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Japan to be Nuclear Free

May 4, 2012

Oi is scheduled to go offline on May 5. Source AJW.

As of May 5, Japan will have achieved a milestone by shutting down all 54 of its commercial reactors, and setting itself up for a test the nuclear industry is desperate to avoid – the one that may very well show Japan can survive and even thrive without nuclear power.

That, of course, is not how it is being portrayed by some in the media. The propaganda war is in full force, with some predicting dire economic consequences of factory closings, economic decline and the collapse of some parts of industry. Those exaggerations are not all that different from the rhetoric that accompanied the summer of 2011. There were numerous warnings of electricity shortages, but with savings and reduction of consumption – including changing work hours – significant energy savings were achieved. The world’s leader in energy consumption, in reality, pulled a rabbit out of its hat and shaved ore than 20% its already low rates )in comparison to other nations). This achievement has been largely ignored. And with good reason. Those terrible shortages did not arrive.

Japan does not need to go another with few to no plants online. Its achievement last year already demonstrated that the majority of nuclear power plants were not needed. As if there were a memory lapse, as soon as the summer of 2011 ended, the media campaign of electric shortage warnings picked up again in the winter. Again, the terrible power shortages predicted never materialised. Not to worry. The public cannot recall this. The trick has to be repeated, and the warnings have to be sounded again. This time, the message is something like ‘Japan will collapse without nuclear power.’

And the media touts it, giving credence to these false ideas. Some sources, like the New York Times, mention them but do not qualify them. Fackler, for instance, in his article highlights the rising cost of using oil and gas and the trade deficits it is causing (here). This is hardly a doomsday scenario, and does not pose a serious threat to the Japanese economy. The extra costs of using fossil fuel will in some part be absorbed by consumers in slight electric rate increases (which are incredibly low in comparison to American households). It will also serve as an impetus to force the development of renewable energy – an absolute necessity.

With the increased capacity to generate electricity, some people are calling their bluff. And that is key: after a summer of successful electric use with no nuclear plants, the Japanese will firmly understand that there is no need for plants that exist. The only ones left complaining will be big companies that lose some profit, but then the fig leaf will have been removed and it is unlikely people will put up with the potential of nuclear fallout solely so that some factory or nuclear power companies’ executives will get large bonuses.

Civis Journal

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