Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has sent shock waves through the political establishment by calling for the end of nuclear power generation in Japan. “There is nothing more costly than nuclear power,” Koizumi was quoted as saying during an interview with Tokyo Shimbun — something Japanese taxpayers are coming to understand very well.
Koizumi may be a late convert to the anti-nuclear movement, but he remains popular, persuasive and, on this issue, absolutely right. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might get some reactors back online in 2014, but he risks a powerful popular backlash because people are not ignoring the lessons of Fukushima. Koizumi is correct in saying that most politicians would go along with Abe if he stood up to the nuclear village and declared “Abenomics” meant tapping the green growth potential of smart, renewable energy. This is a sustainable and affordable low-carbon model that is far more suitable for Japan and developing nations than pricy nuclear reactors.
The old motto of the nuclear village — “safe, cheap and reliable” — now seems like a bad joke. It is hard to put a price tag on the overall consequences of the meltdowns at Fukushima and the ballooning costs of bailing out Tokyo Electric Power Co., but by some estimates it’s $100 billion and rising. There are still more than 100,000 nuclear refugees driven from their homes by the catastrophe. In early November, the government finally acknowledged that many can never return to their ancestral homes. Local farmers and fishermen have a deep hole to climb out of to regain consumer trust, while tourism has been hammered and faces tough prospects. Lingering stigma and health concerns are also exacting a stiff psychological toll on residents.
It is time to move beyond nuclear energy, a flawed “miracle” technology of the 20th century, to 21st-century technology in renewables and radical efficiency improvements made possible by information and communications technology. And Japan is already doing so at breathtaking speed.
Read more at Imagining post-nuclear Japan