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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora