On Tuesday, April 22nd, a Fukui Prefecture court issued an injunction against restarting Takahama units 3&4. Maverick Justice Hideaki Higuchi, who headed the Fukui judicial panel, personally attacked the regulatory process administered by Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, saying “the standards lack rationality”. On Wednesday, the NRA’s Chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, responded to the judge’s uncalled-for criticism. Tanaka said the court decision must be due to a “misunderstanding” of the facts, and, “many things that are based on misunderstandings are written in the verdict…It is internationally recognized that our new regulatory regime is one of the strictest… but that was apparently not understood (by the judge).”
As I commented in Fukushima Updates on April 16th, it is literally unthinkable that any judge in Japan would say “The [NRA] standards lack rationality” merely based on a misunderstanding of the facts. I find it inconceivable that anyone in Japan would not know about Japan’s regulatory system being hailed as more than sufficiently strict to assure safety. I am of the firm belief that Higuchi’s injunction is a cold, calculated moveintended to needlessly delay nuke restarts. He knows exactly what he is doing. The question thus becomes; why did he do it?
First… he did it because he could. Higuchi headed another Fukui panel that filed a similar injunction nearly a year ago against Oi units 3&4, which are in Fukui Prefecture. With that prior practice under his belt, he did it again, modifying the Oi injunction’s terminology to make the Takahama injunction have greater legal certitude. It doesn’t matter that the local officials of the community hosting the Takahama station, the Fukui Assembly, and the prefecture’s governor have all approved the restart. Higuchi found he could file an injunction, no matter what anyone else might have done. This is the modus operandi of decided antinukes around the world – use legal methods to be as obstreperous as possible and create delays in the process. Judge Higuchi has demonstrated that he is definitely a firm, cold-blooded antinuke.
But deeper, unstated reasons surely exist for Higuchi’s grandiose, self-absorbed action. It is likely he suffers the psychological traumas caused by radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation) and the Hiroshima Syndrome (mortal fear of nuclear energy based, in great part, on the conviction that there is no safe level of radiation exposure).
Higuchi argues that the NRA regulations do not provide absolute assurance of safety, and he asserts that absolute safety with nukes is not possible. In other words, the only “safe” nuke, in Higuchi’s opinion, is one that is not operating.
The plaintiffs in the case allege that safety upgrades at Takahama made since 3/11/11 cannot unconditionally guarantee that an earthquake will never cause another Fukushima. Unless Higuchi has been living in an informational vacuum, he must be well-aware that the Great East Japan Earthquake did not cause the Fukushima accident. The culprit was the massive tsunami. Basing the injunction on earthquake-based conjecture, flies in the face of the facts. As opined in Japan’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun,“We have no choice but to call it an irrational decision. Such a stance seeking zero risk is unrealistic.” The bottom line here is that Higuchi doesn’t care about the facts; all he cares about is stopping nuke restarts at all costs.
An even deeper, albeit unstated reason behind the injunction seems to be this… On the vanishingly slim chance that an earthquake of biblical proportion happens, and all the emergency power supply upgrades fail resulting in a Fukushima-like nuke accident, citizens near the plant will be exposed to low level radiation. It doesn’t matter how much or how little exposure manifests, only zero exposure can guarantee absolute safety in the decidedly radiophobic persuasion, and absolute safety is what Higuchi demands. This is the no-safe-level assumption in action. His dread seems amplified by the residual paranoia still gripping millions of Japanese concerning Hiroshima/Nagasaki. A Japanese colleague recently revealed that a rather common belief in Japan is that all ~200,000 who died from the two bombs in 1945 was because of radiation exposure. This is the Hiroshima Syndrome in action.
Thus, I contend that Mr. Tanaka’s position of Higuchi’s verbal broadside being the result of mere misunderstanding is, in all probability, incorrect. Higuchi is doing what he can to delay due process because he is deathly afraid of radiation. The judge is confused, but not with the facts concerning the NRA. He misunderstands radiation! He needs to learn, and embrace, the realities of radiation; what it can do, and what it cannot. He is contributing to Japan’s wide-spread fear of radiation. Clearly, he would not know a gamma ray from a doorknob…and it scares him to death.
Update 4/22/15 – This morning, the Kagoshima District court ruled on a similar filing concerning the two Sendai units expected to be the first Japanese nukes to restart later this year. Kagoshima’s presiding Judge Ikumasa Maeda rebuked the opinion Judge Higuchi, saying, “No unreasonableness is evident in new regulatory standards set by the NRA for nuclear power generation.” End Update