Nuclear Energy: Public Opinion and Distance

by Francis Sugita

Opposition to the usage of nuclear power plants continues to grow in Japan despite government officials and private investors pushing to reinstate Japan’s nuclear power plants. The oppositional increase is obviously closely related to the Fukushima accident. That being said, there are other factors that must be considered when analyzing public opinion, one being distance. One important case study written post-Fukushima explored the effect of distance to a nuclear energy source and public opinion. This study is important not only because fatal nuclear accidents rarely occur, but also because nuclear accidents have caused an increase in opposition to nuclear power plant usage throughout the world (not just in Japan).

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Benefiting from Nuclear Reactors in Japan

by Francis Sugita

A case study by Kato, Takahara, Nishikawa, and Homma examined the economic incentives and local citizens’ attitudes toward hosting a nuclear power plant post-Fukushima. The study compared local citizens’ attitudes in 2010 and 2011 (pre and post-Fukushima) toward the benefits and drawbacks of hosting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant—Kashiwazaki and Kariwa are nearby towns of the nuclear power plant located in the Niigata Prefecture in Japan. The authors note that the Fukushima accident clearly changed the attitudes towards nuclear energy at a national level, which is shown through a national opinion poll conducted in April 2011 by Asahi Shinbun, one of the major newspapers in Japan (cited in the case study). The poll showed roughly 41 percent of the respondents believed that Japan should reduce or abolish nuclear energy usage, a 13 percent increase from a similar opinion poll conducted in 2007 by Asahi Shinbun. However, the authors also mention the reason they decided to focus on local citizens’ opinion is because they predicted the attitudes of local communities hosting nuclear power plants may differ from national attitudes. Furthermore, the opinions within regions hosting or willing to host a nuclear power plan may have been major factors in nuclear policy decisions because governors cannot simply ignore the regional opinions near nuclear power plants. Continue reading

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). Continue reading