FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Japan’s Long Atomic Sayonara

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

As demonstrators from the Coalition Against Nukes prepare to descend on Washington DC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the world’s third-largest economy has taken a landmark step toward Solartopia.

A pro-nuclear Japanese government has announced it will phase out all commercial reactors by 2040.

It comes as atomic power continues to plummet and reactors go dark in Germany, France, Quebec, California and elsewhere.

Japan’s announcement has gotten mixed domestic reviews. Powerful industrial leaders say it’s unrealistic. Some reports indicate the government intends to proceed with new reactors already on order. But a burgeoning grassroots No Nukes movement is demanding a faster phase-out of existing reactors and is sure to put up fierce resistance to any new ones being built, whether they’re on the books now or not.

In any event, this latest announcement, coming from an intensely pro-nuclear administration, virtually rules out Japan’s long-standing vision of building a new generation of large commercial reactors. So much for the Japanese edition of the “nuclear renaissance.”

In principle, Japan has joined Germany in moving to end the nuclear age. The world’s fourth-largest economy—the biggest in Europe—Germany has shut 8 of its 19 reactors and will have the rest down by 2022. Like Japan, Germany has been at the core of the global reactor industry, and once harbored plans for many more. Now it has plunged deep into the business of renewables, with heavy emphasis on wind and solar.

All but two of Japan’s fifty-plus reactors remain shut. Its No Nukes movement has soared since Fukushima, with mass marches frequently in the tens of thousands. Despite dire industry predictions, Japan survived a nuke-free summer without major blackouts.

The aggressively pro-nuclear administration of Noda Yoshihiko has met fierce grassroots resistance against forcing open two reactors, and is expected to lose upcoming elections. Its advocacy of a long phase-out was meant to placate both industrial and No Nukes interests, but has angered both.

Japan remains at the center of the global industry. Key heavy components are still manufactured there. But bitter debate about the health impacts of Fukushima has escalated. New reports cast serious doubt on the integrity of safety regulations, and on the wisdom of siting so many reactors near earthquake faults and in coastal areas threatened by tsunamis.

The industry’s decline has been accelerated in France, where the new Socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande says he’ll shut an embattled reactor at Fessenheim “as soon as possible.” Public opinion polls show substantial support for a shift to renewables.

A new government in Quebec will shut Gentilly II. In California, new reports on the cold San Onofre 2 & 3 indicate deep problems that make a re-start more doubtful than ever. And a whistleblower has warned that flood damage at Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun reactor may be more serious than previously believed.

Riding the wave of anti-nuclear news is a September 20-22 series of DC eventsorganized by the Coalition Against Nukes. The action starts Thursday with a rally on the Capitol Mall, a Congressional briefing and an evening gathering and concert. Friday opens with a ceremony at the Native American Museum, followed by a demonstration at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Rockville, Maryland, and evening film showings at DC’s Letelier Theater. Saturday concludes with a day-long strategy session. With activists convening from around the US and Japan, the gathering promises to lend the No Nukes movement new focus.

They’ll be dissecting an industry in steep decline. Germany and Japan’s phase-out decisions mean two of the industry’s key players will build no more nukes. The four reactors barely under construction in the US are already plagued with structural and financial problems, and are under intense political fire.

China has yet to decide what it will do in the wake of Fukushima. India is being rocked by huge demonstrations at the Koodankulam complex. Russia and South Korea remain in the hunt, but it’s unclear how far they can go with a global complex on the brink of implosion.

Then there’s Iran. Before 1979 the US and France wanted the Shah to build 36 reactors. Now there’s talk of war over a “Peaceful Atom” that many believe could lead to an Iranian Bomb.

All-in-all, the “nuclear renaissance” is in serious relapse. General Electric’s Jeffrey Immelt has portrayed atomic energy as an obsolete, uneconomic alternativedespite his company being one of its major pioneers.

As Germany, Japan, France, Quebec and so many others leap toward Solartopia, the future of wind, solar and a green-powered future looks ever more promising.

Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA!  OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is atwww.harveywasserman.ning.com, along with WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION?, co-authored with Bob Fitrakis. 


Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail