PARIS – The meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant has sent political aftershocks racing around the globe. More often than not, however, the shocks have been ideological, with no basis in science.
The managers of Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima reactors, have been justly criticized for using an old generation of poorly maintained generators. The Japanese, who perceive themselves as the world’s best engineers, now feel humiliated.
But, despite street protests, the collective reaction in Japan has not been to repudiate nuclear energy. After all, the Fukushima accident has severely injured only a few people – probably less than a dozen workers are dangerously irradiated. Almost all of the thousands of Japanese victims were drowned by the tsunami wave, not wiped out by a nuclear meltdown.
Japan will not stop using nuclear power. Instead, its engineers will develop better and safer plants, most likely relying on the miniaturized nuclear reactors that were planned to replace the aging plant at Fukushima. Most Japanese have remained rational in the face of their country’s tragedy, as have most people in neighboring Asian countries like China and South Korea, which, likewise, have not abandoned their commitment to nuclear energy.