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Japan Exposing Green Hypocrisy on Nuclear

Sixteen years ago, Japan hosted international climate talks and was a key driver for the Kyoto Protocol that emerged. It had been making strides toward targets set for emissions reductions when the Fukushima disaster promptly sank those plans in devastating fashion.

In the wake of the ongoing nuclear disaster, the country shut down its nuclear reactors due to safety concerns. To meet its energy needs, Japan has had to dramatically ramp up imports of liquified natural gas (LNG), which is currently far from cheap in Asia. But the nuclear shutdown hasn’t just presented logistical and economic difficulties; it has forced Japan to dial back its green commitments. The FT reports:

Cabinet members said on Friday they had agreed [on] a new target with an updated timeframe, under which Japan would seek to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 3.8 per cent by 2020 compared with their level in 2005. Nobuteru Ishihara, the environment minister, is to defend the goal next week when he joins international climate talks in Warsaw….

The new target announced on Friday represents a 3 per cent rise over the same 30-year period – a difference from the previous goal that is about equal to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Spain.

Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of CO2, which makes this announcement more than just a regional setback. But while greens are busy decrying the news, they might spare a moment to reflect on the environmental merits of nuclear power. When sited correctly, with proper safeguards and ideally not on or near major fault lines, and especially with newer generations of molten salt or thorium reactors, the benefits of nuclear are manifest. The plants provide huge amounts of consistent baseload power—something renewables will never be able to achieve barring some miraculous battery technology—and they do it without emitting greenhouse gases.

A group of climate scientists recently sent a variety of green groups a missive, urging the movement’s leadership to acknowledge nuclear’s advantages, especially over fossil fuels. Japan is proof positive of nuclear’s green chops—you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

[Nuclear power plant image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Corlyss

    “it has forced Japan to dial back its green commitments.”

    Whatever works is okay by me.

  • crocodilechuck

    “When sited correctly, with proper safeguards and ideally not on or near major fault lines
    and especially with newer generations of molten salt or thorium reactors, the benefits of nuclear are manifest”

    1) Walt, can you point to any examples of thorium or molten salt nukes currently in operation?

    2) ‘When sited correctly, with proper safeguards..’ You mean like the San Onofre plant that shut down last year due to premature wear found on over 3,000 tubes in the recently replaced steam generators, and sited near earthquake fault lines in Southern California? NB Additionally, more than 4,000 tons of radioactive waste are stored at San Onofre, as such waste is in every US operational nuke reactor.

    Since we both know the answer to rhetorical question 1) above, and the set of conditions you attach to your statement effectively render nuclear power unviable, what in the world are you talking about?

    • gitarfan

      Without Harry Reid’s obstruction, that waste problem would be solved. So you’re pointing out a disaster that didn’t happen as a reason to not use nuclear energy?

      • 0bamasnought

        Our waste issue is man made.
        Why can we reprocess waste from EVERY country on Earth, but we can’t reprocess our own?

      • crocodilechuck

        ‘a disaster that didn’t happen’

        Are you aware of the situation at San Onofre, details of which were invoked upthread? Its premature closure will cost Cali taxpayers at least $13.6B

        Live in Cali? You’re on the hook

  • Terenc Blakely

    It’s a feature not a bug. The Green agenda includes making life more difficult and unpleasant for most (not for elites of course).

    Consciously or unconsciously most Greens hate humanity. They view it as a plague upon Gia. I’ve wondered how many Greens would choose to kill off most if not all of humanity if they were presented with a tidy, environmentally sensitive way to do so.

  • bowman

    “Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of CO2”

    According to NASA satellite imagery, that isn’t true. It may be that Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of non-natural, non-agricultural CO2. But every third world country which practices slash-and-burn agriculture or which is clearing forests emits more CO2 than any country which isn’t doing those things.

  • dwpittelli

    There is no hypocrisy in weighing the trade-offs in terms of environmental risk, and deciding, after a pretty terrible nuclear accident, that replacing nuclear plants with gas is safer for the environment. (I say this even though I would not have made Japan’s choices. I am in favor of nuclear power as well as fracking for gas.) It would be hypocritical if Japan mined uranium and promoted its use elsewhere, while shutting down its own nukes. I have heard of nothing like this, or anything similarly hypocritical, coming from Japan.

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