Friday, April 15, 2011

Japan Ponders Nuclear Power: Probably Has No Choice

Japan's central government is reconsidering its policy on nuclear power, which calls for the construction of 14 new reactors by 2030.  People living in the coastal towns that host nuclear stations are also rethinking the dangers, with governors in at least three prefectures calling for drastic safety overhauls or freezing plans for more reactors.

Japan currently has 54 operating nuclear reactors with a total installed generating capacity of around 49 GW, making it the third-largest nuclear power generator in the world behind the United States and France. (EIA)

For Japanese towns, a move away from nuclear power would come at a cost. The towns receives plant-related subsidies that account for alsmost half of many of their annual budgets. Anytime a new reactor gets built, a town receives money from Tokyo. Towns use these subsidies to build roads, libraries, hospitals, schools and sports facilities.

Before the Fukushima plant’s partial meltdown clarified the hazards of nuclear power, many considered the plants to be completely safe.

Japanese utilities are now drafting new safety measures, particularly for plants sitting directly on ocean coasts.  These safety measures put the threat of tsunamis at the top of the list.  So utilities intend to move  backup generators to higher elevations as protection against tsunamis. They will secure extra cooling equipment. And they will build taller breakwater walls. (Wash Post, 4/14/2011)

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