The Pace of Change

Japan is switching off its last working nuclear reactor, as part of the safety drive since the March 2011 tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.


“There are so many nuclear plants, but not a single one will be up and running today, and that’s because of our efforts,” campaigner Masashi Ishikawa told the crowd.

However, as lovely as this seems, it is only a temporary measure as, for the most part, the reactors have been shut down for maintenance and testing. The Japanese government have also warned that Japan faces a summer of electricity shortages as about 30% of its power was nuclear.

Let’s suppose for a minute that during this process of shutting down the reactors, the Japanese had also spent the time increasing renewal capacity to meet some of the shortfall.

How much of it could they have done in the year and 2 months that has passed since the disaster?

Probably not enough to cover the shortfall but it is sure that they could at least have had some renewable power up and running, maybe quite a decent chunk of their nuclear capacity. Japan is quite famous worldwide for its ability to get things done. This would also have created a number of jobs in a difficult financial climate. Then, when the nuclear reactors were all turned off mightn’t they just decide, having done a large part of it and put the infrastructure in place, just to go the whole way and go all renewable in the coming years?

What it all shows is the problem of will. The protestors have shown an incredible amount of it in order to get so far as they have and get the reactors turned off.

It seems however, that in Japan, like in the rest of the world, there is not the political will at government level to go all out for renewables. The vested interests and the lobbies are still too powerful.

A cynic just might suggest the Japanese government, or any other one in a situation like this, may be disposed just to wait until the discomfort that will be caused by the shortage starts to bite before suggesting it is time to start turning on the reactors again. If this happens a brilliant opportunity for Japan to be a beacon – which was borne out of a horrible disaster, will be lost.


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