Five Years After Fukushima, Japan’s Nuclear Power Debate Is Heating Up


Last Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe threw his weight behind the redevelopment of his nation’s nuclear energy plants. It was a bold stance, made bolder because he voiced it on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami in northeastern Japan that left 18,500 dead or missing and precipitated the Fukushima nuclear disaster—the world’s worst since Chernobyl and the reason for the eventual shutdown of the nation’s 54 nuclear facilities.

Abe’s case for nuclear redevelopment is strong, simple, and already accepted by many in the nation: “Our resource-poor country cannot do without nuclear power to secure the stability of energy supply while considering what makes economic sense and the issue of climate change,” Abe said at a press conference last week. Post-Fukushima regulations, the prime minister argues, make nuclear power safer than ever, as do major advances in reactor technology. This belief has led the nation to green-light the reopening of a few reactors, starting with two in Kagoshima in August 2015, with seemingly minimal pushback.

But Abe’s narrative isn’t the only way of looking at this. Others, like Naoto Kan, who was prime minister during the Fukushima disaster, have argued that the nation doesn’t need nuclear power at all. Instead, they say, renewable energy sources are the future of Japan. They may look more expensive and less feasible than restoring the nation’s massive nuclear capacity. But that may be an illusion. It can be hard from a layman’s perspective to sort out who’s right about Japan’s nuclear future, Abe or Kan. But a number of studies and pilot projects suggest that Kan’s correct when he says Japan could thrive without ever-troublesome nuclear power—although the country’s political powers seem stacked against that viable future. (by Mark Hay, The Daily Good)