system called chaebol.

Turning back to the current crisis in Fukushima then the relationship between industry and government regulators would tend to point in the direction of complacency.  This applies to data by TEPCO not being scrutinized to the full when questions were raised about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant being vulnerable to a possible tsunami.

Government hands run throughout the system and this applies to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.  After all, this ministry is involved in expressing the importance of nuclear energy, helping Japanese companies to find major business contracts in the international arena, and regulating the safety of the nuclear sector in Japan.

The promoter and regulator conflict within the system was separated in France because of the fear of complacency several years ago.  In America the government understood this weak point in the system; therefore, changes were made over 30 years ago in order to safeguard the nuclear sector from conflicting interests.

The government and TEPCO merry-go-round can be summed up by Tokio Kano.  He joined TEPCO and became a leader within the nuclear unit in 1989 and in 1998 he entered parliament.  Once he was elected to parliament then Tokio Kano helped to rewrite Japan’s national policy related to energy and not surprisingly the conclusion was that nuclear energy was the way forward. 

After being involved within the political system for more than 10 years he then returned to TEPCO.  Therefore, Tokio Kano is an extreme example of the system in Japan.

The amakudari system is defended by some because you will not have many high quality candidates who have powerful knowledge of this complex sector.  Therefore, it is argued that it may appear to be inefficient and based on complacency; however, the system does enable utilities to get high quality candidates who not only bring their expertise but also their strong contacts within an important sector of the economy.

May 3, 2011

China is to increase its maritime surveillance and alarm bells will be ringing in Japan

China is to increase its maritime surveillance and alarm bells will be ringing in Japan

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Senkaku-Diaoyu tensions

The government of China is intent on spreading its power projection and installing more clout over disputed islands and islets with several regional nations.  China announced major plans which are to be implemented over the next five years. The government of China is clearly not aiming this new change at any one regional nation however part of this plan is aimed at the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands with Japan.

The modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and all divisions within the armed forces of China is an ongoing reality.  China clearly views the situation to be self-defensive but tensions over these disputed islands alongside the Spratlys, and other sensitive areas, with other regional nations, is hindering China’s future sphere of influence.

China also believes that time is on the side of China because America’s spiraling debt and Japan’s lack of leadership and internal demographic and economic issues; means that powers in Beijing believe that only an energetic China can expand its zone of interest.

Also, China which owes a huge amount of America’s debt is also spreading its power over Taiwan because of the ever increasing volume of trade.  China is hoping that Taiwan will be sucked into China’s orbit and that a careful nationalist policy under central control will further eradicate and zap the energy of Taiwan.

Japan’s policy over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is seen to be in a flux because the political merry-go-round means that you don’t have any long-term binding policies.

More important, China is fully aware that Japan is involved with territorial disputes with all regional powers and the Russian Federation and South Korea are also weary of Japan’s intentions.

The Russian Federation clearly is increasing its stranglehold over the disputed territories.  Also, the Russian Federation understands that Japan over relies on Middle East oil therefore leaders in Moscow believe that they hold all the aces.

Sun Shuxian, China Marine Surveillance, commented that the frequency of sea patrols would be more frequent in order “to strengthen law enforcement in Chinese-related waters.”

Sun Shuxian also gave information about another 36 inspection ships being added to China’s Marine Surveillance and another 1,000 personnel would be recruited in order to monitor important and sensitive areas.  He reported that these measures would be implemented over the next five years.

China also believes that America’s containment of Japan will continue and this will restrict Japan’s hand because America would not desire to become embroiled in a major dispute between China and Japan.

It must be added that these tensions are nothing new but China in the past was hindered by an outdated military and limited economic and political leverages.

However, the new China since Deng Xiaoping is based on economic expansion and now this is being backed by greater political power.  At the same time the modernization of the armed forces of China continues to grow and the military budget is able to meet this military modernization.

China does not desire an open conflict with any regional nation and they hope that natural power projections based on trade and energy links will increase China’s influence.

China also understands that Japan’s dispute with the Russian Federation is hindering Japan’s energy policy and this applies to being over reliant on oil from the Middle East.

Japanese politicians may bluster but unlike the one-party-state in China which can implement genuine long-term policies. It appears that the political leadership in Japan is unable to do the same and because of major structural problems within the economic and political system; then China believes that power projection in these disputed areas belongs to Beijing and not Tokyo.

April 1, 2011

Toshiba and Hitachi need to overcome the nuclear reactor crisis in Fukushima

Toshiba and Hitachi need to overcome the nuclear reactor crisis in Fukushima

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Nuclear crisis in Fukushima

The ongoing crisis in Fukushima is creating sleepless nights for the management of Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Corp. in the nuclear divisions of both companies.  These two companies were behind the design of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant but unlike Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) they appear to have escaped the flak from the mass media.

The operator of the plant, TEPCO, is deemed to be responsible for the disaster which is currently ongoing because major radiation problems still exist at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. 

