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Only one nuclear reactor plant online in Japan

March 26, 2012

Just a little over a year ago, no one would have imagined that all of Japan‘s nuclear power facilities would be offline. As of Monday, March 26, Japan is getting closer to that scenario becoming a reality. The Tomari reactor in Hokkaido is the last of 54 reactors running, but this May it must be shut down for mandatory checks, as is required for all reactors every 13 months.

Barring the restart of others, which the public in many areas oppose, Japan will have reached a milestone that antinuclear  protesters could only have dreamt about. After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the release of untold amounts of radiation, and government lies and coverups, opposition to nuclear energy has greatly increased. A test of a summer without nuclear energy would serve to prove the validity of some of their claims: namely, that Japan does not need nuclear energy. They might get the opportunity to test their thesis very soon, but it is unclear if they will be successful.

Prime Minister Noda is trying his best to prevent that from happening. He is reported to have said that he would use the “entire government” to force a restart of the nuclear reactors at Oi, in Fukui. With fierce opposition to the restart of any plants – due largely to the inability of the government to get its new nuclear safety agency running or even an end to the worst disaster in nuclear power since Chernobyl – he may not be able to “persuade” the public as easily as he wants to.But he does not need to. Elected and unelected leaders – much like Mr. himself who was not elected by the population – routinely make decisions without public approval. As long as they do not complain too much, it is considered “consensus.”

Be that as it may, demand for energy increases in the incredibly hot and humid Japanese summers.  Living without air conditioning, for example, led to many people getting sick last year. Sometimes, particularly for the elderly, the results can be worse. Not having enough energy is not a pleasant thing, but neither is living with the fear of another Fukushima or Chernobyl, say many activists.

Last year there was lots of talk about terrible blackouts, but they did not materialise as forecast; enormous efforts by people and businesses to reduce consumption played a large role. But the number of online nuclear plants was greater than.

The Minister of Economy, the well known Yukio Edano, is quoted as saying to the press, “We are expected to secure a stable supply of electric power for the time being.” Apparently, this means that there will be neither blackouts nor shortages of energy this summer. Yet, the message seems to change daily, and it is too soon to say whether there will be mandatory power savings introduced or not.

Civis Journal

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