Japan and the issue of nuclear energy

Vaughan, Michael (2012). Japan and the issue of nuclear energy.

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Title Japan and the issue of nuclear energy
Abstract/Summary Since the Fukushima reactor meltdown of March 2011, Japanese citizens have watched in great apprehension the spread of highly toxic radioactive waste from the stricken reactor. Energy experts offer the now unpopular government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda three options : (1) zero nuclear energy as soon as possible; (2) 15% of energy creation by 2030; or, (3) 20% to 25% share by 2030. Under pressure from business interests, Prime Minister Noda is thought to be leaning toward the 15% option. Statistical tables show that Japan consumed 1.083 million GWh in 2008, ranking it third in the world behind the USA and the PRC. 66% of Japan's energy comes from fossil fuels and Japanese consumption of electricity is almost 60% of the consumption level of the USA.Central to the use of nuclear energy is its lower cost compared to other forms of energy production - this being 12 times cheaper than LNG and 40 times cheaper than oil. Political feeling in Japan over nuclear energy is running high, with 70% of speakers at public hearings in July 2012 demanding a zero per cent option by 2030. Yet, Japan is also investing in renewable, clean energy by Autumn 2013, when it will have spent US$344 million on a new solar energy plant in Kagoshima City. The new plant will provide 78 million kW annually, being enough for the full operation of more than 4,300 households each year. Japan's energy options therefore remain relatively open, depending on the political will of the government of the day.
Keyword Anti-Nuclear Protests
Power Shortages
Three Nuclear Options
Statistical Tables On Electricity Usage
Cost Factors For Cheap Electricity
Public Dissatisfaction With Nuclear Energy
Intended Solar Plant At Kagoshima City
Date 2012-01-01
Research Fields, Courses and Disciplines 290900 Electrical and Electronic Engineering
360200 Policy and Administration
379900 Other Studies in Human Society
Research Report for an External Body - Other
Author Vaughan, Michael
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown
Additional Notes The long-standing problem with nuclear energy is that, although the process when compared to other forms of electricity generation such as LNG or solar power, is less expensive the nuclear process produce thousands of litres of radioactive toxic waste which is extremely difficult to dispose of safely. The other problem is the likelihood of a nuclear disaster through core meltdown, polluting untold distances with radioactive waste - contaminating food, water, soil and air supplies. These physical drawbacks are compounded by the fact that billions of dollars in investments and in profits are tied up in the production of electricity by nuclear means. Almost one third of Japan's electricity, up until now, has been generated in this manner, amounting to some 258 billion kWh in 2008 alone. Powerful business interests, reflected in the Nippon Keidanren, are pressing for the resumption of nuclear power generation, following the government shut-down of the nation's 50 reactors in March 2011. Commercial concern is for stable electricity supply, necessary for the conduct of manufacturing, steel production and services to name but a few industries heavily reliant on cheap electricity. The Japanese public, however, has a much more divergent viewpoint, with 70% of outspoken critics of nuclear energy and its attendant risks insisting upon zero reliance on nuclear power to be achieved just during the next 18 years. Most Japanese citizens, then, want a total phasing out of nuclear power generation in less than two decades. Significantly, a "Greens Party" has just been formed in Japan and will press for precisely such objectives in the political process in years to come. Riding the crest of a strong wave of public opinion, the Japanese "Greens" could become a substantial social and political force, rivalling that of the New Komeito. In essence, Japan's people want their lawmakers in the Diet to pay less attention to pro-nuclear business lobbyists and more attention to civilian protestors in their thousands - the like of whom have not taken to the streets since the 1960s, some five decades ago.

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Created: Fri, 03 Aug 2012, 10:28:14 EST by Dr Michael Vaughan on behalf of School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies