Time To Say Goodbye
To Nuclear Power

Dr. Richard Wilcox PhD
Mainichi Daily News Op-Ed

The illusion of nuclear power safety has been torn out by the root. The Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the great waves of March 11 last year made sure of that.

What, we wondered at the time, would happen if the reactor vessels exploded? How far would the radioactive contamination spread? Even thinking of it now, nearly a year on, makes one feel crushed....

First of all, the government has indeed begun to hammer out plans to reduce the country's dependence on nuclear power, and there are no whisperings that this will be overturned. On the other hand, we have yet to see an overall vision or process on how the government will evaluate the risks associated with nuclear power and advance policy to decouple our economy from it.

And all the while, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano alludes to how important it is to restart reactors now idled for regular maintenance. He says these restarts can only go ahead after confirming the state of electricity supply and demand, reactor safety, and with local approval. Nevertheless, we cannot accept the push for reactor restarts.

If the government is going to talk up the necessity of getting reactors back into operation, shouldn't it first lay out a mid- to long-term plan to get Japan off nuclear power? The government must furthermore analyze the risks of restarting reactors in this earthquake-prone country versus the risks of keeping them shut down, and reveal to all of us exactly how many reactors must be put back online in the short term.

That is, not only must Japan move toward reducing nuclear power, the government must also rank the various risks involved. Even if it's a given that all badly aging reactors and all reactors of the same model as those at the Fukushima No. 1 plant must be shuttered, how are other risks to be evaluated? The very criteria for making these decisions are straying off course, and that is a problem....

There are more than 430 nuclear reactors in the world, and one by one they will all reach the end of their service lives. Regardless of the future paths of nuclear policies around the world, there will be plenty of reactors that need to be shut down...The development of robots and remote control devices for Fukushima could become Japan's trump card in the global reactor decommissioning business. Furthermore, we can turn Fukushima into a hub of nuclear research, including in the nuclear safety, radioactive substance management and decontamination fields, and attract foreign talent.






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