Saturday, May 05, 2012

Japan turns off its last nuclear power plant tonight

Tonight Japan has turned off its last remaining running nuclear reactor, at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido.

All of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors are now standing idle.  And while they were switched off as part of regular maintenance schedules, none have been allowed to go back online as the government has come under strong pressure to keep them unused.

Prime Minister Noda has been working to get the first one back online, but there is significant resistance from some local governments; as yet the confrontation is unresolved.

The unnecessary mothballing of Japan's nuclear industry is having serious consequences.  Already, Japan's production of carbon dioxide has significantly risen as a result of using fossil fuels to cover the gap, thus contributing directly to global warming and putting at risk the global environment:

According to the Asahi Shinbun, the Japanese economy suffered its first trade deficit in over three decades as power producers spent billions of dollars on fossil-fuel imports to provide extra generating capacity.  Just as alarming, the coming summer is beginning to look like last summer, with enforced power conservation across the country, night-time factory operation, appeals to the public to conserve power and behind everything the crippling threat of blackouts if demand exceeds supply.

Incredibly, this weekend across the country there have been protests against nuclear power, and celebrating the shutting down of the last reactor.  After over a year of serious reflection and research, it is hard for me to view these protests as anything but demonstrations in support of human stupidity.  To me it is almost literally unbelievable that an accident which hurt or killed nobody could arouse such hatred.

It's an irony that Japan's new citizen-level activist movement is focused on combating something so harmless and beneficial as nuclear power.  And it's regrettable that such things as government paralysis, wasteful expenditure on public works, and Japanese society's penchant for painful and useless effort, all of which might be the targets of a real revolution, remain unaddressed, while people waste their self-righteous anger on something that actually makes the world a better place.

1 comment:

Liza T said...

Now Japan is going to increase the carbon foot print. They don't have any better source of power. Nuclear is a short time fix. But Coal is worse than nuclear. With nuclear the radiations from the by products will die out eventually but Carbon dioxide emission is not going to come down with our current technology. Its like choosing between bad and worse.