Skip to main content

Your Nuclear Energy, Not Mine: NYT Goes Mushy on Japan

nyt_logoAs we noted a couple of days ago, comments by former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi against nuclear energy in his country drew both respectful assent - and dissent - from the Japanese press. The key word is “respectful,” because Koizumi is highly regarded, sort of a Bill Clinton of Japan. Unlike former President Clinton, though, Koizumi has stayed aloof from the political scene since retiring. So his comments have been handled gracefully and tactfully, as they should. See the post below for more.

Enter the New York Times:

Japan should welcome Mr. Koizumi’s intervention and begin a healthy debate on the future of nuclear power that has not occurred in the two and a half years since the Fukushima disaster. The Japanese Diet did conduct an independent investigation, which concluded Fukushima to be a man-made disaster. But the investigation did not lead to serious parliamentary debate.

We’ve certainly seen where “healthy debate” can get you in this country, but let’s leave that aside. The people of Japan made a choice in electing the Liberal Democrats to office despite (or because of) its support for nuclear energy and current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has the authority to implement his party’s platform. That includes restarting the nuclear energy plants. (This doesn’t mean the Diet shouldn’t debate the issue – just that people who call for a “healthy debate” usually mean that their side is the “healthy” one.)

So what does the Times’ editorial board want? Does it see nuclear energy as inherently dangerous? Its view of American nuclear energy has been generally positive, so why impose a highly negative assessment on another country’s industry?

Well, it gets a little fuzzy:

He [Koizumi] also criticizes the current government’s assumption that nuclear power is essential for economic growth. Ever the acute reader of political moods, Mr. Koizumi argues that a zero nuclear policy could be cause for a great social movement in a country still gripped by economic gloom after 15 years of deflation.

And even fuzzier:

Mr. Koizumi makes a compelling argument that if the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were to announce a zero nuclear policy, “the nation could come together in the creation of a recyclable society unseen in the world,” and the public mood would rise in an instant.

I had not seen this quote in Koizumi’s original comments, but the result of turning off the nuclear plants has not resulted in a great social movement. Instead:

Japan plans to start up 14 new gas and coal-fired power plants by the end of 2014, allowing a switch away from pricey oil, as Tokyo struggles with a shutdown of nuclear reactors and energy imports drive a record trade deficit.

This indicates the dreamed-about “recyclable society unseen in the world” really will be unseen.

But what about renewable energy? This story does not really address that, though it speaks to the importance of baseload energy in a highly industrialized nation.

Expanding gas-fired generation is the only viable large-scale option in a nuclear-free Japan to power its industrial and commercial sector and keep electricity prices low enough for businesses to stay competitive globally.

In other words, I don’t know what the Times is on about. It seems to want to lift mushy-headed sentiments about “great social movements” above the issues of running a highly complex society with many practical issues to address. It’s easy to be glib and dreamy from afar – Koizumi is much tougher minded than his comments used by The Times indicate - much more difficult locally.

Comments

jimwg said…
Re: "So what does the Times’ editorial board want? Does it see nuclear energy as inherently dangerous? Its view of American nuclear energy has been generally positive..."

Respectfully, the NYT wasn't none too considerate in helping to rout freshly completed Shoreham right off Long Island, not to even talk of their pitchforks out for Indian Point.
The danger here is the NYT holds sway the opinions of millions -- many who are voters who can decide nuclear site policy or to simply run them out a'la VT Yankee. NYT shrugs letters to the editor from pro-nuclear individuals as myself. A large respected outfit like NEI sending the NYT an open letter will show the public that the media isn't the lone sole public "conscious" about nuclear.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…