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.

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One Comment to “Japan: A Power Without Nuclear Power?”

  1. Nuclear is not a necessary option for anyone. It is an incredibly expensive and risky way to boil water. There are known alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuels; the problem is that few governments want to invest in them and do the hard work of developing them. Also, they will not be as profitable as oil and coal have been and they need not be centralized as in huge power plants that the fossil and nuclear industries depend on. I’m talking about solar, wind, and geothermal energy. We have the technology to build a smart grid that could make use of all of these decentralized, clean and safe sources to ensure a steady supply of electric power. There are drawbacks of course (such as more extensive power line grids) but using these renewable sources will never result in the pollution of huge parts of the ocean (such as the Gulf of Mexico), the destruction of 500 mountaintops and their ecosystems (as in Appalachian coal mining) or the poisoning of vast areas of land and marine ecosystems for thousands of years (as in Chernobyl and now Japan). Japan could benefit from offshore wind farms, which are more effective than land-based farms. Germany is less sunny than Japan, but Germany is a world leader in capturing and using solar energy for heating water and making electricity. In short, it is not easy for a mammoth energy conglomerate like Exxon or BP to make a killing on these renewable sources, and corrupt politicians can make out a lot better working for fossil fuel and nuclear companies than they can working for the rest of us. These industries were heavily subsidized in past decades to help them get going. Now they’ve wrecked the planet, are making obscene profits, and they’re still getting paid by us taxpayers to do these things. If renewables were subsidized and if fossil and nuclear subsidies were ended, we could convert to a system making use of a variety of renewable energy resources. That goes for Japan as well as everybody else.

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