Let me first offer my congratulations on holding of the second International Nuclear Energy Congress here at the Warsaw University of Technology. I would like to thank the organizers of this important event for the opportunity to address such a distinguished audience. It is a great pleasure and honor for me to join you all today.
Over one year has passed since Japan was struck by an unprecedented earthquake, tsunamis and nuclear plant accidents in March last year. Indeed, Japan suffered a devastating damage. At this time of great sorrow and challenge, we drew strong courage from kind sympathy and support extended by the international community including Poland. I would like to take this opportunity to express once again our gratitude for your kindness, generosity and friendship. I am pleased to report to you that Japan is firmly on its way to recovery and reconstruction.
With regard to the nuclear accident at Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our people and the international cooperation, the so-called state of “cold shutdown” of nuclear reactors was achieved at the end of last year.
Upon the stabilization of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, the Government of Japan and TEPCO are now focusing on the two difficult challenges. The first challenge is to work on the medium and long term endeavor to achieve on site decommissioning of the nuclear reactors. The other challenge is to work off site on the decontamination and to review the evacuation orders so that the relocated residents could return to their homes at an earliest possible timing.
As of the 5th of May, almost all 50 nuclear reactors came under regular inspections, and thus, for the first time in 42 years, Japan has temporarily no nuclear-generated power available. Prior to the accident, nuclear power accounted for roughly 30% of the electricity supply, and therefore there is a strong concern as to how we can secure energy supply without nuclear.
After the nuclear accident, safety evaluations for nuclear power plants have been conducted under the most stringent conditions, using all the possible measures including the safety “stress tests” and the new criteria to be applied for nuclear power plant operations based on what we have learned from the accident. Public acceptance is another important factor. Given the psychological and emotional impact the accident had upon people’s mind, it is quite understandable that some people, particularly those living closer to nuclear plants, have difficulty to accept the restart of nuclear power plants. Therefore, while it is the top priority to secure the nuclear safety, the Government should address the issue of public acceptance as well as energy security.
Japan is now in the midst of a comprehensive review of its energy mix in order to pursue the ideal balance that ensures a safe, cost-effective, sustainable, and stable supply of energy. This review is being carried out from scratch and through a nation-wide dialogue involving people from all walks of life. By summer, this review will be completed and a new long-term energy policy of Japan will be in place.
What can we learn from the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant? Needless to say, safety must be the top priority. While the technical reflections and lessons learnt from the accident are wide-ranging, there are three most important lessons that Prime Minister Noda highlighted during the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit held in March. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly touch upon these three lessons.
The first is to prepare for unexpected risks.
Prior to the accident in Fukushima, the highest anticipated tsunami wave level was about 5 meters, but the actual height of the tsunami exceeded 15 meters. In order to develop a response plan in preparation for a future crisis, one makes a series of "anticipations" based on a certain set of assumptions. However, once such an anticipated risk level is firmly recognized to be the worst possible scenario, then the flexibility to deal with accidents exceeding such an anticipated level will be lost. It is therefore necessary to thoroughly develop a contingency plan based on the premise of preparing for unexpected risks.
The second lesson is not to underestimate the details on the ground.
Nuclear disasters are a battle against time; in the course of reacting to the accident, various problems occurred one after another on the ground. If the people on the ground had used field drills to carefully verify exactly what should be done, and if this had been shared in advance, our response to the accident would have proceeded much more smoothly.
The third lesson is to remember "safety requires incessant effort."
The moment you declare that you have reached the highest level of safety, you are beginning to be seduced by "overconfidence" and "the myth of safety". No matter what the event may be, there is no such thing as absolute safety. We must be incessantly asking ourselves a tough question, "How will we deal with the worst case scenario?" There is no end for making effort to ensure safety.
It is Japan’s responsibility and determination to share with the international community the knowledge and lessons we have learnt from the accident and to contribute to enhancing nuclear safety around the world. With this in mind, in cooperation with the IAEA, Japan is planning to host an international conference on nuclear safety in Fukushima in December this year. We hope this conference will play a great role in disseminating information of highest standard of nuclear safety.
Furthermore, it is also Japan’s earnest hope to utilize the lessons learned from the accident and new technologies of nuclear safety acquired from the post-accident review and analysis. Japan is firmly determined to share these lessons and technologies particularly with countries aspiring to develop nuclear power generation. I do believe that the Japanese technologies and innovative skills can contribute to Polish plans to construct the first nuclear power plant.
With that said, ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude my remarks by expressing my hope that this Congress will prove to be very successful in enhancing our understanding and cooperation in the field of nuclear safety.
Thank you very much.