11, 2011, Japan's northern coast was shaken by the biggest earthquake ever to
strike the island in recorded history. With a gigantic tsunami and the nuclear
meltdown that followed, 3/11 was the worst disaster to hit the developed world
for a hundred years. Confronted with tough questions about its dependence on
nuclear power, about the competence of its leaders both in the private and
public sectors, about the economy's ability to rebound from a shock, the
country has been plunged into crisis. After centuries of earthquakes, tsunamis,
war, and a long list of other disasters, natural and unnatural, the Japanese
people are accustomed to building back stronger -- but how do they recover from
such a devastating blow, and what will that new future look like?
latest ebook, Tsunami:
Japan's Post-Fukushima Future, the
in-depth look at the quake's aftermath, assembles an exclusive collection
of the top writers and scholars working in Japan today to answer these questions. In
the excerpts published here, a group of Japan-watchers debate the country's
nuclear future: Will TEPCO, which supplies 29 percent of all of Japan's
electricity, be able to rebuild or will its collapse drag down the Japanese
economy? What was the
role of Japan's famous "nuclear village" -- the close-knit, revolving-door
community of nuclear-industry officials, regulators, and lobbyists who've
managed to keep Japan pro-nuclear even after the shocks of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki -- in allowing the Fukushima disaster to happen? And does it make sense to continue building
nuclear power plants in a country so susceptible to natural disaster, or would a new
smart grid based on renewable energy sources be a better solution for Japan's
north, as Andrew DeWit and Masaru Keneko argue?
For a longer
look, plus articles on many other angles of Japan's disaster, check out the ebook
-- with proceeds going to the Japan Society's tsunami relief efforts.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Repeta: Could the Meltdown Have Been Averted?
According to Greek legend, the god
Apollo bestowed on the beautiful Cassandra the gift of prophecy, but when she
resisted his charms, he applied the curse that no one would believe the truths
she foretold. Thus, the Trojans ignored her warnings of impending doom.
A government hearing on TEPCO's interim
report about Fukushima No. 1 provided the stage for an eerie forewarning of the
tragedy to come. At this June 2009 gathering, a Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry official named Yukinobu Okamura presented research concerning another
great tsunami that had appeared more than a millennium ago, in the year 869
(the Jogan earthquake and tsunami). Soil analysis and other work indicated that
the waters from this tsunami had penetrated as far as three to four kilometers
inland into the area of the modern city of Sendai. Sendai lies between the
coastal zones to the north decimated by the great tsunamis of 1933 and 1896 and
Fukushima No. 1, about 100 kilometers to the south of the city. The March 11
quake and tsunami are thought to bear many similarities to the Jogan monster of
869. Okamura asserted that TEPCO's plans were inadequate to protect the
Fukushima complex against tsunami waves of the size and location generated by
the great Jogan quake and demanded better defenses. Like Cassandra's
prophecies, however, Okamura's warnings were laid aside, perhaps to be
considered another day.
According to comments of a Nuclear and
Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) official published by the Associated Press
after the disaster, NISA had never demanded that TEPCO explain its tsunami
protection measures and had not conducted its own studies of what degree of
protection might be "appropriate." Various published reports indicate that
TEPCO assumed that tsunami waves would not exceed 5.7 meters. This official
further said that NISA was about to begin a study of tsunami risks this year.
The story of the Fukushima reactors is
intimately tied to Japan's postwar pursuit of rapid economic growth. The most
fundamental cause of the disaster is the boundless appetite for power needed to
drive the economy.
Surely the die was cast when the first
Fukushima reactors were built. Japan's nuclear industry was in its infancy.
Contractors followed blueprints and designs provided by General Electric (GE),
and GE sent technical staff to Japan to advise on construction. Perhaps the GE
design team was not familiar with local tsunami risk and the Japanese
contractors were overly focused on successfully completing their work according
to GE's plans. Some have even suggested that the Fukushima No. 1 complex was a
"learning experience" for Japanese engineers.
In accordance with the GE plans, the
emergency power generators and water pumps were placed between the reactor
buildings and the sea. Fukushima No. 1 continued in operation for more than 40
years. Despite local knowledge of tsunami history, the better plan developed
for Fukushima No. 2 and a senior official's specific objections to the TEPCO
report in 2009, neither TEPCO nor any agency of the Japanese government took
action to address the risks at Fukushima No. 1. Just before the disaster, NISA
renewed TEPCO's license to operate the complex for another 10 years.
