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No, Japan is not “returning to nuclear”

Published 21 August 2015

Observatoire du nucléaire – media release of 11 August 2015

No, Japan is not “returning to nuclear”. Yes, Japan has survived for two years without nuclear power. And world nuclear power generation continues to fall.

On the occasion of the restart of a nuclear reactor in Japan, imposed by the ruling party on a population who mostly oppose it, numerous editorials in France are celebrating a supposed “relaunch of the nuclear”.

France’s “Editocracy” thinks it can now take revenge, after losing credibility over the last 15 years for continually announcing a “grand return to nuclear power” which never arrived, for supporting the AREVA corporation and Mme Lauvergeon (christened "Atomic Anne) and for celebrating the catastrophic EPR reactor, for so long hailed as the “crown jewel” of the nuclear industry.

Since nuclear technology is in a parlous state (AREVA bankrupt, EDF heavily in debt, the plants in poor condition, the EPR building sites in a mess, the EPR vats poorly constructed etc), the “Editocracy” thinks it can find comfort in East Asia.

That’s why we are reading almost everywhere that Japan is “returning to nuclear”. In reality the ultra-nationalist PM Shinzo Abe is insisting on a restart for ONE reactor, one of the 54 that were in service before Fukushima.

Mr Abe certainly hopes to relaunch some others, always by equally democratic means, but the truth is that the majority of Japn’s reactors will never work again and that the ones that might be restarted will again cause crazy risks to the population.

Most of the editorial writers are so blinded by the atom (admittedly, the nuclear industry buys a lot of publicity in various media) that they forget the main lessons of this affair: that Japan, one of the world’s most industrialised countries,
— shut down its 54 reactors in the space of a few months. That is an excellent example for France and her 58 reactors: who now can claim that it would take 25 or 30 years to do the same?
— has operated for two years with 0% nuclear power.

More generally, we must note that:
— the share of nuclear power in world electricity generation has gone from 17% in 2001 to 10% today, a real fall that began well before Fukushima and will continue inexorably with the closing of dozens of reactors nearing the end of their lives (more than half the planet’s 400 active reactors are over 30 years old),
— China is admittedly the last country to still have non-negligible nuclear projects, but even if all its planned reactors get built (alas), the nuclear share of China’s electricity will still be under 5%, and that will be less than 1% of total energy consumption from all sources.

To sum up, France’s “Editocracy” would do well to end its ridiculous pro-nuclear salvos — which the facts always disprove — and to focus on the scandals in the nuclear industry, such as the cases of corruption (the Uramin affair, the “AREVA gift” to Niger ect), the EDF’s deliberate leakages of plutonium into the Loire, the lies told about the defective designs of the EPR vats, the shady sides to the plan for burying radioactive waste at Bure (in the Meuse), etc. Even if in the process a few lucrative pages of advertising are lost...

Observatoire du nucléaire