Thursday, July 14, 2011

Japan's Future and Nuclear Power?

Since the March 11 disaster involving the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident at Fukushima, I have been consistently stressing at least two important points concerning the nuclear situation in Japan.

First, when dealing with news about Fukushima, we can only deal with the facts and must resist the temptation to be prodded into panic by sensationalist and hyper-reactive "reporting" that is actually nothing but conjecture. And, two, the worst thing that could ever happen to Japan is for us to lose a cheap and clean source of energy. (For an example of wild conjecture, read this. For a great example of factual reporting see here.)

Interestingly, The Diplomat has a story that echoes my exact words:

Last month, thousands of Japanese took to the streets to demand an end to nuclear power in their country. For more than half a century, Japan had been in the uncomfortable situation of being both the only nation that has suffered an atomic attack, but also one of the countries that are most reliant on atomic energy. The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, though, has made it impossible to ignore this seeming paradox any longer. The Japanese people, known more for their restraint and willingness to endure than for their propensity to express outrage and challenge the status quo, appear to have found their voice. 
A newly empowered public voice would surely be a positive in a country whose democratically elected leaders have waffled with impressive ambivalence through Japan’s troubles over the last decade. However, if this public voice portends a new reality for Japan, Japanese political leadership will need to find the sophistication and fortitude to respect the difference between democratic leadership and popular capitulation. Notwithstanding the immediate task of bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of tsunami victims, perhaps the most important and imminent test for Japan’s leadership in this new era must be to defy the people’s demands and work immediately to ensure Japan’s nuclear energy supply. 
You can read more at the Diplomat.
From reading the above I flatter myself and imagine that this writer is a regular reader of this blog as I have made the exact same points for months, most recently in mid-June. But most probably not. It is common sense that Japan, a country that has little or no natural resources, as well as an aging society and massive debt to GDP; a country that is one of the most over crowded nations on earth; a country that went to war over resources just 55 years ago, needs nuclear power to survive.

What other choices are there except reverting back to the way things were 45 years ago with Japan's energy needs by burning fossils fuels and pollution? That would be a terrible and completely impractical choice. 
We must find a way to make nuclear power safe as well as economical or the land of the rising sun is a country of the setting sun. Japan is supposed to be a leader of the world in technology. We have no choice but to pursue the creation of safe and controllable nuclear power... Even if it means risking a Godzilla type creature rising up from Tokyo Bay (of course, I am joking!) 

If Japan does not pursue creating the technology and will to create safe nuclear power then Japan's time in the sun has passed.


Marc Sheffner said...

So, is this leadership from Kan or capitulation to a few squeaky wheels (heck! if Murakami says so, it must be bad!), or genuine democracy, or simply going where the wind blows? Or what?

Marc Sheffner said...

The innernets thingy deleted my link! My reference to Murakami is here: the great author criticized Japan's nuclear policy in an acceptance speech for some literary prize. And he's a great author, so he must know what he's talking about when it comes to nuclear power, right?

Murasaki Shikibu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Murasaki Shikibu said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with driving technology in the arena of renewable energy sources. In fact, we should be doing this. However, to think that we currently already have the technology in renewables, to shut down all the nuclear plants tomorrow is erroneous.
Judging from the way nuclear power plant operators have behaved, it is in fact mandatory to push people in the direction of renewable energy, because if you don't push them they aren't going to do anything, which will pretty much perpetuate our dependence on nuclear energy.
Do I think nuclear plant operators will really learn from Fukushima and make them safer? Probably not because people are just too into myopic cost-effective analyses that end-up being even more expensive in the long term.
Nuclear energy is something we have to live with for decades to come and I sure hope by some miracle we are able to beef-up the safety of all the plants, because they are the best option (and we are stuck with them) for the time being.