Japan Giant Tsunami Wall Fails to Stop Fears About Atomic Power
Comment of the Day

March 10 2014

Commentary by David Fuller

Japan Giant Tsunami Wall Fails to Stop Fears About Atomic Power

Here is the opening section of this informative article from Bloomberg:

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- The cost to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants: $12.3 billion and counting.

     That’s the amount power companies have committed so far on thousands of tons of reinforced concrete and steel, armies of workers, tsunami walls and seismic tests.

     All to meet tougher safety standards for the remaining 48 reactors on coastlines throughout earthquake-prone Japan. And to convince regulators the defenses will withstand a quake and tsunami on a scale of what struck the Fukushima area three years ago today, causing one of history’s worst civil nuclear disasters and shutting down the nation’s atomic fleet.

     As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe backs plans to restart nuclear plants, the country has to weigh the economic damage as fossil fuel imports drive record trade deficits, against risks to safety and the environment. At stake is Japan’s nuclear fleet that is designed to produce a further 5 trillion kilowatts of energy worth 40 trillion yen ($389 billion), according to Penn Bowers, an energy analyst with CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo.

     “In the short-term, economically it’s a no-brainer to restart” the idled fleet, Bowers said in an interview this month.

     Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s plant on Shikoku island and Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai station in the south among the top contenders to win first approval to restart, he said.

David Fuller's view

Here is the full Bloomberg article.

Following Fukushima, nuclear power is an understandably emotive issue in Japan.  The country’s economy needs nuclear power because with few natural resources its energy costs are high and the import of fossil fuels is extremely expensive.  However, the Japanese public is understandably wary of future nuclear accidents. 

Fukushima was a serious tragedy made worse by lax standards at the region’s nuclear plants.  Nevertheless, the statistics this article also provides have a cold economic reality which enables one to view the situation in perspective. 

For instance, the region was hit by a magnitude 9 earthquake – the biggest in Japan’s recorded history.  It caused a tsunami which killed 18,520 people.  While 160,000 people had to be relocated because of inadequate and dated safety precautions at the plant, very few were killed or seriously at risk from radiation.  Japan’s economy and therefore its population of 127 million people will be considerably better off with the lower energy costs that its reinforced nuclear plants will provide.  

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