Japan Today



Does Fukushima show a split in philosophy between Asia and Europe?

By Lee Jay Walker

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan killed more than 25,000. However, since that day, it has been the nuclear energy issue which has garnered the most attention, despite nobody dying from radiation yet.

Of course, the long-term effects of radiation will not be known until well into the future because cancer clusters may or may not appear. Nevertheless, the unknown threat and the invisible nature of radiation remain the main cause of concern.

The Fukushima nuclear crisis has caused a varied response overseas. While nations like Switzerland and Germany have announced that they will phase out their nuclear power plants, other nations like China, India, South Korea, France and the United States remain committed to nuclear power.

It seems to me that the Fukushima crisis shows a split in philosophy between a pragmatic Asia and an oversensitive Europe. Of course, not all of Europe can be labeled together, but in countries like Germany and Switzerland, to name a few, the fear of nuclear meltdown in the wake of March 11 is causing major ripples.

In Asia, China and India have already indicated that they will continue to develop nuclear energy. The same applies to South Korea. The governments of those three countries believe that nuclear energy is a must. Also, unlike fossil fuels, nuclear energy is environmentally friendly.

In the aftermath of the Japan disaster, daily images of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appeared in the media alongside massive scaremongering stories with the result that some European governments, which had future plans for nuclear power plants in the pipeline, were forced to re-examine their plans.

Therefore, why are Switzerland, Germany and other nations in Europe, responding so differently from Asian nations such as China and India? After all, even in Japan, it would appear that nuclear energy will remain to be a powerful source of energy even if the current Japanese government introduces greater safety measures or focuses on alternative sources of energy.

Maybe the main difference is that environmentalists and the mass media are more motivated by green issues in Europe and they have a long-term agenda, allowing them to exploit an issue like Fukushima. The difference between Asia and Europe would appear to be based on political motives, the role of the green movement, the mass media which clearly overhyped the crisis in Europe, and other factors.

I find it rather strange for people to be marching about the nuclear issue when thousands of people are still missing in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi. It is also noticeable that the demonstrations in Japan have mainly been tame or often based on economic factors such as the plight of local farmers affected by the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

After Fukushima disappears from the news, major nations in Asia will continue to forge ahead with nuclear power, but in parts of Europe, the opposite is happening and I expect to see a lot more soul searching going on.

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"Also, unlike fossil fuels, nuclear energy is environmentally friendly." That is preposterous! What about the nuclear waste that has to be safely stored for thousands of years? Don't you realize what a disaster it would be if it leaked out? We are leaving our trash for future generations to take care of over thousands of years so we can enjoy our party now. We dont give a hoot about future generations. They can swim in our nuclear waste for all we care. Aren't we nice!!!

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Gotta agree with shinjukuboy - that comment seemed very odd, indeed!

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I clicked on this with the reasonable expectation of reading something approximately a newspaper article. This piece, however, reads like a poorly written high school essay. In particular the comment about not protesting nukes while people are missing in Iwate and Miyagi struck me as nonsense. What do the two have to do with each other? While tragic, the missing almost certainly perished more than two months ago. How will refraining from demonstrations benefit those people?

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To add to the above, according to the author nuclear energy is environmentally friendly but he attributes the green movement in Europe to doing away with nuclear plants there. How does that make sense?

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Bad article.

Easy answer why europe and asia reacts differently = Chernobyl.

My own country decided to build one nuclear plant, but it was never put online as they didn't have the storage ready. So we voted against it, got sold to Russia in the end. We are still sans nuclear power and survive on hydro, etc power.

Lets face it nuclear power got promoted as the spend fuel could be reprocessed for bombs, etc.

Problem is that many nations adopted it but slacked on the building of storage, so france agreed to take the spend rods for X-years and now they are being send back and still no storage for them.

Not a new thing. Many countries reaped the benefits without putting in the effort, and now the excrement of male bovine hit the spinny thing in many ways.

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There may be a valid point somewhere in this article but the logic is muddled and it is marred by bad writing.

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I believe the Europeans have been deceived by their mass media that alternative energy sources such as wind and solar can replace nuclear power and fossil fuels. They can't. The peasants of Europe will change their tune on nuclear power when they start facing blackouts and brownouts that were once confined to the Third World, a spike in energy prices and -my favorite- complete reliance on Putin's so-called "autocratic" Russia for their natural gas.

