“Japan’s Fateful Decision” April 2012


Audio for Japan’s Fateful Decision
April 5, 2012
“Japan’s Fateful Choice”

It’s been just over a year since Japan’s triple horror; the 4th largest earthquake in modern history, a 9 on the Richter scale. An earthquake that created tsunamis over 30 feet high and caused considerably more damage than the original quake, followed of course by the Fukushima nuclear meltdown that continues to radiate parts of Japan’s Fukushima region to this day.

Three unimaginable horrors, back to back that killed over nineteen thousand people and which were, not surprisingly, especially well covered by the international media. But ironically perhaps the most globally significant development since that fateful day a year ago, the issue most likely to impact the lives of people far beyond Japan has passed largely under the radar of much of the international media, the drama of Japan’s upcoming decision about the nation’s energy future.

Yes, the issue that has been largely ignored is the absolutely critical energy choice that the rest of the world should be making right now. That core question of how our countries wish to see their energy futures evolve as we move into the climatically challenged 21st century.

Ironically, we are talking of a decision that was hardly even on the Japanese horizon in the days before the triple disasters. And yet Japan is a nation with an unusually long commitment to maintaining the integrity of its natural environment. Indeed, The Japanese had already begun an elaborate system of forest management about the time the pilgrims were getting themselves settled in at Plymouth colony. And of course in our own time Japan is the nation that gave the name of its former imperial city, Kyoto, to the most famous of the international treaties designed to confront the climate crisis.

Yes, a nation that had planned, up to the very eve of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to adjust its energy use away from atmospherically destabilizing fossil fuels by energetically pushing a green energy renaissance. And that plan included a further build out of greener nuclear energy, from the existing 54 plants that were already supplying around 30% of Japan’s energy mix to something significantly more ambitious.

And then that fateful day arrived, the destruction of several of the nation’s nuclear plants, as the world watched in horror. While leaving much of the rest of Japan in such a state of national suspicion that one after the other the nation’s nuclear plants have gone off line. Off line, ostensibly as part of their regular maintenance

But now in this new anti-nuclear environment unable to gain the legal authority to renew production until proven “safe” And of course that is not terribly surprising caution for the only nation that has ever suffered a nuclear attack. Not forgetting that, along with the Ukraine, one that has suffered grievously from the aftereffects of radiation poisoning.

All this even as the nation’s fossil fuel bills have dramatically risen and their CO2 contribution to atmospheric destabilization that much more pronounced. All of which brings Japan to its current moment of truth. As the last of their nuclear plants go off line over the new few months Just as Japan’s often stifling summer approaches and it’s understandably greater demand for energy hungry air conditioning grows.

While forces are squaring off within the nation – those that insist that Japan leave those nuclear plants permanently closed, while promoting an even more ambitious green energy program, while others, especially Japan’s banking industry that so heavily financed those same nuclear plants and now fears the loss of those investments push equally hard to restart them.

Sure the entire world is in the same boat, even if much of it, especially parts of America, is still in denial about the critical necessity to move away from atmospherically destabilizing fossil fuels.
But Japan, by an accident of fate, is being forced to think through these issues right now. And it is a decision a great many of us should be very interested in watching unfold.

About Steven Leibo

This entry was posted in Asia, Energy, WAMC Northeast Public Radio Commentaries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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