We’ve kept an eye on the English versions of some of Japan’s national newspapers to see if they have thawed the nuclear energy deep freeze there. It’s more an issue of curiosity than an overtly partisan pro-nuclear view, because whether Japan begins to feel comfortable with nuclear energy after it implements post-Fukushima safety measures or it doesn’t is something no amount of partisanship can change.
If the Japanese ultimately decide to leave nuclear energy, that’s that – if you lived through something harrowing, far be it from others to to tell you to get over it. The advocate in me might say, well, the danger was minimal and no one died as a result of the accident. That’s an exceptionally low bar to clear when people have been scared badly. There’s an understanding that there is only so much one can do about nature’s vicissitudes – which did kill many in this instance – but nuclear energy facilities? Turn the lights out – done!
But the recent election went strongly for the pro-nuclear party. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already spoken of bringing the nuclear facilities back online and even building new reactors.
Pubic opinion is still rather dire, though, so it’s interesting to see if newspaper editorials will act as bellwethers for a change in attitude.
That brings us to this editorial in the Daily Yomiuri, which praises Abe’s moves on nuclear energy to date:
Revitalizing the Japanese economy will require a stable supply of electricity. This year will be important in that the energy and nuclear power policy, on which the nation's fate rests, needs to be drastically reformulated.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown his intention to review the "Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment" drawn up by the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration, which set a target of having zero nuclear reactors operating by the end of the 2030s. Abe also expressed support for allowing the construction of new nuclear plants with enhanced safety features. We think his position on these issues is reasonable.
The government should immediately craft a realistic energy strategy that includes the use of various sources of power generation--including nuclear energy.
That’s – impressive. It suggests that the election hinged on what most elections hinge on: economics, especially the pocketbook. Now, this is one editorial, though the most striking change of tone I’ve seen. There have been others. Business newspaper always offer strong support for resuming with nuclear energy and there are some odd sidewise angles on it.
For example, this editorial in favor of accepting fish from Fukushima Prefecture:
Just a few kinds of fish, such as bonito and Pacific saury, which are caught by Iwaki fishermen far away from Fukushima's coast, are unloaded at local ports like Onahama. But it's a sad story. If such fish are unloaded at ports outside Fukushima Prefecture, nobody thinks twice about buying them. But if they are unloaded at ports in the prefecture and then shipped to other places for sale, they attract suspicion because they are from Fukushima Prefecture.
The Japan Times points out that allowing processing to go on in Fukushima provides employment there, a good goal, and makes the case there is no danger in doing so. It should probably be the government saying this, not a newspaper, but it certainly suggests that a clear-eyed view is present and functional.
Even with Abe openly flirting with restarting the facilities, support for doing so is rising only minimally, and newspapers support it fitfully. It isn’t much, I know, but it’s something and there’s been progress. I know this is the advocate in me wanting the Japanese to reclaim nuclear energy as a good, perhaps the best, energy source for their resource-poor, electricity hungry country – but really, that’s not for me to say, is it?