Japan is still recovering from the 2011 tsunami that devastated the Fukushima nuclear plant and triggered widespread radioactive contamination. In late January, an expert panel of the Nuclear Regulation Authority proposed new safety standards for the island nation’s existing nuclear power plants. Among other things, the new standards would require each plant to build levees high enough to defend nuclear plants from the highest possible tsunami.
Since the disaster, the Japanese public has shown a marked disinterest in nuclear power. In 2012, the government administration announced plans to move the country off of nuclear power completely by 2040. Unfortunately, the plan, which many saw as a thinly-veiled attempt to garner good will before an election, was short on specifics. The return to office last month of the conservative Liberal Democratic party (LDP) under Shinzo Abe effectively killed off the idea of a non-nuclear Japan, according to the Guardian. The new regime backtracked, saying that reactors would be restarted if they passed safety tests, and it refused to rule out the construction of new ones.
Thankfully for renewable energy advocates, a recent survey found that not a single one of Japan’s remaining power plants satisfies the proposed standards. For nine of the plants, operators even said they cannot tell when they will be able to meet the new requirements being drafted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, development of both solar and geothermal energy alternatives has skyrocketed as people come to terms with the fact that they’re just an earthquake away from another nuclear fallout. While it hasn’t been easy, the country has survived for almost two years without support from its nuclear reactors. Although it required sacrifice and a reorganization of the manufacturing schedule, the country has soldiered on, proving that a Japan without nuclear is indeed possible.
For now, the massive task of making dozens of nuclear facilities 100 percent safe from an earthquake or tsunami (both of which are very common for Japan’s geographical location) is enough to delay the government’s plans. We can only hope that updating the plants proves to be an economically-irresponsible decision, and that the money and effort go toward renewable energy instead.
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