It’s pretty popular to be against nuclear power nowadays in Tokyo. It’s understandable at some level. We’re still recovering from the effects of one of the worst nuclear disasters since we learned how to smash the atom and extract the power that is hidden within. I suspect that there would have been more protest in the wake of Chernobyl had the Ukraine not been part of the USSR at the time with its philosophy of meeting discontent with tanks and soldiers. (Where do you think China got the idea after all?)
Japan also has the unique history of being the only nation to feel the power of the atom used as a weapon against its populace. So in a sense I don’t begrudge their right or desire to protest. I take issue with what they’re after with these protests. That would appear to be the complete and (here’s the rub) immediate shut down of all nuclear power in the country. Follow me inside for a bit of a rant and some (hopefully) entertaining pictures from one hell of a hot day out in the streets of Shibuya.
So what’s going on with the nuclear power in Japan? Until March, 2011 and the Fukushima disaster about 30% of the energy in the country came from nuke plants. The country was on pace to up that to around 40%. Now all but two reactors have been shut down due to this upswell in public pressure and protest over nuclear energy. I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with this if the demands were to shift drastically away from nuclear and into solar and wind production with a reasonable time line of say around 20-30 years. A good model for this would be Germany, which is one of the leading nations in government backed solar initiatives in the world.
Germany has managed after around 12 years to increase their percentage of electricity consumed produced by solar from ~.01% in 2000 to a whopping…3.2% in 2011. In the same time span wind power went from 1.3% to 7.7% in 2011. So in total less than 11% of total consumption came from solar and wind.
Holy shit are you kidding me? That’s tiny.
Here’s where I really disapprove of the demands placed on the Japanese government by the protesters. From what I understand, the ones taking to the streets want a reduction to 0% as of right neow!
This is incredibly selfish at worst and a knee-jerk reaction at best. Like I said, the strongest economy in Europe right now and the government with the most drive in the world to make this kind of energy change could only get less than a 1% increase per year in terms of consumption. Right now Japan has less wind megawatts than Germany did in 2000 and less solar than Germany after 2007. So these people think that Japan is going to be able to do three times as much with far less infrastructure, far more sovereign debt, and get all done right now?
I’d like a couple million dollars, 30 hours in the day plus a pill that makes sleep unnecessary so I can maybe finish all the video games, movies and TV shows I want to play/watch. But I’m fresh out of magical fairy dust to mainline into my retina so I guess I’m out of luck in that department.
I’ve heard people say things like they can just reduce their consumption by not running the air conditioner as much. Or how like the power company is going to have to raise rates to compensate for all the oil and natural gas they now need to buy because it’s suddenly OK to protest and use scare tactics like this guy.
From what I could gather this guy’s sign shows the radiation fallout if the Oi reactors that were recently restarted, suffered a catastrophe like the one in Fukushima. You know, a (hopefully) once in a century event. An important thing to remember is that the earthquake didn’t damage the reactor enough to cause what happened. It was the massive tsunami that rushed in later that destroyed the emergency generators that led to the partial meltdown.
I think if these protesters were actually faced with having to cut a real 30% of their daily power consumption out of their lives there might be a different beat to the drums of protest.
30% fewer trains running for one thing. 30% fewer 7-11s open or vending machines turned on to dispense cold drinks on these increasingly hot days. Let’s not forget 30% less manufacturing from factories leading to a much larger dip in the economy probably. How about 30% unemployment? Can’t use electricity at the office if you don’t got a damn job. 30% of hospitals shut down might have to happen.
My point is, it’s surprisingly easy to protest something when everyone else seems to be doing it and it’s for a nice and safe hot-button issue like nuclear power. Maybe it’s just hard for me to sympathise as an American of my generation. I grew up in the era when Three-Mile Island was something that happened a good while ago, Chernobyl was far away and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer country. Fuck the USSR. I remember being vaguely worried about milk being contaminated or something. So when I was young the anti-nuke crowd was basically just a bunch of hippies that latched on to a popular idea. To be fair everyone was a little NIMBY (Not In My BackYard, remember that old chestnut?) about it. Also in the USA we have a lot more room to stick nuclear plants where they aren’t so near to the rest of us. Japan doesn’t really have that luxury which is why Fukushima was so close to the sea. That proved to be its undoing unfortunately.
So again, I get why the protesters are doing this sort of thing. I also agree that it is probably better to move away from nuclear power. However, forcing the government to keep all of the reactors shut down is absurd and really doesn’t show the least bit of understanding of the issue at large. The fact is people in Tokyo really didn’t suffer at all in the aftermath of March, 2011 except for the first few weeks. Things were pretty much completely back to normal after the first summer when we stopped getting daily power consumption reports. We still live under the shadow of another large earthquake happening in the greater Tokyo area but that’s really not something we can control. Sure shut down the plants near the water, beef up their earthquake resistance, impose strong checks on safety.
I’m not saying the power company is a poor victim here. They can go soak their head for an hour for all I care. My point is, if you think shutting down all the power plants is a good idea right now then I hope you’re willing to pay my bills when I keep the air conditioner going. Because summer in Tokyo sucks…..