ISSUE 190 : Mar/Apr - 2013 - Australian Defence Force Journal

adfjournal.adc.edu.au

ISSUE 190 : Mar/Apr - 2013 - Australian Defence Force Journal

Addressing the safety concerns of nuclear powerFollowing the disaster, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that Japan would aim toreduce nuclear power to zero. When Prime Minister Noda took over in September 2011, hemodified this goal to reducing nuclear dependence ‘as much as possible’ over the mid tolong term. 49 For Japan to turn away from nuclear power altogether would be very expensive,both in the short and long term. In the short term, electricity supply will not be able to meetdemand. 50 In the longer term, rejecting nuclear power would mean buying more expensivealternative energy resources and a significant investment in alternative infrastructure.Needless to say, Japan’s leadership will either have to restore the public’s confidence in thesafety of nuclear power or find energy alternatives, sufficient not just to meet the 30 per centof electricity generated in 2011 but the increasing projections out to 2050 on which Japan’senergy plans had been based pre-Fukushima. The options currently being discussed rangefrom abandoning nuclear power completely, through reducing dependency on nuclear powerto maintaining nuclear power generation at current ratios. 51The arguments for Japan to retain nuclear power, particularly in the short term, are clear:generating electricity from an established nuclear power plant creates no carbon dioxide orother climate-relevant emissions; 52 including nuclear in Japan’s energy mix improves powersource diversification; it is relatively cheap, especially after initial capital costs; it increasesJapan’s self-sufficiency ratio if reprocessed fuel is used; and the infrastructure already exists.There have been many vocal supporters of retaining a nuclear power capacity in Japan, bothdomestically and abroad. Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics said in February 2012 that ‘thecontribution of nuclear energy to enhancing energy security is not small in view of its low cost,large scale and high energy density’. 53 Official Japanese estimates are that if Japan turns awayfrom nuclear power altogether, the Japanese economy could shrink by five per cent by 2030. 54The OECD has been urging Japan to restart its nuclear power generating plants, with SecretaryGeneral Angel Gurria making the somewhat obvious statement in April 2012 that ‘you cannotsubstitute 30 per cent of installed capacity overnight’. 55Understandably, the ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment—fuelled by fears of a recurrent spreadof radiation from further Chernobyl-type disasters—has become increasingly vocal in Japan.Japan’s location in relation to the Pacific and Okhotsk tectonic plates almost guarantees furthermajor earthquakes and tsunamis, with associated risks to energy-related infrastructure.While several commentators believe the Japanese public are unlikely to accept thereintroduction of nuclear power, local residents in at least two areas have already agreed torestart nuclear reactors, citing damage to the local economy and high levels of unemploymentshould they remain shut down. 56 In early July 2012, one of these reactors was restarted, albeitaccompanied by public demonstrations and ongoing weekly public demonstrations in Tokyo,with estimates of protest numbers varying from 17,000 to 150,000. The most important pointis that there have been demonstrations at all, as public protests are rare in Japan, illustratingthe extent of public concern over the safety of nuclear power.89

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines