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Japan Starts to Understand the True Cost of Nuclear Power, Cabinet Recommends Cutting Reactors

The respected Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, headlines today (7/31/11) in its English language version an article by Shinichi Sekine,

Cabinet recommends cutting nuclear reactors ,

“The Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan presented on July 29 an interim report on new energy policies. The basic thrust of the policies is that Japan will “decrease its number of nuclear reactors.”…..

“We are going to create a society in which we can meet energy needs without nuclear power,” [Prime Minister] Kan said at a news conference July 13 in response to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”

Of course vested interests howled in protest, claiming that it is not realistic to eliminate nuclear power, but the people of Japan see things differently.

“However, support for a nuclear-free society is spreading among the general public. A recent Asahi Shimbun opinion poll showed that 77 percent support a nuclear-free society.”

The Wall Street Journal ran a great article on Friday,

“Japan Snaps Back With Less Power – Economy Survives Reactor Shutdowns, and Tokyo Rethinks Nuclear Policy (7/29/11)

TOKYO—When the March 11 tsunami knocked out more than half of the nuclear power plants serving the Tokyo area, it set off one of the biggest unplanned experiments in a modern society: Could a metropolis of 30 million people get by after losing about a fifth of its power supply?

After a steaming July in Japan filled with 90-degree-plus days, the preliminary answer is in, and it is yes. Not only has Tokyo Electric Power Co. kept the lights on all summer, it has so much extra capacity on most days that it could power New York City, too.”

Even the corporate elite was trying to avoid a confrontation with this ground swell of public opinion

“”Over the mid- to long-term, it is desirable to move toward shrinking nuclear power by phasing out aging reactors and promoting renewable energy,” said a statement by the Japan Association of Corporate Executives after its summer meeting in July.”

Energy conservation is in full swing. Load leveling is being done on a massive scale, with factories maximizing production at off hours. Even the famous Japanese corporate dress code has been changed for warmer offices.

Clearly Japan has learned a lesson in the economics of nuclear power. Cleaning this up is going to be far more expensive than what they planned for when they decided nuclear power was cheap.

Don’t jump to any conclusions and think that the Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal has realized that Green and Clean means saving big money. The same day they carried an opinion piece from a writer based at both the WSJ and a major Washington right wing propaganda bureau, the American Enterprise Institute, entitled

“Powering Down Japan -Naoto Kan’s dangerous gamble on cutting off 30% of the electric supply with a nuke shutdown.”

The right wingers love to call the rational cost benefit analysis of nuclear power “radical” if it includes the additional cost to society of accidents, health effects, waste disposal, and of course the nightmare of nuclear proliferation. There is nothing “radical” about doing the math right. The right wingers are the radicals here, claiming that we can engineer and build perfect systems, something that we should have learned about from the Tower of Babel or the Titanic.

Let the industry funded hacks talk all they want about “Safe Guards” and “Redundant Safety Systems” but if you can not handle the consequences of something blowing up and burning down to the ground, don’t build it, because no matter how well we design and build things, they will never be more perfect than the people building them.

(A somewhat longer version is cross posted at )

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