The evidence suggests that regulators
are under the thumb of the regulated and that critical voices are ignored.
Japan's present regulatory apparatus is weak and constrained by profound
conflicts. It is simply not up to the role of contending with the dominant
force of the nuclear power village. Coastal communities built seawalls on the
assumption that another great tsunami would come one day. TEPCO operated its
Fukushima No. 1 reactors on the assumption that it would not. As long as the
facility continued to generate power and profits, institutional resistance to
change overcame the faint glimmering of tsunami risk. The people relied on
public officials to protect them, but the officials failed.
The obvious lesson from the Tohoku
disaster is that if we continue to rely on nuclear power, we must establish
independent regulatory agencies free of the control of private corporations
driven by profit and of the bureaucratic mindset that denies all challenge to
conventional wisdom. It's not clear that this is possible. Humanity may have
learned the science necessary to dominate the forces of nature to produce
nuclear power, but it has not yet evolved the human structures needed to ensure
that this science is applied safely.
Lawrence Repeta is a professor of law
at Meiji University.
Toshirharu Kato/Japanese Red Cross/IFRC via Getty Images
Horvat: How American Nuclear Reactors Failed Japan
What does Astro Boy have to do with the
failed nuclear reactors at Fukushima? Plenty. The rise in popularity of the pop
culture icon starting from the early 1950s closely parallels the gradual
acceptance by the Japanese public of nuclear power as a source of electrical energy.
Astro Boy both promoted and reflected optimistic visions of prosperity through
atomic energy typical both in Japan and the United States in the latter half of
the last century. After all, the cute little robot with rockets for legs is
known in Japan as Tetsuwan Atomu (Powerful Atom). His little
sister is Uran (uranium), and his brother is Kobaruto (Cobalt).
There is hardly anyone in the "nuclear family" not entirely radioactive. All
these characters offered pleasant distractions from the political infighting
and bureaucratic turf wars that ultimately saddled Japan with nuclear
generating equipment that was neither the safest nor the most efficient but
that, at least until March 11, proved to be highly profitable for this
country's entrenched utilities.
The decision against importing the
CANDU, a highly stable Canadian-made brand of nuclear reactor, after more than
a decade of vacillation offers an opportunity to analyze Japan's policy
priorities in nuclear energy. They would appear to be close ties with the
United States, diversification of sources of energy supply, strong bureaucratic
control and localization of foreign technology with a view to promoting future
exports. Safety and efficiency do not appear to be on the list.
Were one to be rude, one might add that
greed and complacency also played a role. We now know that TEPCO had enormous
financial resources and that executives had every opportunity to increase
safety at the aging Fukushima plants. TEPCO had been warned to prepare for a
tidal wave significantly higher than Fukushima Daiichi's 5.6-meter retaining
wall. The poor design features of the Fukushima plant -- the fact that spent
fuel was stored inside the reactor housing and that emergency diesel generators
were installed in the basement of the turbine buildings where they would be
flooded -- were all pointed out at various times.
A nonmainstream publication, Shukan
Kin'yobi (Weekly Friday), accused TEPCO of spending money not on emergency
preparedness but on payments to 25 prominent public figures to appear in
advertising aimed at persuading consumers that safety was a high priority for
the electric utility. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano demonstrated that he
understood public sentiment when he said on television that TEPCO and not the
taxpayer should be made to pay for the damage and disruption caused by the
failed reactors. His statement came roughly at the same time as news reports
detailing the real estate and other holdings TEPCO would sell off to raise Y100
billion ($1.2 billion) just to stabilize four damaged reactors. The assets
included some 33 holiday resorts and retreats for use by TEPCO employees,
including senior executives. The utility also promised to eliminate 21
directorships, given to former executives and company friends who were required
to do little to deserve lavish remuneration and copious perks.
Serious nuclear engineers such as Heinrich Bonnenberg are also upset and with good reason. Bonnenberg echoes
the remarks of Atsushi Kasai, former laboratory chief of the Japan Atomic
Energy Agency, when he writes, "The energy industry and politicians valued
profitability over safety. They built unsafe nuclear power plants with
light-water reactors based on a faulty design.… Due to the disaster in
Fukushima, people have lost confidence in all nuclear energy technologies."
