Faced with rising oil prices, Japan returns to nuclear sanity
Japan is hellishly hot in the summer and frigidly cold in the winter. Air conditioning and heating are necessities for a comfortable, modern lifestyle. For decades, Japan offered those modern amenities to its citizens via nuclear power. However, after the 2011 earthquake, when the Fukushima nuclear plant lost its cooling systems, Japan shut down most of its nuclear reactors. Now, though, as energy costs soar thanks to the Ukraine War, Japan is turning its nuclear plants back on. This is good for its citizens and good for the environment.
Japan’s government on Feb. 10 adopted a policy seeking to maximize the use of nuclear power in a bid to stabilize the country’s energy supply amid soaring energy costs fueled by the prolonged war in Ukraine.
The new policy marks a major turnaround from Japan’s previous policy of reducing its reliance on nuclear energy and shutting down most of its nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Under the new policy, the government will set up a final disposal site for the proper disposal of radioactive waste generated during nuclear energy production. It also calls for the development of advanced reactors.
In addition, it will allow extending the lifespans of nuclear reactors beyond the current maximum of 60 years and replacing aging nuclear reactors with new ones to ensure a stable power supply.
This is a smart policy. Nuclear plants produce endless supplies of clean, affordable energy. They don’t create air pollution, slice or roast birds, or kill whales. And while there have been frightening nuclear meltdowns, they’ve been handled with remarkable success. In the U.S., the Three Mile Island meltdown (thankfully) caused no deaths. In Japan, the Fukushima disaster, which had a massive earthquake trigger, caused no deaths, unlike the earthquake and tsunami, which killed almost 20,000 people.
Indeed, the only truly catastrophic nuclear meltdown was at Chernobyl, but there are a few things to note about that: First, it was built in the Soviet Union which, like China, built things to minimal, shabby standards. (Sorry, but it’s true.) Second, it was a first-generation nuclear reactor, which meant it had high risks and poor safety features. And third, because the Soviet Union kept the meltdown secret, that increased the damage the meltdown caused while preventing the Soviet Union from getting outside help that could have minimized the damage.
The reality is that 32 countries around the world generate their electricity using nuclear reactors. There are 438 operating reactors, with 57 in the building phase. In Western countries, they are built to exceedingly high safety standards and, in all countries where they operate, they produce clean, affordable energy. Japan, which does everything with meticulous care, can be trusted to be a safe steward of nuclear energy.