2 Septembre 2016
September 2, 2016
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
Homo sapiens sapiens, or anatomically modern humans, emerged on the African continent about 200,000 years ago. They started migrating to various parts of the globe around 60,000 years ago with some eventually reaching the Japanese archipelago.
The Paleolithic era came and went, and rice cultivation began in the Neolithic era.
I started thinking about these prehistoric times after a recent news report mentioned "100,000 years" in connection with radioactive waste that must be disposed of when nuclear reactors are dismantled.
It takes a mind-boggling number of years for nuclear waste, stored deep underground, to decrease in radioactivity to a level that is no longer a health hazard.
With respect to highly radioactive waste such as reactor control rods, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has just set its basic policy, which is that electric power companies will be responsible for the management of such waste for 300 to 400 years, and then the government will take over for the next 100,000 years.
Every precaution must be taken to prevent future humans from accidentally entering sites where the waste is buried and digging the ground. The potential effects of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the stored waste also has to be considered.
In determining the extent of responsibility to be shouldered by utilities, it was agreed that it would not be realistic to expect them to manage the storage sites for tens of thousands of years to come.
According to "Hyakunen Tsuzuku Kigyo no Joken" (Conditions necessary for businesses to last 100 years) compiled by Teikoku Databank, a corporate credit research and database service company, there are some, but not many, Japanese companies that have remained in business for more than 400 years.
They include Sumitomo Metal and Mining Co., Yomeishu Seizo Co., and Matsuzakaya, which were founded before or during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
Are Japan's electric power companies also destined to join their ranks?
But whether it's 400 years or 100,000 years from now, nobody in our present generation can remain responsible for all those years. I shudder at this "ultrarealistic" reality.
Incidentally, Japan's first nuclear reactor commenced commercial operation 50 years ago.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 2