It is not a coincidence that the
relatively safe HTR reactor that Bonnenberg champions and the latest version of
the CANDU are being built in China. Renewable energy may be the wave of the
future, but safer nuclear reactors are needed to fill the gap. In the 1980s,
Osamu Tezuka, the cartoonist who created Astro Boy, replaced the nuclear
reactor in his robot hero's chest with a reactor using deuterium, the D in
CANDU. Had TEPCO executives only paid more attention to the exploits of Astro
is a Japan-based journalist who worked as a correspondent for the Associated
Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Independent
Scalise: Can TEPCO Survive?
For the past 10 years, TEPCO's
generated cash flow has slowly but surely declined. Falling electricity prices
in a liberalized market, stagnant demand growth, rising operating costs and
unforeseen natural disasters plague the company. Little by little, TEPCO has
been forced to increase its borrowing to meet its obligations. Perhaps the most
ironic of all, TEPCO has been forced to trade on its brand name. The remarkable
loyalty of its customers, creditors and regulators guaranteed that virtually
any cost in the siting, licensing and construction of controversial power
plants could eventually be passed on to its loyal customers while the company
relied on low-cost corporate bonds, bank loans and commercial paper to fund
mounting capital expenditures in the short term.
The Law on Compensation for Nuclear
Damage suggests that "the government shall give a nuclear operator ... such aid
as is required for him to compensate the damage, when the actual amount which
he should pay for the nuclear damage … exceeds the financial security amount
and when the government deems it necessary in order to attain the objectives of
TEPCO is well aware of its legal
rights. It is also well aware of the market and commercial realities. Press too
hard and you risk alienating your customer base and the delicate tapestry of
public opinion. Don't press hard enough and your company's viability, its
shareholders and eventually its legacy will be lost. What to do?
At the time of writing, TEPCO now
trades at only Y200 a share. Both the market and the country increasingly view
this situation with dread. Time is running out.
Scalise is nonresident fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies,
Temple University, Japan campus. This article is an expanded version of the
original titled "Looming electricity crisis: three scenarios for economic
impact," Oriental Economist, Economic
Outlook, Vol. 79, No. 4, April 2011, pp. 8-9.
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images
and Masaru Keneko: Moving Out of the "Nuclear Village"
Long dismissed as a dwindling has-been,
a "fly-over" between China and America, Japan has suddenly been catapulted into
an energy future that all nations face.… The need to reconstruct a good part of
the Tohoku region, including much of its electrical grid, opens the possibility
of doing the power part of the Y20- to Y30-trillion job "smart," sustainable
and distributed (broadly dispersed) rather than conventional and centralized.
The monopolized utilities, including the "nuclear village" of industry insiders
and regulators, have been working behind the scenes over the past two years to
impede domestic progress on installing smart grids and evolving smart-city
urban forms. This obstructionism derives from generalized inertia as well as
fear of losing their dominance to distributed power. But now Japan has the
chance to leapfrog its own sunk costs and incumbent interests.
The balance of power in energy
policy-making is fluid and hotly contested, but the sustainable-energy policy
option is rapidly moving to the center of Japanese public debate. The discourse
in the media, reconstruction committees and elsewhere increasingly recognizes
that the centralized system focused on nuclear power is too costly and
dangerous. Highly complex, centralized systems per se are inherently and
disastrously vulnerable to shocks, something as true of financial regimes and
supply chains as it is of power generation and transmission. By contrast,
Germany and a host of other countries and regions prioritize sustainable
energy. They distribute increasing amounts of small-scale generating capacity
among the myriad rooftops, yards, rivers and open fields of households, small
businesses, farmers, local communities and so on. This strategy not only
spreads the wealth and political influence created by a growing energy economy;
it also bolsters the generating network because it is less vulnerable to the
concentrated shock of an earthquake and tsunami. Natural disasters do not hit
everywhere at once.
Andrew DeWit is
professor of the politics of public finance and chair of the graduate program
at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. Masaru Kaneko is professor of public finance in
the faculty of economics at Keio University in Japan. DeWit thanks the Japan
Society for the Promotion of Science for its generous research funding.
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
Why a Nukes-Free Future is a False Dream
The emotional reaction to the Fukushima
Daiichi disaster has failed to take into account the risks and costs inherent
in the alternatives to atomic electricity generation.
