News / Asia

Post-Fukushima Japan Nears Energy Crossroads

Japanese evacuees prepare for a brief return to their homes near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, May 10, 2011 (file photo).
Japanese evacuees prepare for a brief return to their homes near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, May 10, 2011 (file photo).
Henry Ridgwell

In January, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency trudged through the Japanese winter to visit the snow-bound Ohi nuclear power plant and approve a stress test carried out in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown.

But today its reactors remain dormant.

In fact, all but three of the country’s 54 reactors were shut down in the wake of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and polls suggest a majority of Japanese citizens don’t want them restarted.

Public skepticism on the rise

While not a legal requirement, Japanese custom dictates that approval from local authorities -- a thing that is currently far from certain -- would be needed before restarting the reactors, and in recent months, anti-nuclear protests have only gathered strength.

Kazuko Watanabe, standing among a group of Tokyo demonstrators, says she doesn't understand why Japan must continue to rely on nuclear power.

"Nuclear waste takes hundreds of thousands of years to break down," she says. "I have no trust in the politicians who have vowed to protect the people, the children and our hometowns."

Ever since two government advisory panel experts claimed lessons were not learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, public skepticism has grown. Stress tests on Japan’s other reactors, the experts said, simulated only one natural disaster at a time, which ignored the possibility of a joint earthquake and tsunami -- as happened last year -- and also excluded equipment failure and human error.

"Members of the IAEA left Japan without investigating and conducting research themselves," says Hiromitsu Ino of Tokyo University, one of the two government panel experts.
IAEA inspections, he says, are just for show.

"My impression at the time was that the Japanese government just wanted an endorsement of the work of the Japanese energy companies."

Everything uprooted

Before the Fukushima crisis, Japan got a third of its energy needs from atomic power.
"Nuclear power was supposed to be that answer to their problems," says Paul Scalise, an energy expert at Tokyo University. "With the nuclear crisis at Fukushima, everything now has been uprooted, and it’s very unclear if renewable energy with its very high price-per-kilowatt-hour -- and the general level of instability that renewables currently create -- prevent a very smooth transfer from nuclear to renewables like solar, wind, etcetera."

Because Japan lies on very active seismic fault lines, Scalise says volcanoes and hot springs offer huge potential for geothermal power, where steam generated from underground heat is used to drive turbines.

"Geothermal is a fantastic base-load energy source," he says. "It is clean, it is relatively inexpensive, and it is abundant. Unfortunately it has political problems. Most of the best sites are located in Japan’s national parks."

In a few months, stifling summer heat will create booming demand for power, which, analysts say, leaves Japan facing a stark choice: restart the reactors or begin investing in a long and expensive switch to alternative energy.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid