Three weeks ago, I posted from Japan on the approaching collision between widespread anti-nuclear power sentiment and spiking summertime demand for electricity. A full thirty percent of Japan's generating capacity resides in its idled nuclear power plants and it's getting hot out there, leading Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to push for getting the electrons flowing ahead of likely blackouts.
TOKYO – Tens of thousands of protesters brought central Tokyo to a halt Monday, marching through busy streets to demand the government abandon nuclear power. Demonstrators, bused in from all across Japan, gathered at the capital city’s Yoyogi Park holding “No nukes” signs amid sweltering temperatures, in the largest anti-nuclear rally since the Fukushima disaster triggered 3 reactor meltdowns 16 months ago.
Monday’s event, led by Nobel-winning author Kenzaburo Oe and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, was the latest in a string of protests that have ignited the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. Protest organizers said nearly 170,000 rallied on the national holiday, though the Tokyo Metropolitan police said the number was closer to 75,000.
I just finished Dennis Prager's book Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph over the weekend. Infused with Prager's wisdom, I see this as a clear case of emotion--the Left is mainly concerned with feelings--trumping facts. Engineering a nationwide electric power grid is a matter of cost and risk tradeoffs, not absolute security. A dispassionate look at the Fukushima disaster--where a coast-side nuclear power plant was destroyed by the largest earthquake and tsunami in Japanese history--reveals a success story. The disaster far exceeded the design limits of the plant, literally wiping surrounding communities from the map, and yet radiation, while a lingering problem at the site, didn't kill a soul.
Let's state the fatality score clearly--Tsunami: 19,000; Nuclear Power: 0.
In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daichi meltdown, many of the same people protesting nuclear power today predicted a radiologic Gotterdammerung. Didn't happen. Nevertheless, nuclear power is the problem, somehow, since it feels dangerous or warlike, or something.
I suppose even Leftist environmentalists would fail to get much public traction waving placards reading, "No More Tsunamis!"
I think this may have something to do with language. Years ago, as a physician-in-training, I was struck by a subtle but important nomenclature change. A new medical diagnostic technique, "nuclear magnetic resonance imaging" was catching on, but General Electric insisted on dropping the first word, apparently sparing itself hordes of protesters demonstrating against dangerous rotator cuff scans.
Maybe all nuclear power needs is a better name. Any ideas?