Opponents of nuclear power often
suggest that the solution is consuming less energy. This is a worthy goal, but
there are limits to what can be achieved without accepting a fall in the
standard of living except if one accepts a return to the Stone Age. Moreover,
there are still billions of human beings on the planet who live in poverty. If
they are to enjoy a better life they will need to consume more energy to light
and heat their homes, wash their clothes, keep their food cold and travel to
school and work. They will -- rightly -- want to have access to goods that
require manufactured energy and to energy-consuming services. Therefore, though
they mean well, the more extreme antinuclear groups in the developed world want
to deny a large percentage of humankind the benefits of a modern
technologically advanced standard of living that they themselves enjoy. Their
message to the world's poor is "Sorry, the boat is full, have a nice day, it
was nice knowing you."
Another alternative to nuclear plants
could be solar- or wind-based electricity production and other sources of
energy such as biomass or hydroelectricity. Unfortunately there are severe
technological and economic obstacles to be overcome to allow these techniques
to make a much greater contribution to the world's energy needs. Additionally,
some of them, such as biofuels, turn out to have ecological and other costs
that make them far from perfect. Questions are often raised about the
unintended ecological consequences of the dams that produce hydroelectricity.
In several cases, such as the dams Turkey has built upriver from Syria and
Iraq, hydroelectricity can fuel international conflicts between upstream and
downstream nations. Investing more in these options makes sense. Regulatory
changes and effective tax incentives could help a lot. But we cannot expect
renewables to "solve" the energy question in the foreseeable future. Moreover,
if they come online, the priority should be to use them to decrease oil
Thus, though they seldom mention it, those
who seek to abandon nuclear power are arguing in favor of greater reliance on
fossil fuels. Their prescription is "let's burn more oil and let's drill
everywhere." Unfortunately, there are costs associated with this option. One
that is often forgotten is the geopolitical price. The inescapable fact is that
the largest reserves are located in politically volatile regions, principally
but not exclusively the Persian Gulf and North Africa. West Africa, where oil is
also plentiful, is not particularly stable, and few can predict with certainty
that Kazakhstan will remain the steady autocracy it has been since the breakup
of the Soviet Union. With regard to natural gas, countries such as Russia and
Qatar are not the ideal suppliers. In fact, of the major oil and gas exporters,
only Norway and Canada (for gas) qualify as countries that offer stability, the
rule of law and foreign-policy ambitions that are compatible with world peace.
Thus, as a consequence of the distribution
of petroleum reserves, the United States and its allies have had to sacrifice
the lives of their servicemen and women and spend trillions of dollars over the
past decades to sustain a military establishment that could, in case of
emergency, take control of the Persian Gulf oil fields. The self-destructive
U.S. invasion of Iraq has understandably discredited American intervention in
the region. But the fact remains that should a dreadful contingency -- be it a
global Shia-Sunni war, an Iran-Saudi conflict or an al-Qaeda uprising in Saudi
Arabia -- threaten to shut off the Persian Gulf oil fields, even the most
devoted pacifists in Japan would want the U.S. military -- perhaps helped this
time by China and partly funded by Japanese taxpayers -- to take control of the
region to prevent a Great Depression II.
Nuclear power itself is not without its
disadvantages. These include storage of radioactive waste, control of highly
dangerous substances that can be used to build nuclear weapons and the
potential for lethal accidents. Policies that encourage conservation and
development of alternative sources of energy are highly desirable. But overall,
countries that decide to abandon nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima
Daiichi accident may well be embarking on a road that will do more harm than
good to their economies and the environment.
Dujarric is director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple
University, Japan campus. He gave a paid lecture at Areva University in 2008.
Lars Baron/Getty Images
McCormack: Building the Next Fukushimas
March 2011 is set to mark a caesura in
Japanese history comparable to August 1945: the end of a particular model of
state, economy and society, both marked by nuclear catastrophes that shook the
world (even if the present one seems likely to be slightly muted and the
meltdown kept to partial, the regional consequences may be broader, the number
of people disastrously affected greater). Where the mushroom clouds over
Hiroshima and Nagasaki signaled the end point of the path chosen by the young
officers of the Kwantung Army in the 1930s, the chaos and apocalyptic
apprehension of postquake and tsunami Fukushima in 2011 is the end point of the
path chosen by senior state bureaucrats and their corporate and political collaborators
in the 1950s and steadily, incrementally reinforced ever since. Their legacy is
today's nuclear state Japan. 1945 was a purely human-caused disaster. 2011
differs in that it was occasioned by natural disaster, but human factors hugely
Japan's "Hiroshima syndrome" of fear
and loathing for all things nuclear meant that cooperation with U.S.
nuclear-war-fighting strategy had to be kept secret, in mitsuyaku or
"secret treaties," especially in the 1960s and 1970s, that have become public
only in the past two years. The nuclear energy commitment, also pressed by the
U.S., had likewise to be concealed, never submitted to electoral scrutiny and
continually subject to manipulation (extensive advertising campaigns), cover-up
(especially of successive incidents) and deception (as to risk and safety
levels). The extent of that too is now laid bare.
