Japan may have to go back to nuclear power, other developments

 Last week Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda did something which the International Herald Tribune (IHT) has characterized  as “a highly unusual move for a Japanese politician”. He  went on national television on Friday and told his fellow citizens that Japan could not maintain its economy or its current standard of living without restarting some of the nuclear reactors shuttered since the Fukushima disaster.

He said that he would order the restart of two reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant in western Japan once he gets the final approval from the local Fukui prefectural government, which is expected to make a decision as early as this week. The realization on the inevitability  of nuclear power in Japan is slowly but surely dawning on responsible segments of  Japanese population.

“Cheap and reliable electricity are essential for supporting prosperous and decent livelihoods,” Mr. Noda asserted. “Japanese society cannot function if we stop or try to do without nuclear power generation, which has supplied 30 percent of our electricity.”

According to the IHT, such personal appeals are unusual in Japan’s often colorless political world and Mr. Noda’s statement was seen here as recognition of how the restart issue has polarized his nation. The attitude of the Japanese public is clearly divisive post Fukushima. the IHT noted that many Japanese are now deeply distrustful of their government’s ability to oversee the politically powerful nuclear industry;  others worry that power shortages could cost jobs and accelerate the nation’s industrial decline.

The IHT pointed out the sharp divisions among the political class. When the present Prime Minister was asserting the importance the former Prime Minster  declared that Japan can do without nuclear power.

Wind Power had its glory for a few days recently in Tamil Nadu a State in India. Wind turbines cranked well and poured 3000 MW into the State’s electric grid   when the State was in the grip of  serious power shortage. The State has an installed wind power capacity of 7000 MW.

Ironically, the commissioning of  two generation3 + reactors of 1000MW each in the State is delayed  because of agitation from a small section of the public.

Solar power had its four hours of record making glory in Germany. It generated 21,000 MW of power uninterrupted for four hours.

Emotional and hysteric reactions apart, it appears to be impossible to abandon nuclear power in the near future.

“The world has no choice, given its growing energy needs, but to use nuclear power to meet some of that demand” the IHT asserted .

“Forecasts from multiple sources, including the United Nations, nuclear industry executives, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency all point to a rise of at least 75 percent in nuclear power development by 2030,”  the IHT quoted Andres Cala from an IHT Gree Energy Special Report.

Believe it or not a few critics  find the call of Angela Markel to cease all use of nuclear power  as unworkable.

“Who will be the next world leader to reverse the clarion call for a nuclear-free energy mix?”The IHT asked

About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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