SHOULD JAPAN GO NON-NUCLEAR?
In what an International New York Times editorial called a change of views that is “startling,” one of Japan’s most poplar former leaders is calling for a total ban on the use of nuclear power in that nation.
Junichiro Koizumi, who served as his country’s top official from 2001 to 2006, was “an enthusiastic proponent of cheap and clean nuclear power,” the Times lead editorial on Oct. 15 noted. Now, the newspaper said, he is completely and unequivocally against it.
The remarkable reversal comes in the aftermath of the international calamity two and a half years ago at the Fukushima nuclear power plant — the effects of which are still being felt by people around the world.
An official Japanese legislative investigation concluded that the disaster was man-made, and polls in Japan show that a majority of its citizens oppose nuclear power, but that hasn’t stopped the government of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (often thought of as Mr. Koizumi’s protégé) from approving policies that would reopen as many nuclear power plants as soon as possible.
Such plants, now all shut down following the Fukushima catastrophe, dot the Japanese coastline from north to south — a coastline that the Japanese government itself estimates stands a 60 to 70 percent probability of suffering another massive earthquake and tsunami within the next 30 years, the Times editorial notes.
While the present government supports reopening those plants, Mr. Koizumi staunchly and surprisingly (given his past strong support for nuclear energy) opposes any such thing. Even as Prime Minister Abe asserts that nuclear power is essential for economic growth — something his country is said to badly need after an extended period of economic stagnation — Mr. Koizumi says that nuclear power is not required to produce such growth. Indeed, he says, exactly the opposite may be true.
The Times editorial points out that the former prime minister offers a compelling argument that if a zero nuclear policy were embraced by the government, Japan “would come together in the creation of a recyclable society unseen in the world.” This alone would spark a major economic recovery, he asserts.
Whether or not a zero nuclear policy would be good for the economy, there are those in Japan who argue that it is necessary for the safety of their nation — and of the world.
The government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany has already made such a determination, declaring many months ago that Fukushima was the last straw for nuclear energy, that it wasn’t worth the risks to all humankind to use such means of meeting energy needs, that new and alternative forms of energy production (including increased use of wind and solar power) would be utilized, and that all nuclear plants in Germany would be closed permanently. The public in Germany cheered wildly.
It is, perhaps, time for a serious worldwide discussion of nuclear energy, with a look at whatever people feel are the pros and cons — and so we invite that exploration here in The Global Conversation. The Japanese Diet has not so far had any such serious debate on the issue, and other nations as well (not least, the United States) have pretty much avoided making nuclear power a political issue — though it may be one of the most important matters involving the body politic of our time.
We invite and encourage your views below. We will forward your comments to officials in both the Japanese Diet and the United States Congress — and to any other legislative body in the world that you suggest.
Let the global conversation begin.
UDATE OCT 25: Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer for NBC News, has reported that “a 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook Japan early Saturday,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “The quake was off the Fukushima region of Japan, 231 miles east off the island of Honshu. It was 6.2 miles deep, officials said, hit at 3:10 a.m. Saturday local time and was felt 300 miles away in Tokyo,” Ms. Chuck’s report said.
“The Japan Meteorological Agency reported a one-foot tsunami was observed after it issued a yellow-colored warning Saturday morning, meaning a small tsunami could reach the coast at Fukushima, site of Japan’s 2011 nuclear power plant disaster,” the NBC report additionally noted. The full report can be found at here.