The Why behind Sendai… Why Japan is Going Back on Nuclear

Features

  • Author: Lillian Pierson P.E.
  • Date: 01 Sep 2015
  • Copyright: Image appears courtesy of ClipArt.com

The Japanese government has been under great scrutiny and attack since it’s move to restart Japan’s nuclear energy program at the Sendai plant, 365 kilometers northeast of Tokyo. Japanese citizens and the international community at-large are in great consternation about the environmental health risks involved in restarting Japan’s nuclear energy program, and rightly so. Just one week after the Sendai plant was restarted, citizens living nearby the plant were told to prepare for a forthcoming evacuation due to seismic activity and the high risk of eruption at the Sakurajima volcano, just 48 kilometers away from Sendai. The question hanging in the minds of the Japanese people is, why in the world take the risk of reopening nuclear power facilities when to do so creates the imminent danger of another nuclear incident in the near future?

Why take the risk of reopening nuclear power facilities when to do so creates the imminent danger of another nuclear incident in the near future?

thumbnail image: The Why behind Sendai… Why Japan is Going Back on Nuclear

Anyone with a mind for environmental health would commiserate with the concerns of the Japanese people, but just a cursory glance at statistics describing Japan’s economy yield a clear and simple answer.

In the four years that have passed since the meltdown at Fukushima, Japan has gone from having a $65 billion surplus to a $112 Billion trade balance deficit. That $177 billion loss is due to many factors, among them the cleanup costs for the Fukushima incident and Japan’s decision to deactivate its nuclear power program in exchange for fossil fuel energy sources purchased from overseas. In the three years following the incident, Japan spent a total of $270 Billion (58% more than before) on imported fossil fuels, while its existing nuclear energy resources sat by unused.

In the four years that have passed since the meltdown at Fukushima, Japan has gone from having a $65 billion surplus to a $112 billion trade balance deficit.

Before the Fukushima incident, Japan prided itself on its energy independence, where it was able to keep Japanese money within the Japanese economy by relying on Japanese nuclear power to fuel 13% of its total energy needs in 2010. But since Fukushima, Japan cut back on its nuclear power consumption, so that nuclear power accounted for less than 1% of the country’s total energy needs. And the switch to fossil fuel reliance has been a double-edged sword for Japan. They lose because they lose Japanese money out of the economy in the form of payments to mostly Middle Eastern countries in exchange for fossil fuel imports. They also lose because they fail to utilize the massive (and expensive) nuclear energy systems that are already constructed, fueled, and ready to provide power from within the country’s own borders.

The decision to go off nuclear has forced a constant and consistent decline in the nation’s economy. When the situation is viewed from an economic perspective, the choice to go back on nuclear was inevitable. With 127 million Japanese people, and a very limited amount of land and natural resources at the island nation, the decision to replace nuclear with imported fossil fuels was unsustainable from an economic perspective. The irony of the situation being that Japan developed these nuclear power centers so that they could be an energy independent nation, but now the livelihood and survival of the Japanese economy is completely tied up and dependent upon the continuation of its nuclear energy program.

In light of these facts about the Japanese economy, one can hardly blame the recent decisions made by its government. Apparently, the money retained by going back on nuclear is greater than the money (and lives) that will be lost in Japan’s next nuclear incident – and apparently, from an economic perspective, the country really has no other choice.

Sources

Institute for Energy Research Report 2015
United States Energy Information Administration, Japan
International Cooperation Office for Decontamination of Radioactive Materials, Japan’s Ministry of Environment

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