France is the exception, because they have always been proud and independent minded and have decided to not let outsiders control their destiny, hence 75% of their power comes from nuclear power. Of course, France has an internal rot, which they are not dealing with, yet.

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Nuclear power is good if it is in a non earthquake zone and not next to the sea... This story has no relevance to Japan Storage of waist YES, but Japan recycles the waist-???? Tell a lie often enough and people believe it

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The article is clear and on and maybe the point of the article was to show the difference in thinking.

Japan is in northeast Asia. Switzerland is giving up the ghost but China, India and South Korea will increase their respective nuclear plants.

So, obviously, nations in northeast Asia and southeast Asia are moving on with nuclear power.

Nuclear energy is clearly much more cleaner than most other forms of energy and this applies to being a viable and major source of energy.

Enjoyed even if others did not.

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Woops - sorry about the English mistake ....The article is clear and maybe the point..........

You have people up in arms about nuclear energy but the tsunami was the killer and the nuclear crisis was based on bad management.

The problem is not nuclear energy - the problem is that TEPCO and others made many mistake and appear to be continuing to do so.

China will continue to develop nuclear power plants and India. Also, South Korea is going to increase its electricity from nuclear energy.

What other options are open to China and India given the combined total of around 2.5 billion people and growing economies?

No, the point is clear - Germany and Switzerland are wallowing but Asian powers are not.

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Is the fact the author keeps referencing Switzerland and Germany due to the fact they are the only 2 that are phasing out nuclear technology? I can't say 100%, but I guess the "other nations" exist only in the mind of the author - anyone have information to show otherwise?

Seems to me like the facts have been written to fit the story here, not the other way around... Plenty of European countries still use (and have plans to expand their use of) nuclear power so the headline and theme is completely wrong.

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In fact, if you look here you can clearly see most European countries have reactors under construction, planned or proposed. This article is completely pointless

en.wikipedia.org wiki Nuclear_power_by_country#List_of_nuclear_reactors_by_country

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oh, put a forward slant or slash thing for the 2 gaps

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nuclear energy is environmentally friendly.

this is a lie

Tell a lie often enough and people believe it

I agree with this part of your statement.

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we lost 25,000 , I still can not get my head around that number of people gone .

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Clive, enjoyed your article and your two posts, despite the English mistakes and lack of reasoning.

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Ok, so Armenia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and UK, have made statements that they will either stop nuclear projects or reduce in the long term.

China, India and South Korea...and Russian Federation (Eurasian federal state) have said the opposite.

A split does appear.....or, well, maybe I am seeing things too much?

France will remain to be independent because this is the nature of France but environmental concerns and demonstrations appear more strong in Europe than in the Asian nations in the post.

Maybe my thinking is blind?

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Clive, enjoyed your article and your two posts, despite the English mistakes and lack of reasoning.


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While nuclear energy is environmentally friendly (no CO2, no smog, no pollution, waste is managed and not discarded, etc. etc.), the author is 100% correct. Greenpeace has equated nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. Most of the agenda of the "Greens" is not to move away from carbon based economy, but to adopt some utopian back-to-the-cave mentality where there is no mass transportation, there is no power grid and there is no trade as "all needs are satisfied locally".

The agenda of greens is to stop all fossil fuel energy sources, all nuclear energy sources and even stop most of the hydroelectric energy sources as these are deemed to be ecological disasters. This is while most continue to use these energy sources through their purchases and travel.

Today, there is little pragmatism in the western environmental movement. People like Patrick Moore, a former president of Greenpeace, supports nuclear power as a necessity not because he likes it.

"In 2005, Moore criticized what he saw as scare tactics and disinformation employed by some within the environmental movement, saying that the environmental movement "abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism.""

This quote is from wikipedia link about Patrick Moore. Apparently a link is "offensive content" ;)

From the outside, I see Japan dealing with the problem in a pragmatic manner. As a physicist, decisions that are being made are being made based on our current understanding of how radiation works, not our understanding from 1950s. Personally, I don't believe the Japanese people are in significant short or long term danger based on actions currently taken (evacuations, food monitoring, etc) and the Japanese government is not hiding data.

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It is the same than with organic food, a huge overpriced success in Europe whilst they think that you come from a strange cult here when asking about some products. The 'Greens' in Europe were the leftover hippies originally and they have always been against nuclear energy. Them and the media make a lot of brouhaha but that doesn't mean everyone thinks like them.

