In a brief editorial published on October 14, 2013, the New York Times editorial board admitted what many of us had suspected for many years – it is strongly opposed to the use of nuclear energy and believes that its use should be halted. The editorial was titled Fukushima Politics; it is quite possible that some might overlook or misunderstand this clear position statement.
However, a careful reader would have difficulty constructing any other interpretation of the opinion piece, which was composed by the editorial board, not an independent contributor.
Here is the lede and the second paragraph of the piece:
“Zero nuclear plants.” With this recent call, Japan’s very popular former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is again in the limelight. His bold new stance challenges his protégé, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose policies would restart as many nuclear power plants as possible (now all shut down), and even promote the export of nuclear reactors. Mr. Koizumi deems the pursuit of nuclear power “aimless” and “irresponsible.”
Japan should welcome Mr. Koizumi’s intervention and begin a healthy debate on the future of nuclear power that has not occurred in the two and a half years since the Fukushima disaster. The Japanese Diet did conduct an independent investigation, which concluded Fukushima to be a man-made disaster. But the investigation did not lead to serious parliamentary debate.
And here is the concluding paragraph:
Prime Minister Abe has been stressing the need to shed the deflation mentality for Japan to lift itself out of economic stagnation. Japan can certainly do with a change in attitude. Mr. Koizumi makes a compelling argument that if the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were to announce a zero nuclear policy, “the nation could come together in the creation of a recyclable society unseen in the world,” and the public mood would rise in an instant.
Apparently the New York Times editorial board is under the mistaken impression that it would be a good thing for Japan’s economy and environment to abandon its hard won nuclear energy expertise and to continue to burn an additional $40-$50 billion per year worth of imported coal, oil and natural gas. The notion that a crowded, industrialized island nation can depend on unreliable solar and wind energy is absurd; no matter what anyone professes to believe the technical facts are difficult to dispute. Virtually all of the output of Japan’s currently shuttered nuclear plants has been replaced by fossil fuel consumption or self-denial.
So far, Japan’s economy seems to have been able to absorb the additional expense; that is the nature of deficit financing, the economic activity that results from a rebuilding program, and the government’s ability to tax imported energy fuels. The world’s atmosphere also seems to have absorbed the additional CO2 without any difficulty; in comparison to what the rest of us are already dumping, a few million tons more is simply a rounding error. As the New York banking industry has evidently recognized, a shift in Japan to burning more imported fossil fuel will inevitably break its “deflationary” cycle. It will, instead, result in an ever rising cost of living for most of the country’s population.
In case I have not yet been clear enough, I completely disagree with the New York Times on this issue. No one should be making long-term energy supply choices based on popularity contests conducted after a two-and-a-half year long negative campaign against the most capable technology available. The primary beneficiaries from such a course of action would be bankers, fossil fuel suppliers, unreliable energy system developers and construction companies. The public would pay dearly and our shared atmosphere would suffer irreversible consequences.