Sunday, April 17, 2011

The best summation of the nuclear problem in Japan that I have read is here at Japan Focus. This sums it all up quite nicely. I think that those who claim that Japan is now too dangerous failed to understand the nuclear problem Japan faced with cheap energy after World War II.

Japan went to war in World War II because of energy. In that war, Japan lost over two million war dead and nearly one million dead civilians. her cities were carpet bombed into ruination.

To forget that fact, then expect that Japan - a country with frequent earthquakes - as well as power plants built on know fault lines would be a completely safe place to live - free of risks - is just plain daydreaming.

Reality speaks differently. From Japan Focus:

Even though no existing reactor has been designed to withstand a level 9 earthquake or its likely accompanying tsunami and therefore all should be closed, it would be unrealistic to demand that.

However, to stabilize not just Fukushima, but Japan itself, the disastrous and irresponsible decisions taken by governments over the past half-century to pursue nuclear energy as a sacrosanct national project, have to be reversed. The immediate priority must attach to close the Fukushima and Hamaoka (and other extreme high-risk sites including Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Niigata prefecture, the world’s largest nuclear generation complex);5 to secure, stabilize, and remediate the Fukushima sites, resettling and compensation the refugee population and rebuilding shattered infrastructure; to cancel all planned and under construction reactor works (including Hamaoka Number 6 and Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture); to suspend all existing and experimental projects for uranium enrichment, plutonium accumulation, use, and fast-breeding; to stop the planned export of nuclear plants to countries such as Vietnam (personally promoted by Prime Minister Kan as late as October 2010); and to adjust public and private investment priorities to a completely different vision of energy production and consumption.

What is called for, in short, is the reversal of a half century of core national policies and the switch to a renewable energy system beyond carbon and uranium.6 Such a strategic decision, turning the present disaster into the opportunity to confront the key challenge of contemporary civilization, amounts to a revolutionary agenda, one only possible under the pressure of a mobilized and determined national citizenry. At this crucial juncture, how Japan goes, the world is likely follow. The challenge is fundamentally political: can Japan’s civil society accomplish the sovereignty guaranteed it under the constitution and wrest control over the levers of state from the irresponsible bureaucratic and political forces that have driven it into the present crisis?

For the country whose scientific and engineering skills are the envy of the world to have been guilty of the disastrous miscalculations and malpractices that have marked the past half-century - including data falsification and fabrication, the duping of safety inspectors, the belittling of risk and the failure to report criticality incidents and emergency shut-downs – and then to have been reduced to desperate attempts with fire hoses and buckets to prevent a catastrophic melt-down in 2011, raises large questions not just for Japan but for humanity. Could the rest of the world, for which the US government holds out the prospect of nuclear renaissance, do better?

The “nuclear state Japan” plans have plainly been shaken by the events of March 2011. It is too much to expect that they will be dropped, but the struggle between Japan’s nuclear bureaucracy, pursuing the chimera of limitless clean energy, global leadership, a solution to global warming, the maintenance of nuclear weapon defences (America’s “extended deterrent”), on the one hand, and Japan’s civil society, pursuing its agenda of social, ecological and economic sustainability, democratic decision making, abolition of nuclear weapons, phasing out of nuclear power projects, and reliance on renewable energy, zero emission, material recycling, and non-nuclear technologies enters a new phase after March 2011.

1 comment:

Matt D. said...

I don't always agree with Gavan McCormack, but I have read his book _Client State_ and really found it helpful.

I think the article you link to is extremely good, but I think this one is even better:

Here's a quote:
"Despite the early 21st century Japanese government’s mantra of privatization and deregulation, huge sums were poured into nuclear projects which would never have started, much less been sustained, by market forces. While public and political attention focused in 2005 on the privatization of the Post Office, bureaucrats far removed from public scrutiny, accounting or debate were taking decisions of enormous import for Japan’s future, cosseting the nuclear industry and giving it trillions.
Japan’s renewable energy sector (solar, wind, wave, biomass, and geothermal, excluding large-scale hydropower), constitutes a miserable 0.3 per cent of its energy generation, planned to rise over the next ten years to 1.35 but then to decline slightly by 2030. By contrast, even China plans to double its natural energy output to 10 per cent by 2010 and the EU has a target of 20 per cent by 2020.[23] In short, Japan stands out as a country following a course radically at odds with the international community, driven by bureaucratic direction rather than market forces, much less democratic consensus.

Rokkasho does not strike me as a good idea.

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