Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Shattering the safety myth of nuclear power

A smoke plume from the Fukushima nuclear power plant after an explosion at reactor number one. Credits: Public Domain.

Kazuaki Nagata at the Japan Times reports this morning that following Germany’s lead, Japan is awakening to the threats of nuclear energy and may shift its emphasis to safer sources of renewable energy such as solar and wind. We can only wonder when the U.S. will heed the wake-up call so tragically sounded by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Nagata writes:

The Fukushima nuclear crisis changed the national debate over energy policy almost overnight.

By shattering the government's long-pitched safety myth about nuclear power, the crisis dramatically raised public awareness about energy use and sparked strong antinuclear sentiment.

And as the government gropes for a new long-term energy strategy, intense debate both at the political and public level is expected to take place over whether Japan should end its reliance on atomic power just as Germany has vowed to do.

"Energy policy discussions within the government are no longer just about nuclear power," said Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies and a long-time foe of nuclear power.

Before March 11, the government and media had generally ignored the voices of alternative energy advocates, he said. But the disaster poisoned the favorable environment for the pronuclear bureaucracy and all of the nation's reactors may find themselves idle in the coming months — at least temporarily — if politicians fail to ease Japan's boiling anitinuclear sentiment.

As of Dec. 25, only six of the nation's 54 reactors were running. But even these will be halted by spring for scheduled inspections, bringing electricity supplies to dangerous lows.


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