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There are 50 countries in Europe, this article mentions 2. Also you've lumped together America and France in with the supporters of nuclear power, they aren't in Asia. We are just probably used to better reporting in Europe, that's the main difference.

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You're right, Endame. The article uses two countries in Europe, which it refers to as "a few", and three Asian ones to make a ludicrous generalization about European and Asian "philosophies". It's hard to imagine such a sophomoric piece appearing in any European newspaper.

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While nuclear energy is environmentally friendly

So why is taking so recover Fukushima? The workers should just march in, rip everything down and rebuild. If there's no danger, why are the scientists and workers keeping their distance? Or...maybe the environment there really ISN'T so friendly, eh?

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The author makes the HUGE error of saying that Germany and Switzerland are making their policies in the same way as Asian nations do.

Those two countries fully expect to buy their energy from other countries to make up their shortfalls. They can rely on a unified EU grid. France will sell them nuclear power. Germany will pay and become dependent on others.

Real countries (every other country named in the article) have their own decisions to make for their own national grids.

So. Duh. Split in philosophy? Suffice it to say that Germany can be proud and idealistic because someone else will be practical in their place. The "philosophical split" is more of a Morlock/Eloi split.

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For better or worse, liberals in Germany and Switzerland are taking a huge gamble here. They seized on this issue as a rallying cry and are being exposed as impractical, intransigent, and unrealistic. They need to present an alternative to conservatives that people can trust, and vilifying an industry like this is a terrible start.

The "outright ban" stance and "immediate halt" was just way overboard. It emboldened Kan to just gut Chubu electric on a whim. Both decisions will be shown, in time, to have been irresponsible. These governments have weakened their nations out of fear. Pure irrational fear.

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In stopping the development of nuclear power in Germany in response to an earthquake-related accident in Asia was one of the oddest things I have ever heard a politician do. The German Chancellor's response to the one accident that could definitely not ever ever happen in Germany was to cease nuclear power. It seems akin to Finland banning going outside in winter because they read about Australians getting skin cancer.

However, the Germans border the French, who are doing no such thing and who rely on nuclear power and sell the energy to their neighbours. It is silly to confuse one country with a whole continent when the reality is so diverse.

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Switzerland has a long tradition of popular resisitance against nuclear power. In the 1980's mass protests prompted the government to discontinue a nuclear power project. There five current reactors have operating license that will expire between 2020 and 2040. In the year 2010 protests flared up again and resistance to the government's decision was limited because the recent events in Fukushima changed the popular opinion. The government had voted for a phase-out because they wanted to ensure a secure and autonomous supply of energy. Fukushima showed that the risk of nuclear power was too high, which in turn has increased the cost of this energy form. However the government's decision might become a problem as far as supply is concerned. In my view, the Swiss population should be given the chance to vote on this issue. On the other other hand, in Germany the Federation for Environmental Protection movement received a major boost from the crisis in Japan and more than 100,000 people turned up in more than 400 cities to protest. Thus the transition to abandon the use of nuclear energy was accelerated because of its inherent weak risk. Nuclear power has been very unpopular in Germany ever since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster drifted across the country. A central-left government a decade ago penned a plan to abandon the technology for good by 2021, but it was amended and then put on hold by Chancellor Merkel after the Fukushima event. However, most of the country's leader now seem determined to swiftly abolish nuclear power by 2020, including conservative politicians and the Chancellor. Hence there is the hidden power of media and the conformity of information and opinion is insidious, its sameness implicit, ingrained, even celebrated.

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You may add the US to the countries which are phasing out nuclear power. While there is no plan to shut down the current plants, they haven't built new ones since decades and as far as I'm aware there are no plans for new plants. Sooner or later the existing plants will reach their end of life, probably much earlier than the Swiss ones. If nuclear power were really so cheap, I wonder why of all companies it's the ones in the US which don't get it...?

Why do so many countries continue to use nuclear energy? Tell a small child not to touch a hot plate and still most of them will only learn it after they burnt their fingers themselves.

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Terrible article! Trying to find sustainable, clean energy is to be condemned and seen as cowardice apparantly! When better, cleaner, forms of energy production are produced and pioneered then I guess a lot of soul searching will have to be done in Europe about all the people that havent been exposed to radiation! Oversensitive Europe needs to learn from Pragmatic Asia - I guess its a case of thinking of your general population and their health (Europe) and making money (Pragmatic Asia).

