In the second part of this article, we saw the time span of the decommissioning (at least thirty years), the cost (unknown in general, estimated 5 billion dollars for Greifswald nuclear power plant), and the decontamination process. In concrete, the decommissioning is a process of cutting the whole nuclear plant into 1m x 1m x 0.7m boxes, and cleaning up everything until the box shows less than 10 mSv/y. The process takes more than a few decades. However, the city Greifswald industrialized this hard process, created employment, and is planning to export the technology.
In the final part of this article, I would like to think a bit about what I can do when I face energy policy.
3.1 How can I face the current and next energy development
When Fukumoto finished the talk about the decommissioning, he added his comment how we citizens could face the energy development. First, he mentioned the Rio declaration [Rio Declaration 1992]. This is a short document produced at the 1992 United Nations “Conference on Environment and Development.” This is a guide of how we can achieve a sustainable development in the world. Our current development with nuclear plants seems not sustainable, since the decommissioning cost will be mostly paid by descendants of the people who actually don’t use the energy. Also, we have only little idea about the total cost of decommissioning, it makes it hard to plan the future. Fukumoto suggested the following: please learn the basics as precisely as possible, please decide yourselves based on your own understanding, please think what you can do in your every day life and execute it.
3.2 Decommissioning and sustainable energy development
From now on, I would like to talk about my personal opinions after the discussion meeting.
I am interested in the Rio declaration, since it is a guide on how we can achieve sustainable development. The development of the human being has not only spatial spectrum, e.g., each nation’s development, but also has time spectrum, e.g., from past to the future. I agree that one generation should not consume all the resources and should not cause a burden to the following generations. If we don’t care about sustainable development, our children and grandchildren will be forced to pay our legacy, they might have to walk the way of the ruin in the worst case. I feel sad if we continue to put a burden on our descendants. I believe that we should not strive for current temporal prosperity, but we should seek the future, long term prosperity. I don’t want to destroy the future of our world.
In the Rio declaration in 1992 by the United Nations, there are 27 principles of how we can achieve sustainable development. I found principle 1 and 3 are quite prominent, so I put them here.
- Principle 1. Human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
- Principle 3. The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
Unfortunately, the task of decommissioning is a burden to the generation which actually executes it. In the current situation, the generation which used the energy didn’t pay the cost, but the descendants have to pay it. We borrowed this money from the future and temporal prosperity. Do we really want to put the debt and the risk on our children? Can we really put this burden on our children to make the current electricity bill cheaper? Is this really good for the future of our country and the world? I feel I need to think about that.
In the internet age, we can find some information about the decommissioning. I think knowing the problem is a good start. The Fukushima disaster showed us that we would lose a part of the country for a long time. People lost their place to live, people were exposed to health risks, especially younger generations. I found that I needed to understand the problem myself, not just follow the authorities. Understanding the problem is a first step and everyone can start it together.
My personal questions are: who pays the decommissioning for these outdated reactors, how can we trash the nuclear fuel and the waste? I once wondered, if the decommissioning is too expensive, can we just keep the reactors as is? It turns out the managing costs of reactors without generating any energy is also expensive. It’s 12 billion dollars per year for the reactors in Japan [Nihon Keizai Shinbun 2013-3-29].
Fukushima might be the second wake up call for us. It reminds us of our debt to the future. I would like to think how can we repay the debt and how can we alleviate the burden on our descendants. We can think about saving energy. The countries that have already implemented electricity liberalization like Germany and Japan can choose the electricity company which doesn’t have a nuclear legacy. That seems a good start to do. If your country has not implemented it, you can discuss about it. I think one more important thing is executing your vote since we need to pay for the actions of the government. We can also look up how the other countries do the decommissioning. We pay the electricity bill and that goes to your power company. So we can watch how it is spent. We can be just interested in it since it was our money anyway, especially if your country implemented rate-of-return regulation like in Japan. Rate-of-return regulation has some advantage, but there are some disadvantages also. We could check whether this method is correctly working or not. Everything I wrote here is a small thing, but thus everyone can do them. Maybe this doesn’t change anything. However, I believe something I can achieve is based on everyday life. Although what we can do in a day is small, continuing one thing might make the difference. Of course it might be nothing. However, I am sure of one thing: Nothing will be changed if we do nothing. I would like to have a option for the future.
This article is also one of the small things. Although this is a thing I can do: Collecting information, understanding it, and writing it down. If you have any good ideas, please share them. That would be a thing you can contribute to the future of the world. When you read this article, please do not just believe this since I might have mistakes and misunderstandings. Please double check the information presented here by yourself. I provide the references for help.
I hope I will not have to suffer and I will not to see other people suffer again, hearing only “Unexpected” as an excuse. We could start thinking as the first step.
I hope this summary is useful for someone.
- [Rio Declaration] Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992, http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=78&ArticleID=1163
- [Nihon Keizai Shinbun], 日本経済新聞 電子版 原発維持コスト、年1.2兆円 経産省が試算 2013-3-29, The 1.2 billion yens are needed to manage the nuclear reactors, estimated by Keisan-department, 2013-3-29, http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXNASFS2803Y_Y3A320C1EE8000/