Over a year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the future of nuclear energy in Japan is in jeopardy. On March 11, 2011 an earthquake off the Eastern coast of Japan triggered a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people, devastated many towns along the Eastern coast, and severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. The damage to the reactors led to a significant release of radioactive chemicals, and a mass evacuation of the surrounding area was conducted. Now, Japan is intent on cutting back and possibly even eliminating nuclear power productions, and the economic repercussions of such a transition are coming to fruition.
Before the nuclear disaster last year, one-third of Japan’s electricity was produced by nuclear power plants. The Japanese government is aiming to decrease its nation’s production of nuclear energy substantially by 2030; the question is by how much? Some believe that nuclear energy should account for only 15-20% of Japan’s electricity, but the majority is in favor of phasing out nuclear power completely. The antinuclear movement in Japan is growing impatient and is advocating the immediate discontinuation of all nuclear power production. However, this will unlikely occur due to the detrimental effects it would have on jobs and the economy. In fact, it is estimated that nuclear power companies would lose $55.9 billion this year alone if all of the reactors were shut down.
The looming question, in my opinion, is which type of energy would be used to replace nuclear energy if its production is decreased or done away completely. So far, the difference has been made up by imported, traditional fuel, which has resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions and has contributed to a high trade deficit. It is unlikely that renewable energies would be able to fill the energy deficit due to the high costs and unreliability associated with these alternatives, making it probable that fossil fuels would just assume a larger percentage of Japan’s electricity production. Japan must weigh the economic, social, and environmental implications before deciding to limit or eradicate nuclear power production.
In your opinion, what would be the best solution for Japan? Feel free to leave a comment below.