9 Mavromichali street
Phone: +30.697.428.6950
E-mail: info@greenjustice.org.gr

Browse: Green Justice » Environment » How Fukushima is leading towards a nuclear-free Japan


Find article:

Subscribe to newsletter:

Did you know:

  • If just 25% of U.S. families used 10 fewer plastic bags a month, we would save over 2.5 billion bags a year.
  • Every year we throw away 24 million tons of leaves and grass. Leaves alone account for 75% of our solid waste in the fall.
  • Over 100 pesticide ingredients are suspected to cause birth defects, cancer, and gene mutations.
  • Every ton of recycled office paper saves 380 gallons of oil.
  • About 1% of U.S. landfill space is full of disposable diapers, which take 500 years to decompose.
  • Glass produced from recycled glass instead of raw materials reduces related air pollution by 20%, and water pollution by 50%.
  • Homeowners use up to 10 times more toxic chemicals per acre than farmers.
  • By turning down your central heating thermostat one degree, fuel consumption is cut by as much as 10%.
  • One ton of carbon dioxide that is released in the air can be prevented by replacing every 75 watt light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs.
  • The uncontrolled fishing that is allowed has reduced the amount of commercial species. Some species, up to one-tenth of their original population.
  • Already over half of the world's tropical forests have been lost.
  • The garbage in a landfill stays for a for about 30 years.
  • Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees.
  • Earth is 2/3 water. but all the fresh water streams only represent one hundredth of one percent.
  • 84% of all household waste can be recycled.
  • Computers pose an environmental threat because much of the material that makes them up is hazardous. A typical monitor contains 4-5 pounds of lead.
  • One gallon of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water.
  • Agriculture absorbs 74% of all water taken by humans from rivers, lakes, aquifers and wetlands against 18% for industry and 8% for municipalities.

In cooperation with:

How Fukushima is leading towards a nuclear-free Japan

How Fukushima is leading towards a nuclear-free Japan

The Fukushima accident will achieve in the next few months what has eluded campaigners for decades: the closure of every one of Japan’s nuclear reactors.

The closures, prompted by the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant a year ago, have continued as more reactors are taken offline for inspections. All must pass recently introduced two-stage “stress tests” and win local approval before they can be restarted.

If, as expected, the last two working reactors are shut down for maintenance by the spring, Japan will be left without nuclear-generated power during the sweltering summer months, when electricity demand peaks.

The question is when, or if, the reactors will restart amid a hardening of public attitudes towards nuclear energy in the aftermath of Fukushima, and a new enthusiasm for investment in renewable energy.

Japan lost its most prominent anti-nuclear activist last summer with the resignation of Naoto Kan, the prime minister during the early days of the crisis, partly under pressure from other MPs angered by his green conversion in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown.

Kan’s successor, Yoshihiko Noda, has said only that Japan needs to gradually reduce its dependence on nuclear energy and improve safety. Under pressure from industry leaders who say a power crunch could damage productivity, Noda is known to want some idle reactors to go back online as soon as their safety has been confirmed.

He has at least acknowledged that the government had been guilty of placing too much faith in the myth of safety surrounding nuclear power. “We can no longer make the excuse that what happened was unpredictable and outside our imagination,” he told foreign journalists last week. “Crisis management requires us to imagine what may be outside our imagination.”

Japan, the world’s third-largest industrialised country, is paying a heavy economic price for the de facto phasing out of nuclear power. This is in the form of a dramatic rise in imports of oil and gas that not only threaten Japan’s climate change goals but were behind 2011 trade deficit, its first in more than three decades.

If none of the closed reactors is restarted by early May, Japan’s growing dependence on fossil fuels could add more than $30bn a year to its energy costs, according to the government.

Before the Fukushima accident, a third of the country’s energy came from nuclear, and there were plans – abandoned after Fukushima – to boost its share to more than 50% by 2030 with the construction of new reactors.

But after the Fukushima accident passed its most critical phase, the government moved to address public criticism of the Tepco and industry regulators by announcing reforms to the utility’s management structure and a new nuclear watchdog – separate from the trade industry – that will start work this spring.

“The first step towards more government involvement in the nuclear industry is turning steps required towards handling severe nuclear accidents into law and requiring utilities to adhere to them,” the environment minister, Goshi Hosono, said last month.

“I don’t think Japan will, or should, sacrifice the safety of nuclear power to ensure a stable source of electricity. Our stance needs to be that we will only allow the minimum number of nuclear reactors to operate under the extremely strict guidelines.”

But many are sceptical of claims that the Fukushima accident was an aberration. A poll by the public broadcaster NHK showed that nearly 70% of Japanese wanted to reduce or end the use of nuclear power, although another survey by the Nikkei media group showed support for the restart of reactors to meet short-term needs at 48%.

Significantly, the Mainichi Shimbun this week became the first major newspaper to come out in favour of ditching nuclear power. “The illusion of nuclear power safety has been torn out by the root,” it said. “The Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the great waves of 11 March last year made sure of that.”

Tomas Kaberger, a member of the Swedish energy agency who was appointed to lead a renewable energy foundation set up by the Softbank chief executive, Masayoshi Son, believes the Fukushima accident has ruled out even a modest a return to nuclear power.

“There is a lot of resistance in the existing power structures, but the combined desire for economic competitiveness and the public opposition to continue as before and in favour of more sustainable and efficient energy supply, I think, will win in the end,” he said. “It is only a matter of time.”

Japan proved it could continue to function during the energy-saving regime enforced in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima accident. If, as the environment minister Yukio Edano has suggested, it manages to last the summer without widespread disruption to the power, more people will be asking why the temporary nuclear shutdown can’t be made permanent.