Japan’s Nuclear Future

by Francis Sugita

Japan has relied on nuclear energy for its electricity since the late 20th century because of its lack of other energy resources. In early 2011, before the tsunami struck, nuclear energy accounted for nearly 30 percent of Japan’s electricity output (World Nuclear). A recent study has shown that “the share of Japanese people feeling ‘very uneasy’ about nuclear power grew from 21% before the 1999 Tokaimura accident to 52% afterward” (Science Direct). Despite this, Japan’s cabinet in April 2014 “approved an energy policy reversing the previous government’s plans to gradually mothball nuclear power plants,” a move perhaps unpopular to the public at large due to the Fukushima accident (Reuters). Furthermore, this heavily contradicts the Japanese government’s initial plans; prior to Fukushima, there were plans to increase nuclear energy usage to 50 percent, but following the accident, the government of Japan published a White Paper in October 2011 proposing that the dependency on nuclear energy largely be cut (World Nuclear).

All this being said, I think that Japan will still push to either utilize nuclear energy at the same or even greater rate than before, largely because energy costs in Japan are so high, and because the country is already so heavily invested in nuclear energy. Evidence for this is that even though Japan is forced to abide to more strict safety measures, they are still attempting to reinstate idled nuclear plants—something that has cost them over sixteen billion dollars, and counting. In fact, two-thirds of the country’s 48 idled nuclear reactors remain closed because of the high cost of upgrades, local opposition or seismic risks, but local officials throughout Japan are still lobbying to reinstate nuclear reactors or to invest in them in order to pass the newly made safety measures (Reuters).

 

Sheldrick, Aaron. “Japan Approves Energy Plan Reinstating Nuclear Power.” Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/11/us-japan-energy-nuclear-idUSBREA3A02V20140411

 

Vivoda, Vlado. “Japan’s Energy Security Predicament Post-Fukushima.” Science Direct. Energy Policy, Volume 46, July 2012.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421512002492

“Nuclear Power in Japan.” World Nuclear Association. World Nuclear Association http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/Japan/>

 

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