Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, appears to have taken the harsh lessons of the Fukushima disaster to heart. On Tuesday May 10, he announced that his country is scrapping plans to build new nuclear power plants.
“We need to start from scratch,” Mr. Kan told reporters. “We need to make nuclear energy safer and do more to promote renewable energy.”
According to reporting in the New York Times, Japan had been planning to build 14 new reactors, increasing the country’s reliance on nuclear power to 50 percent of its electricity supply. Mr. Kan instead vowed to boost the country’s reliance on renewable energy, plus energy efficiency and conservation.
At Frontier Group, we agree that these are the best foundations for a sensible energy policy. Previous Frontier Group reports have documented the high cost of new nuclear power plants, challenged the assertion that nuclear power is asolution to global warming, and suggested ways that clean energy strategies can be used to replace aging nuclear power plants, or prevent the need for new ones.
Clean energy strategies — including energy efficiency and renewable power — will be a key part of America’s future as well. We have vast safe energy resources that can do a better job keeping the lights on than nuclear reactors. And they don’t explode, spill, or contaminate food supplies with radiation. For example, if we improved efficiency, in the next 20 years or so we could free up as much electricity as 100 new nuclear reactors could generate. And America’s entire electricity needs could be met by the sunlight falling on a patch of Nevada desert 100 miles square, or by the wind blowing across North Dakota.
Despite the fact that nuclear power is already the most heavily supported form of electric power in America, the Obama administration is offering loan guarantees and other new subsidies to power companies wishing to build new nuclear power plants in the United States. Over the last fifty years, American taxpayers have subsidized nuclear power to the tune of $145 billion. In total, the subsidies have been worth more than the electricity they produced, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
It is time to transition to safer energy sources. We hope that American policymakers, from local government all the way to the president, will follow Mr. Kan’s leadership.