How Japan Buys Love for Nuclear Power

Illustration for article titled How Japan Buys Love for Nuclear Power

There are 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. That's about half the number in the US—for a country 1/25th the size. So how did nuclear become massive on a tiny island? Money, the NYT reports. Buying the people.

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Even throughout the Fukushima disaster, popular opposition to Japan's sprawling nuclear adoration has been weak. And why? The NYT suggests a constant flow of easy cash is making the Japanese reluctant to kick their radioactive habit: "Nothing other than a nuclear plant will bring money here. That's for sure," explains a councilman from a small Japanese town. "What else can an isolated town like this do except host a nuclear plant?"

Japan's nuclear industry has gotten people like him—and countless others—hooked on nuclear cash. Small towns and cities are often opposed to a new reactor, fearing environmental hazards, until they're simply bought out.

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Take the town of Kashima. It was home to a fishing-based economy, threatened by the construction of a fresh reactor. To sway citizens of the rural, low-income area, the Japanese government built a massive sports complex, replete with tennis courts, a baseball field, and an olympic pool.

Such pro-nuclear gifting is the norm. Japanese law mandates that a slice of tax money be directed to towns that harbor nuclear plants, where public works and subsidies often bowl over hesitant residents. But these subsidies often eventually dry up, leaving municipalities screwed, having assumed nuke money would keep them floating forever. The next step? Try to get another wad: "Putting aside whether ‘drugs' is the right expression," explains the former governor of Fukushima Prefecture, "if you take [the money] one time, you'll definitely want to take them again." [NYT, Photo by Getty/Koichi Kamoshida]

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DISCUSSION

Ok, quick question: What other power source could POSSIBLY supply Japan with the the power it needs? Sure, it's only 1/25th the physical size of the US, but its population is almost half that of the US. And all concentrated on a landmass smaller than California (pop. 37 million).

Nuclear power is the cleanest, safest power option Japan has. Any other kind is simply unsuitable.

Fossil fuels? That much fossil fuel power in that small of an area would choke the island with a permanent black cloud.

Solar and wind power? Equally out-of-the-question, because HELLO! Japan is in a typhoon zone, and solar and wind power facilities rely on small, distributed structures that are FAR more vulnerable than large, hardened structures like nuclear plants.

Geothermal? Possibly, but geothermal plants are geographically dependent, and they require geological stability because they need to drill deep and narrow.

Nuclear power, right now, is the only option for the foreseeable future.