Democracy vs corporatocracy: Japan’s nuclear (non)phase-out
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Democracy vs corporatocracy: Japan’s nuclear (non)phase-out

Being the only country ever to be attacked by atomic bombs and one of the few to experience a nuclear meltdown (just around year and a half ago), it’s not hard to see why nuclear power might be a controversial issue in Japan.

In the aftermath of Fukushima, Japan even powered down its nuclear stations completely for a couple of months.

From the Financial Times:

In the most basic sense, Japan is already getting by without nuclear power – it has turned off its reactors without blacking out the country. All 50 of its surviving reactors were stopped in the months after the March 2011 accident, amid wrangling between Tokyo and local governments over safety measures. Only two have been restarted.

FT goes on to say that “few believe the current situation is sustainable,” though I guess they’re not referring to sustainable energy sources, since nearly all energy use in Japan and the rest of the world comes from non-sustainable sources. At least overall power use has gone down by 5% with peak usage declining by 10% on 2010 numbers. Not enough. Japan is importing fossil fuels to make up the shortfall and green house gas emissions are way up.

And surely “few” does not refer to the 90% of respondents to a survey conducted by the Japanese government who do not want nuclear power in the mix at all, while only 4% said they either supported or permitted nuclear power.

pic: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Flickr CC)

An expected commitment by the Japanese government this week to completely phase out nuclear power (as recommended by a Cabinet advisory panel) by the 2030s did not receive the ringing endorsement many had hoped for. It was not included in a document outlining Japan’s new energy policy, but rather the document emphasized a reduced roll for nuclear power. Strong opposition to the anticipated full phase out came from the nuclear power industry and local governments where plants are located and receive big subsidies from the the national government.

From Japan Times:

The document that the Cabinet signed off on stirred speculation that it gave special consideration to big business and governments that benefit from hosting nuclear facilities, the main entities opposed to the publicly favored zero option.

So the fact is that the Japanese government is proceeding to relaunch nuclear power against the wishes of over 90% of its citizenry. Is that democratic in the slightest?

Takahama nuclear power plant, pic: Eunheui (Flickr CC)

Read more from Reuters.