However, the collective reality of government support, local government support, failed nuclear watchdogs, the nuclear agency in Japan, and the creators of the nuclear plant, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Corp., are in the mix because it is not only TEPCO which must be held accountable; irrespective if the operation came under the control of TEPCO.

The nuclear sector in Japan was seen to be highly developed and Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Corp. had expanded their global operations in order to enhance this sector in Japan.  At the same time the government of Japan helped to further the cause of this sector when talks were underway between national governments and possible nuclear plant contracts.

Takeo Miyamoto, Deutsche Bank AG, stated that “Any plans to export all-Japan nuclear reactor projects will be delayed.” Takeo Miyamoto also commented that “Improving the safety of the type of reactors involved in the Fukushima accident will take time and Tepco’s crisis management methods are being questioned.”

After the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan it led to the radiation crisis in Fukushima and the shares of Hitachi and Toshiba have plunged drastically.  However, it is fair to say that many other companies have also suffered from a share price dip but for Hitachi and Toshiba the factors are based on the current reality of events at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Areva SA (CEI) which is based in Paris and Dongfang Electric Corp. of Chengdu in China will probably gain in the short-term from the current crisis in Japan.  Both companies are involved in developing sturdier facilities and clearly both Hitachi Corp. and Toshiba Corp. are going to face image problems and the same applies to the nuclear sector in Japan.

Yuichi Ishida, Mizuho Investors Securities Co. (Tokyo) commented that “The myth of Japan’s nuclear safety is dying.” Yuichi Ishida also continued by stating that “Until now, Japanese reactor makers had a track record free of serious accidents.”

In 1999 you did have a nuclear crisis in Ibaraki at Tokaimura but the accident was not so dramatic when compared with recent events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Prior to the earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan both Toshiba and Hitachi had high hopes in this sector.  Toshiba is the largest supplier of reactors in Japan and they had hoped to win 39 units within the next four years.  Hitachi had hoped to win many new power plant contracts and their long term target was to have around 33% of the global market share by 2030.

However, given the current climate then it will be difficult for both companies to reach their targets.

It is not all doom and gloom because Vietnam on March 14 confirmed that it would work tightly with Japan and partners with regards to the construction of nuclear power plants.

Likewise, Turkey also confirmed that they will continue to talk with Toshiba and others on building a nuclear plant.  Therefore, developing nations in the nuclear sector are still open to Japanese companies but clearly it will not be plain sailing.

The longer the crisis in Fukushima goes on then the more damage it will cause to this sector in Japan and many nations like Germany are asking serious questions about the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

Areva have developed a new system and their EPR reactors have four independent safety sub-systems and this safety mechanism is seen to be the future of the next generation.

Therefore, companies based in France and China may gain from the current crisis in Japan but this market will be problematic because all contracts will be heavily scrutinized given the current situation in Fukushima.

However, the nuclear sector will continue to be a force in the energy sector and this applies to the climate change problem and a host of other factors.

March 15, 2011

Russian Federation to help Japan with energy supplies

Russian Federation to help Japan with energy supplies

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times  

Kurils / Northern Territories
Kurils / Northern Territories

The Russian Federation is deeply concerned about ongoing events in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami ripped through parts of Japan.  Many citizens in the Russian Federation alongside the government are stepping up efforts in order to assist in any way possible.  Therefore, a sense of solidarity is building up and the government and people of Russia hope to provide real support and assist the government and people of Japan.

Japan and the Russian Federation have a mixed relationship because tensions remain over the territorial dispute in the Southern Kurils/Northern Territories.  Despite this, Japan and the Russian Federation are neighbors and during times of crisis then the only concern is to support each other in any way possible.

Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, made it clear that it is Russia’s moral duty to give assistance to Japan.  This applies to redirecting 6,000 megawatts of electricity, supply 200,000 tonnes of liquefied gas and increase goal supplies. 

Both national governments are talking deeply about the current situation and it is abundantly clear that Japan will need help in the field of energy and the closeness of the Russian Federation makes this feasible.  At the same time, other proposals will take much longer and this applies to an underwater electric power line but Russia stressed that they can re-direct 6,000 megawatts of electricity relatively quickly in order to assist Japan.

Medvedev stated that “We are certainly ready to help our neighbors to deal with the consequences of this great earthquake.” Medvedev also notified the Emergencies Ministry to develop a strategy in order to help Japan and this applies to both short-term support and possible long-term energy supplies if both nations reach a consensus.

Medvedev made it clear that he is deeply concerned about the earthquake and tsunami which hit and devastated Japan.  He pointed out that Russia would “……offer Japan all possible aid to cope with the aftermath of this tragedy.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also stated that “Our neighbors are faced with huge grief and tragedy” and that “despite the problems we have inherited from the past” it is important that Russia does everything it can to help Japan.

During times of tragedy then bridges can be built and it is hoped that both nations will grasp this moment and form a better understanding and develop stronger ties.       

(Good website for information about the disputed region)