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Essay and Opinion

Nuclear Power Generation and the Constitution of Japan

May 21, 2011

Shigeaki Iijima
(Associate Professor, Nagoya Gakuin University)

Chapter One: Prologue

  Nuclear power generation has been a matter of national policy. It has been carried out by private enterprises, and vigorously propagated by the power companies and the government, which was ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party and others, as "indispensable, low-cost and safe." Now, nuclear power generates different types of serious constitutional problems.

Chapter Two: Fukushima nuclear plant's accident and constitutional human rights

  Nuclear power plants alwaysthreaten health and lives of their workers and habitants around them, as they release radioactive substances in their normal operation. Fukushima Daiichi Plant's accident discharged a lot more such substances than usual. That immensely threatens health and lives of many people, especially children and women.Such a situation impairs the "right to live in peace"which the preface of our Constitution states."The right to live as a part of civil liberties"is also threatened, notwithstanding that the Article 25 of our Constitutionimplies that the authority should be kept from threatening individual's life and health. Freedom to chooseresidence, stated in the Article 22, isviolated when the nuclear accident forces people to evacuate from the land where they had lived for many generations.They can not choose where to live freely any more. "Freedom to chooseoccupation and run business," stated in Article 22 and "property rights," in Article 29, are infringed as agriculture and fishing are damaged by a series of bans on shipping and rumors that discourage consumption. Some people were so discouraged and killed themselves, one of whom left a note that "If not for the nuclear plant…"The Fukushima nuclear accident contaminated soil, air and the waters in Fukushima and other places in Japan, ruining the environmental rights or"the rights to avail oneself of an agreeable environment" provided inConstitution's Articles 13 and 25.Right of self-determination on private matters such as marriage and childbirth, stated in the Article 13, is also infringed, as some women have expressed their serious concern about getting married and having babies after the Fukushima nuclear accident, as was the case after the Chernobyl accident. Nuclear accidents make it difficult to make free decisions in different stages in private lives. Some couples are divorced and some others live separately in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. It is shredding couples, families, relatives and local communities.

Chapter Three: War renunciation and nuclear power

  "I don't think we should stop using nuclear power, because we need to maintain our potential nuclear deterrent," commented Shigeru Ishiba, former Defense Minister and incumbent LDP Dietman. Toshio Tamogami, former Chief of Staff, Air Self Defense Force, said "To oppose nuclear power generation means to partake in anti-nuclear movement that hampers our nuclear armament. If you say that nuclear power stations are dangerous, you must realize that you have a wrong view of history." Former chiefs of Self Defense Forces and other politicians make similar comments one after another. Possession of nuclear arms contradicts our Constitution's Article 9 which states that"land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." Nuclear power generation would contradict our constitutional pacifism if it were operated in order to maintain our potential of nuclear armament.
Chapter Four: Local autonomy and nuclear power stations

  Different from the Meiji Imperial Constitution, the existing Constitution assures local autonomy. It is indispensable for securing other constitutional principles including; respecting human rights, popular sovereignty and pacifism. In reality, public bodies with small budgets have been compelled to accept nuclear power stations, without having consensus of the residents. Nuclear power policy has impaired local autonomy by ignoring people's opinion and building nuclear plants through the influence of money.
Chapter Five: How should people behave under democracy?

  As our Constitution holds that sovereign power resides with the people, decisions should be made in accordance with the people's will, regarding nuclear power plants and other issues. Japan's mass media have energetically advertised views of those who support nuclear power generation.On the other hand, some apparent measures have been taken to subdue anti-nuclear voices.School education has been biased, as government-approved textbooks disseminate one-sided knowledge about nuclear power stations. Police and public prosecutors occasionally arrested and charged some well-known people who tried to restrain nuclear power plants, including Governor Eisaku Sato of Fukushima Prefecture. Crimes were often fabricated for those arrests. Popular sovereignty no longer works well enough under such circumstances. In history, Napoleon, Hitler and some other dictators utilized people's votes to conduct wars that devastated Europe. We must remember that democratic decision-making may escalate dangers when people become unethical without fair education and proper information. "Rule by the people" works only when we have access to correct information. Voices of those who support nuclear power generation and those who oppose it need to be known fairly and widely, and discussions should be promoted. While nuclear power generation is romanticized as an ecological key to stop global-warming, it does dischargecarbon dioxide, in addition to radioactive wastes, during normal operation. Most nuclear plants release warm waste water and heat their nearby sea to an unusual level. We often hear that we can not generate enough electricity without nuclear plants and that they can minimize the cost, while some people say that it is possible to have enough electric power without nuclear plants and that thermal power generation costs less than nuclear power generation.The Fukushima accident has shown many people that we must not fully trust the government, specialists and mass media.
  After the Fukushima accident, Switzerland, Germany and Italy shifted their policy and decided to get rid of nuclear power.A nuclear accident destroys lives, health, happiness, properties, jobs and human relations, and violates many constitutional rights.Japanese nuclear plants have higher risks because Japan is more frequently hit by earthquakes than many other parts of the world.We can not afford to be numbed. We must keep thinking and behaving wisely as decision makers under democracy.

June 2011, in front of an elementary school in Iwaki City, Fukushima.
The sign says "Keep out during surface soil removal work."
Soil contamination threatens lives and health of children.

October 2011, Keep Out signs near the Off-Limit Zone in Minami-Soma City, Fukushima.

January 2010, government's propaganda targets children. This poster, painted by a 13-year-old child,whichsays "Clean nuclear energy saves the earth from warming,"received the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry's award. Name is blacked out for privacy protection.