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You forget something. A lot of us Europeans got already the Chernobyl s-t over us 25 yrs ago. We have experience.

I think some companies in EU are also thinking the huge profits that will be gained through green technologies in the near future. After all, we all wanna stay competitive.

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Despite Japanese claims that Japan is the 'older, wiser' culture, parts of Europe have a longer history of using nuclear power. Further, they have already had their nasty meltdown in the Ukraine.

Regarding nuclear power, Japan is just beginning to learn what most of Europe learned decades ago - it can be dangerous.

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Well, as we know, all of Europe is pretty much totally the same, and agrees on everything. As does Asia. Asia is really just practically one big country. So of course this is a perfect basis of comparison.

And on that comparison - I'm not so sure...

The problem is this - Is Europe Germany, or is Europe France? It has to be one or the other - otherwise this column would be an unreasoned waste of time...

Certainly, when we are talking nuclear power and Europe, France is the biggest generator and proponent. They are also the most active nuclear weapon testing power. If the EU were to have a department of nuclear energy and nuclear weapon storage, it would almost certainly have to operate in French and be run by French people, because that is where all the generators and bombs are.

Last I checked, while fringe nuclear countries like Germany, that currently have all their plants shut down anyway are a bit jittery, and Switzerland, that isn't even in the EU prefers to keep things safe for naked hikers, France is more tally-ho about nuclear power than ever. In fact, I'm quite sure they are looking forward to exporting power to Germany to make up their shortfalls. Not to mention the new power plants that the French national power company is moving ahead with building in Britain.

Which will mean that "Europe" will for now remain as nuclear as it ever was - perhaps even more so.

On the Asian side, well, people in Japan and India are all pretty much the same on this, but the large and spontaneous twitter organized anti-nuclear demonstrations in Tokyo last month were without precedent in decades that I am aware of. I've rarely seen "Asian" citizens being so politically spontaneous, except in countries like Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and PRC.

Point is, that I'm not sure that the author properly understands what Europe and Asia are thinking about this issue. I certainly hope that Asia fixes this current problem with Fukushima soon.


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"Of course, not all of Europe can be labeled together, but in countries like Germany and Switzerland, to name a few, the fear of nuclear meltdown in the wake of March 11 is causing major ripples."

Stresses "not all of Europe can be labeled together" and "that some European governments" ..... so no point to over state that Europe is deemed 100% to be the same.

Again..."the result that some European governments, which had future plans for nuclear power plants in the pipeline, were forced to re-examine their plans"

Armenia, Germany, Austria, the UK, Switzerland, and some others, have "re-examined their plans."

In the meantime, China, Inda, and South Korea are just moving on.

The Green movement and environmental lobby is more potent in nations like Germany - it was not just about Fukushima, it was about other related issues aimed at nuclear energy and the agenda was supported by over hyped reports about Fukushima.

"The difference between Asia and Europe would appear to be based on political motives, the role of the green movement, the mass media which clearly overhyped the crisis in Europe, and other factors."

States "would appear."

"Would appear," "some," and "not all" is implied many times - it does not state 100%

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Germany ans Switzerland are not Europe.

While Germany may not have nuclear power plants they have no quams about using nuclear energy. Germany gets a lot of its energy from France and its nuclear reactors.

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Do you know that Italy and Austria have no nuclear plant in operation at all?

Did you know that Germany so far in 2011 has exported more electricity than imported?

Did you know that even on days when Germany imported electricity from France, there was always enough electricity produced within Germany. Some of that electricity was just too expensive, compared to the electricity coming from France. (subsidized by the french taxpayer). There are overcapacities in France and in Germany.

Did you know that in the summer some of France's rivers are heating up so bad, so that nuclear power plants have not enough cooling water, need to shut down for some time and France imports electricity from other countries (one of them might be Germany).

For better or worse, liberals in Germany and Switzerland are taking a huge gamble here. They seized on this issue as a rallying cry and are being exposed as impractical, intransigent, and unrealistic. They need to present an alternative to conservatives that people can trust, and vilifying an industry like this is a terrible start.

Have you got any idea of the political landscape in Germany and Switzerland? Can you tell me which parties in Germany you define as 'liberals' and which ones as 'conservatives' ?

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