The way out of the current disaster
remains unclear. The debate over Japan's energy and technology future will be
long and hard, but what is now clear is that Japanese democracy has to rethink
the frame within which this elite was able to overrun all opposition and push
the country to its present brink. The crisis is not just one of radiation,
failed energy supply, possible meltdown, the death of tens of thousands, health
and environmental hazard but of governability, of democracy. Civic democracy
has to find a way to seize control over the great irresponsible centers of
fused state-capital monopoly and open a new path toward sustainability and responsibility.
A new mode of energy generation and of socioeconomic organization has to be sought.
Ultimately it has to be a new vision for a sustainable society.
It is of course a paradox that nuclear
victim Japan should have become what it is now: one of the world's most
nuclear-committed, if not nuclear-obsessed countries. Protected and privileged
within the American embrace, it has over this half century became a
nuclear-cycle country and a plutonium superpower, the sole non-nuclear state
committed to possessing both enrichment and reprocessing facilities and the
fast-breeder reactor project. Its leaders chose to see the most dangerous
substance known to humanity, plutonium, as the magical solution to the
country's energy security. While international attention focused on the North
Korean nuclear threat, Japan escaped serious international scrutiny as it
pursued its nuclear destiny. One bizarre consequence is the emergence of Japan
as a greater nuclear threat to the region than North Korea.
Just over a decade from Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, at the time of Eisenhower's "atoms for peace" speech, Japan's Atomic
Energy Commission drew up its first plans. The 1967 Long-Term Nuclear Program
already incorporated the fuel cycle and fast-breeder program. By 2006, the
Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry's "New National Energy Policy" set
the objective of turning Japan into a "nuclear state" (genshiryoku rikkoku).
Nuclear power generation grew steadily as a proportion of the national grid,
from 3 percent of total power in 1973 at the time of the first oil crisis to 26
percent by 2008 and around 29 percent today. The country's basic energy policy calls
for the ratio of nuclear, hydro and other renewables (nuclear the overwhelming one)
to be nearly 50 percent by 2030. Under the Basic Energy Plan of 2010, nine new
reactors were to be built by 2020 (none having been built since the 1970s in
the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl) and 14 by 2030, while operating
levels of existing reactors were to be raised from 60 percent as of 2008 to 85
percent by 2020 and then 90 percent by 2030.
The dream of eternal, almost limitless
energy has inspired the imagination of generations of Japanese national
bureaucrats. In the words of a panel at the Aquatom nuclear theme park-science
museum in Tsuruga, close to the Monju plutonium fast-breeder reactor, "Japan is
a poor country in natural resources … therefore Monju, a plutonium-burning
reactor, is necessary because plutonium can be used for thousands of years."
Trillions of yen were channeled into
nuclear research and development programs and additional vast sums appropriated
to construct and run major nuclear complexes. If the Federation of Electric
Power Cos. estimate is even roughly correct, that the Rokkasho complex in
northern Honshu will cost Y19 trillion over the projected 40-year term of its
use, that would make it Japan's, if not the world's, most expensive civil
facility in history. Japan is alone among non-nuclear-weapon states in its
pursuit of the full nuclear cycle, building plants to reprocess its reactor
wastes, burning plutonium as part of its fuel mix (as at the Fukushima
Daiichi's No. 3 plant since late 2010), storing large volumes of "low-level"
wastes, and desperately struggling to chart a way forward to fast-breeder
technology, something so prodigiously difficult and expensive that the rest of
the world has set it aside as a pipe dream. At all stages -- fuel preparation,
reactor construction and operation, waste extraction, reprocessing, storage --
its nuclear system was problematic long before the tsunami crashed into its
Fukushima plant on March 11, 2011.
