For John, BLUF: There are things worse than nuclear generated electricity. Nothing to see here; just move along.
MM Robert Peter Gale and Eric LaX, writing in the 10 March issue of Bloomberg, raise questions about the aftermath of Japan's 9.0 earthquake two ears ago ("Fukushima Radiation Proves Less Deadly Than Feared"). The lede:
It is two years since Japan’s 9.0- magnitude earthquake, one so powerful it shifted the position of the Earth’s figure axis by as much as 6 inches and moved Honshu, Japan’s main island, 8 feet eastward. The tsunami generated by the earthquake obliterated towns, drowned almost 20,000 people and left more than 300,000 homeless. Everyone living within 15 miles of Fukushima was evacuated; many are still in temporary housing. Some will never be able to return home.This was so traumatic that Japan decided to forgo nuclear power. But, at what cost?
Japan has few domestic energy resources and depends on imports for about 85 percent of its energy. What price will the country pay if it abandons nuclear energy and uses only fossil fuels? Air pollution from coal-fired power plants causes about 500 times more deaths per unit of electricity produced than radiation from nuclear plants does. Electricity produced from oil isn’t much safer. Even natural gas causes about 60 times more deaths than nuclear does because of pollution. And consider that more than 100,000 coal miners died in the U.S. in the past century and more than 6,000 die every year in China.You can't win for losing.
If, in response to Fukushima, Japan switches to more fossil fuels, the resulting carbon dioxide emissions, greenhouse gases and global warming could affect all of us. Already, because of the nuclear shutdown since the accident, there is no longer any chance Japan will meet its commitments in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels by 25 percent by 2020. The country’s 2012 estimate for greenhouse gases is about 1.3 billion tons, the most since 2007, making Japan the fifth top emitter worldwide.
In the meantime, the Brookings Institution has a paper out by Shoichi Itoh—"Energy Security in Northeast Asia: A Pivotal Moment for the U.S.-Japan Alliance".
You pays your money and you takes your chances.
Regards — Cliff