Takahama reopening raises public concern: a case study
On March 9, the district court in Otsu issued an injunction against the operation of two nuclear reactors at Kansai Electricity Co.’s Takahama nuclear reactor. This brought the argument about whether Japan should continue on the road of nuclear free or give up.
Nuclear, with its high-energy density and zero CO2 emission property, can produce a significant amount of cheap electricity with no emission of greenhouse gas. It is true that with nuclear power, the situation of electricity shortage in Japan could be effectively relieved and more economical benefits to the company would be created. However, the radioactive material in the reaction has the potential risks of leakage and can lead to enormous damage to the environment. The catastrophe in Fukushima is an example.
On the spot of Kansai Electricity Company, one of the leading power companies in Japan, before the reopening action takes place, a question should be asked: is it worth the price? Japanese still live in the shadow of the nuclear disaster. A more comprehensive and thoughtful decision should be made, which balances the interest of both the company and the residents.
No more nukes: search for alternatives
After Fukushima accident, maybe it’s time to leave nuclear energy behind. Renewable energy is a promising alternative solution instead of nuclear power, and could even possibly substitute the fossil fuel. Even after six years, there still is the momentum of anti-nuclear groups among Japanese public protesting against nuclear energy. From the perspective of an energy industry, focusing more on clean and safe sources can help it regaining its reputation as well as fulfilling its social responsibility. The change of energy policies, along with its advance in renewable energy technology, can further support this transformation.
The ultimate goal is to provide safe and clean energy to its citizens. In fact, although nuclear power seems cheap and clean on the surface, its potential costs rise dramatically once an accident happens. These include environmental, health, monetary as well as reputation damages. Avoiding the risk or the threatening outcome of an action could all root back to human natural.
Acknowledging far more severe and long-lasting consequences of a nuclear accident, it seems more sensible to pass this high-risk option for good. Moreover, with increasing environmental awareness among the public, more people tend not to risk our only planet in exchange of relatively cheaper electricity. As time goes by, nuclear hype from the 1950s faded away when people had much better understanding of nuclear energy. It is just common sense to avoid them. Perhaps it’s time to abandon nuclear power and move on to the future of renewable energy.
Stick to the nuclear path: reconsideration on safety
The nuclear power should be utilised to generate electricity. However, the location of the nuclear power plant needs to be limited. Firstly, there should be no residential area within 20 kilometres from the nuclear plant. Secondly, plants shall not be built along the upper reaches of the rivers. Further, the geological conditions and the seismic activities should also be investigated.
In this scenario, the maximum pleasure of the local people or even the entire world could be achieved. Locating in remote areas might be inconvenient to the people working in the plant. Although it is unfair for them, the utilitarianism is not about a private individual. As Bentham said, “the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question”. It is about the amount of pleasure that will be brought to all people who involved. To achieve the maximum happiness to human beings, those requirements above for site selection should be applied.
Besides locations, why couldn’t we formulate international codes and standards for nuclear plants? Currently, American, French and the other countries are following their national nuclear project regulations. In China, more than three different standards are used parallel to one another. The lack of unified standards exacerbates the complicity during the disaster relief, as foreign rescue workers are not familiar with the different criteria. Contrastingly, if nuclear plants around the world could follow a common standard, the experience of plant management and accident prevention can be shared on a global scale.
As issues caused by distinctive rules being minimised, the development and further application nuclear technology can be facilitated. There could be a situation that some companies may be unwilling to follow the international standard. Hence, it should possess the same validity as UN resolution does. From the utilitarianism framework, though the profits of some companies might reduce if they follow the new standard, the complexity of rescue and the global nuclear safety will be further ensured. As it is a greater pleasure for the human being than the profits of a company, the international standard should be formulated.
The option of banning nuclear plants focuses on the current weaknesses of a nuclear plant. However, these drawbacks might be overcome soon and may no longer be issues anymore. Furthermore, the common sense framework ignores the potential benefits. For instance, the energy gap caused by closing nuclear plants cannot be made up effectively by renewable energy. Comparatively, reopening nuclear plants is a more desirable solution for the current situation.
As for applying utilitarianism in the case of reopening, it is unfair to neglect the moral duties and rights of anyone. Each individual has equal right to be treated morally, no matter if they were the minority. Regardless of the remoteness of chosen location, there will still be someone suffering from this decision. The same principle applies for the formulation of the new standard, no matter how beneficial it is for the people, it is unfair for the energy industry to bear the additional losses. It can neither be validated that this option will be in the best interest of the collective nor be justified whether this action is morally acceptable.
In summary, although the consequences of a nuclear accident are frustrating and will have an unimaginable impact, there are no such reliable alternative sources for nuclear any time soon. Once the laws and regulations are established soundly, the nuclear plant can then be reopened to satisfy energy needs.
Group 3: Minhua Zheng, Junping Li, Haocheng Lu, Zihan Song