Archive for March 16th, 2011


Japan: A Power Without Nuclear Power?

Since the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, their nuclear power plants are at risk of a meltdown. The question now is whether Japan will continue nuclear power or seek alternatives.

Japan has an industrial economy based on the consumption of energy. Their need for coal explains why they seized some of Korea from China (1895), part of Manchuria from Russia (1905), the remainder of Korea (1910), and the rest of Manchuria (1931).

Japan also has a need for oil. When Japan annexed East China (1941), President Franklin Roosevelt subjected them to a complete oil embargo (July 1941). The Japanese interpreted it as a declaration of war, since 100% of their oil was imported. Japan felt their only option was to seize the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), controlled by the Netherlands. Once the Dutch surrendered to Germany, Japan made plans to take the Dutch oil. Their only obstacle was the U.S., which explains why they attacked the U.S. Navy in the Philippines and at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. As American forces closed in on Japan in WWII, incendiary devices were dropped on 66 cities, but it was not until atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the war ended.

In the postwar, without natural sources of coal or oil, Japan turned to nuclear energy. This was ironic since their first exposure to the unleashing of atoms was so destructive. Japan rebuilt their economy and by 1968 emerged as the second largest auto producer. It was not until this year that China replaced them as the second largest global economy. Even so, Japan remains a major trading partner and what happens to them may affect us all.

It appears Japan will probably return to nuclear energy, since they have no domestic oil or coal. On the other hand, this is the type of crisis that may finally push scientists into developing a currently unknown energy alternative.