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Japan’s Nuclear U-Turn

Japan’s Nuclear U-Turn

The country of Japan is often trotted out by anti-nuclear environmental types as a go-to case study for why the U.S. should eschew nuclear energy in favor of renewables to meet our emissions goals.

It’s experience during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, when a massive tsunami triggered a partial meltdown in three of the plant’s reactors, marked the most recent of the three significant nuclear accidents to have occurred globally over nuclear power’s nearly seven decade history.

The accident proved more damaging to the human psyche than human health, as it turns out. No one was killed during the incident, but that didn’t stop irrational anti-nuclear politics from gaining ground throughout the western world.

Germany, for example, was so horrified by the accident that it made the decision to prematurely shutter its entire fleet of nuclear reactors, a decision which directly contributed to the energy woes it currently faces.

And yet just over a decade later, Japan, the actual country impacted by the accident, has decided to double down on nuclear as a matter of prudent energy policy.

Per the Washington Examiner:

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that his country would restart its idled nuclear power plants and weigh the construction of new facilities, a major pivot in energy policy following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

 

Kishida attributed the decision largely to the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has touched off a massive increase in energy costs across the globe.

 

Under the new plan, the country will seek to bring back 17 of its 33 operable reactors by summer 2023 and extend the life of its existing plants. No new nuclear facilities have been built in Japan since 2011, when a tsunami and earthquake triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Japan’s announcement marks just the latest in government’s around the globe rethinking their misguided opposition to existing nuclear plants.

Fully depreciated nuclear plants produce some of the most affordable electricity of any source available, and emit zero carbon emissions while doing so.

They also represent a serious boon to energy security, an issue on the forefront of everyone’s mind in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Government’s have the ability to stockpile nuclear fuel, insulating the operations of a nuclear fleet from the whims of foreign despots who control key energy supply chains.

Japan appears to be acknowledging this key reality with an eye toward the future. Aside from preserving the country’s fleet of existing reactors, Prime Minister Kishida is ready to commit to developing next-generation advanced reactors in the country.

According to Bloomberg:

Japan will consider building next-generation nuclear power plants in a policy reversal that will embrace atomic energy to curb emissions and ensure future electricity supply, according to the Nikkei.

 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will formally announce the move on Wednesday at a government meeting, the newspaper reported. Japan essentially barred construction of new nuclear plants in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, instead focusing on restarting existing facilities.

The Japanese government recognizes nuclear energy’s unique advantages and appears to be undeterred by irrational anti-nuclear fears that seem to capture many environmentalists in the U.S.

If Japan can do it, policymakers in the U.S. have no excuse. It’s time to embrace the only viable technology to ensure a low-carbon future.