A decade after the Fukushima disaster, the enemies of nuclear energy are reconsidering
The war in Ukraine has “reshaped” energy markets, reports the Washington Post, with gas and oil shortages driving up the price of fossil fuels.
The final result ? “From Japan to Germany to Britain to the United States, the leaders of countries that had stopped investing in nuclear energy are now considering building new power plants or delaying the closure of existing ones.”
The change is particularly noticeable in Japan and Germany, where both have resolutely opposed nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in 2011… This week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that his government plans to build next-generation nuclear power plants with the aim of making them commercially operational in the 2030s. The government can also extend the operational life of its current nuclear power plants. German policymakers, meanwhile, are considering extending the life of the last three nuclear power plants that were due to be decommissioned by the end of the year. The reprieve would be temporary – just a year or two to get through the current energy crisis – but it would still mark a significant political shift that has been at the center of German political life for the past decade…
Any decision in Germany would have to be approved by [German Economy Minister Robert] Habeck and his Green Party – which was founded decades ago to focus on the abolition of nuclear power. This remains a central political position of the party, but so does opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine and the desire to be as strong as possible against the Kremlin. “We live in a really special time,” said Dennis Tänzler, director of Adelphi, a Berlin-based climate think tank. “The bottom line is that German climate and energy policy has been shaped since Fukushima by a cross-party consensus that, overall, the technology risks, the security risks, are just too great.”
Even some prominent nuclear critics seem willing to keep existing plants online longer, although they oppose building new ones. “There is no connection between building nuclear power plants and dealing with the price spike caused by the loss of Russian gas,” because building them takes at least a decade, said Tom Burke, president of E3G, a London-based climate think tank. . But, he said, extending the life of existing reactors might make sense. “If you can do it safely, and it’s economically worth it, I don’t see any good reason not to extend the life of nuclear reactors,” he said.