Japan and Return to Nuclear - Atahan Tümer

Japan is one of the countries that actively use nuclear energy. They have come up on the agenda many times in the past years. The country, which has some projects worldwide, had a nuclear power plant project in Sinop in Turkey. However, this project has been canceled in recent years. After the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster, the concerns about nuclear energy in the country had pushed Japan to take a cold approach to nuclear energy for a while. The past years have eliminated this complicated approach. So much so that in the past years, they even planned to put some of their nuclear reactors in the scrapyard. However, today Japan will reopen three nuclear power plants that have served over 40 years.

The reopening of these power plants closed after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster caused by the tsunami after the earthquake in 2011 brought many questions to mind. Because the Nuclear Regulatory Board (NRA), after Fukushima, introduced the principle of operating nationwide reactors for a maximum of 40 years. Although for the reactors mentioned in 2016, the period could be extended if they passed the security audits, the 20-year extension of the life of these reactors caused safety concerns. While the question of what to do with the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant waste has not been answered yet, this decision caused a great reaction in Japan.

As time passes after the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Disaster, Japan is returning to nuclear power every year. Nuclear reactors that were shut down every year are put into service again. This attracts the reaction of the Japanese people who still feel the trauma of Fukushima. The region's peoples give the most significant reaction to the reactors that have started to operate again. People do not want their fates to be similar to those in Fukushima.

After the decrease in the use of nuclear energy, the Japanese government turned to other energy sources. However, the problem caused by the use of fossil energy resources in the economy causes Japan to suffer financially. This causes the search for solutions. The government found the answer by turning to nuclear energy. So much so that Japan plans to obtain a quarter of its electricity needs from nuclear energy by 2030. Although the public strongly opposes this, economic reasons push the government to take such steps.

Unfortunately, the global economic devastation created by the pandemic causes environmental concerns to be ignored. Although the government tries to keep security measures at high levels, people are not convinced of this.

Another reason behind Japan's return to nuclear is that it wants to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target. By moving away from fossil fuels, the country wants to reach a net-zero emission level in 2050. For this, it invests in renewable energy sources and uses nuclear energy. Japan is also giving incentives to reactors operating for more than 40 years to get old reactors back to work. In addition, it should not be forgotten that these reactors will be disabled in the coming years. Unless new ones are built, the failure of these reactors and no investment in other energy resources will cause a difficult time for countries that depend on nuclear energy economically. Unless new investments are made in Japan, it will face this problem.

Although Japan's return to nuclear energy is an issue that has been debated and criticized, the decision of the Japanese government is understandable. We all know that countries today, especially after the pandemic, are experiencing a tremendous economic crisis. It is also normal for them to look for different solutions to solve the problems they encounter. If one considers the benefit of nuclear energy to a country's economy, it can be realized that environmental reactions are insignificant. The picture becomes more apparent when we consider politicians in a democratic country who make these decisions. Nuclear energy is still the healthiest energy source globally as long as the proper measures are taken and safety is considered as the most crucial criterion. Japan's desire to use nuclear energy in order to solve its economic problems may trigger other countries. This may lead to an increase in atomic energy investments, which have declined in recent years. Time will tell us what will happen and how people react to the decisions to be made.