Skip to main content

Japan to Exit Nuclear Energy – Maybe – Maybe Not

This is from the New York Times:

In an abrupt turnabout, the Japanese government on Wednesday stopped short of formally adopting the goal it announced just last week — to phase out nuclear power by 2040 — after the plan drew intense opposition from business groups and communities whose economies depend on local nuclear power plants.

Color me – surprised? The decision made last week had the political benefit of not impacting most of the officials who supported it and seemed to split the difference between business interests and people wanting to move away from nuclear energy. No one had to think very hard about it because nothing drastic was going to happen for quite awhile.

It turns out a lot of people gave it some thought.

But business groups criticized any move away from nuclear power as impractical and a death knell for Japanese manufacturers, which have already lost much of their competitive edge to cheaper rivals elsewhere in Asia. And communities across Japan that host nuclear facilities feared losing government subsidies, tax revenues and jobs.They also worried that they would become the final dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel stored at their plants.

I’m sure the plants weren’t planning leave fuel rods along the side of the road as they sped out of town, but the overall point seems about right – nuclear energy facilities can be very strong economic engines in their communities and shutting off those engines can have a terrible impact. (I think the 2040 date was meant to soften any such blow, but people clearly aren’t buying it.)

The role of business here was very strong:

A day earlier, the chairmen of Japan’s most prominent business associations, including the influential Keidanren group, called a rare joint news conference to demand that Mr. Noda abandon the 2040 goal. On Wednesday, they praised the cabinet’s decision.

That’s bringing to bear a heck of a lot of pressure. Business often gets a bad rap, but they are employers, too, so trying to rescue themselves means rescuing a lot of workers, too.

There’s a lot more to Hiroko Tabuchi’s story. Do read the whole thing.

---

To be fair, the story referenced above, or rather its counterparts in the Japanese press, has gotten some pushback from the government.

"Don't get me wrong," [Prime Minister Yoshihiko] Noda said Friday. "We did make a cabinet decision" on the nuclear phase-out policy on September 14.

"Japan will seek a no-nuclear society in the 2030s and will realize it.

"With an unwavering attitude, we will implement various policies based on this principle. This is a huge policy change that we have made with a genuine determination."

My guess, and it has to be a guess, as relevant cabinet documents have not been translated yet, is that the government is keeping things very ambiguous to try to keep different constituencies content. If I’m right, it appears not to be working.

In any event, this is still a decision that will not have an impact until many of the politicians involved have left office and the Japanese government will have changed parties a few time – maybe more than a few, given recent history. A lot could still happen.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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 …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…