There are 54 reactors in operation or
were till March. At Fukushima the reactor cores may have survived intact, but
the management practice of leaving highly toxic and long-lived wastes in ponds
beside the actual reactor has proven a terrible mistake. According to atomic
specialist Robert Alvarez, such pools contain radioactivity between five and 10
times greater than that of one reactor core, with one pond holding "more cesium
137 than was deposited by all nuclear weapons tests in the Northern Hemisphere combined,"
and "a major release of cesium 137 from a pool fire could render an area
uninhabitable greater than that created by the Chernobyl accident." Whether
because of sloshing under the impact of the quake or leakage from structural
collapse, the rods at several of the Fukushima plants were partially exposed
for unknown periods, fires did burn with unknown consequences and the resumption
of cooling using seawater by fire hose or helicopter bombing and ultimately by
the reconnection of pumps has proven immensely difficult.
Once the immediate crisis passes, these
plants will have to be decontaminated and dismantled, an expensive, difficult
and time-consuming task that will take decades, while the electricity they once
provided must be somehow substituted. Whether they can or will simply be cased
in concrete like Chernobyl remains to be seen, but they will surely become a
monument to the disastrous mistakes of the postwar Japanese nuclear plan.
Of the major complexes other than
Fukushima, the most notorious are those at Kashiwazaki in Niigata and Hamaoka
in Shizuoka. Kashiwazaki, with seven reactors generating 8,000 megawatts, is
the world's largest nuclear generation plant. The 6.8-magnitude quake it
experienced on July 16, 2007, was more than twice as strong as the design had
allowed for, and the site proved to be on a previously undetected fault line.
Catastrophic breakdown did not occur, but multiple malfunctioning did,
including burst pipes, fire and radioactive leaks into sea and air. The Hamaoka
complex, 190 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, has five reactors, which, like
those at Kashiwazaki, sit on fault lines where the Eurasian, Pacific,
Philippine and North American plates grind against one another and where
experts predict a strong chance of a powerful quake sometime in the near
future. Company officials say the plant is designed to withstand an
8.5-magnitude earthquake, as that was believed to have been the most powerful
ever known in the area. After Fukushima's 9.0, however, the preconditions on
which Hamaoka was based have collapsed. A Fukushima-level event here could
force the evacuation of up to 30 million people.
Perhaps most controversial of the site
plans is that for two reactors to be built at Kaminoseki, population 3,700, an
exquisitely beautiful national park site at the southern end of the Inland Sea
about 80 kilometers from Hiroshima, one to commence operation in 2018 and the
other in 2022. After nearly 30 years of attempts to start these works, blocked
by fierce local resistance, especially on the part of the fishing community of
Iwaishima, the island that faces the reactor site across about four kilometers
of sea, preliminary forest clearing and sea refilling works began late in 2010.
With fierce confrontation continuing between fishing boats, canoes and kayaks on
the part of the protesters and the power company's ships, however, it is hard
to imagine that after March 2011 the government will find the will to move in
and crush the protesters. Indeed, the governor of the prefecture has demanded
that work be halted (and in the wake of March 11 it has indeed halted, at least
For the country whose scientific and
engineering skills are the envy of the world to have been guilty of the
disastrous miscalculations and malpractices that have marked the past half
century -- including data falsification and fabrication, the duping of safety
inspectors, the belittling of risk and the failure to report criticality
incidents and emergency shutdowns -- and then to have been reduced to desperate
attempts with fire hoses and buckets to prevent a catastrophic meltdown in 2011
raises large questions not just for Japan but for humanity. Could the rest of
the world, for which the U.S. government holds out the prospect of nuclear
renaissance, do better?
The "nuclear state Japan" plans have plainly
been shaken by the events of March 2011. It is too much to expect that they
will be dropped, but the struggle between Japan's nuclear bureaucracy, pursuing
the chimera of limitless clean energy, global leadership, a solution to global
warming, the maintenance of nuclear weapon defenses (America's "extended
deterrent") on the one hand and Japan's civil society, pursuing its agenda of
social, ecological and economic sustainability, democratic decision-making,
abolition of nuclear weapons, phasing out of nuclear power projects, and
reliance on renewable energy, zero emission, material recycling and non-nuclear
technologies enters a new phase after March 2011.
McCormack is a coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Journal and an emeritus professor
of Australian National University. He is the author, most recently, of Client State: Japan in the American
Embrace (New York, 2007, Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing 2008) and Target North
Korea: Pushing North Korea to the Brink of Nuclear Catastrophe (New
York, 2004, Tokyo and Seoul 2006). This essay, which draws on and updates a 2007
Japan Focus article, was written for Le Monde Diplomatique, where
it was posted online in French in April 2011.
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images