Noda asked his ministers on August 28 to examine the effects of a non-nuclear Japan in 2030. On the same day, the government announced that the majority of the Japanese are against nuclear power, according to polls and public comments. On the other hand, Noda said that nuclear power is needed for the medium- and long-term energy future of the country, and that the power generated from reactors is necessary to keep Japan’s economy moving.
The situation is currently under review, with no definite decision yet having being made.
“I believe most of the nuclear plants are safe,” said Takao Kashiwagi, scientist, member of the government panel investigating the nuclear accident and professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. “However, we need to check each one of them, and then hopefully restart them in the future. The anti-nuclear activists want the plants to be 100 percent safe, but that is not possible. No technology is always 100 percent safe. In addition, many Japanese also equate nuclear energy to nuclear weapons.”
However, not everyone agrees. Noda has met with leaders of the country’s growing anti-nuclear group and discussed the safety of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors, of which only two are operating, following the disaster of March 11, 2011.
The leaders of the groups reported that none of the their requests were accepted by Noda. They demanded a shutdown of the two reactors and the permanent closure of all nuclear power plants in the country.
According to Kashiwagi, “It is rare to have a strong tsunami like the one that happened in Fukushima, once in a thousand years. However, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, which owns and operates the Fukushima nuclear plant, and the government were both 50 percent responsible for the nuclear disaster. The government for promoting nuclear policy and TEPCO, under government guidelines, for failing to safely run the plants.”
Ever since the restart of the two Ooi reactors in Fukui prefecture on July 9, demonstrations have grown throughout Japan. The protestors are starting to have an affect.
“I am anti-nuclear, said Yuuki Okada, a businessman in Tokyo.” But I realize it would take to many years to have a zero dependency, so I am for a 15 percent nuclear dependency.”
According to Kashiwagi, “If Japan is to ever choose zero dependency, some experts say it would have a severe impact on the country. The electricity costs would rise, oil imports would increase and the country would loose its industrial base.”
Calls for zero dependency are growing within the Prime Minister’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the public. Noda is faced with a delicate juggling act as he seeks to balance public opinion against the demands of the bureaucracy and the industries they represent.