VOX POPULI: Lawmakers fear power shortage more than nuclear accident

July 06, 2012

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

Water is a precious commodity at the International Space Station. That's why astronauts have been recycling their urine into drinking water for the past three years.

They have every right to laugh at us as squeamish Earthlings for grimacing at the thought. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata says, "It actually tastes pretty good."

Desalinated seawater or recycled rainwater is less repugnant to drink than repurposed urine. Scientifically, however, water is water, whatever its source.

Can we say the same about electricity today? I don't think so. Nuclear energy has become a power source we reluctantly rely on only if we absolutely have to.

Electric power generated by nuclear energy is back on the grid since the restart of the No. 3 reactor at the Oi power station in Fukui Prefecture on the morning of July 5.

Before that, Japan had gone without nuclear power generation for 60 days and eight hours after the No. 3 reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido went offline on the evening of May 5.

During those 60 days, life went on as usual without nuclear-generated electricity. We won't get to see what this summer will be like without it, because the government is more afraid of power shortages than a nuclear accident.

Since no one can tell the source of electricity by just feeling the cool air from an air conditioner or looking at the glow of an electric lamp, society may simply go back to its reliance on nuclear energy.

We don't need to hear the angry voices of protesters surrounding the Prime Minister's Office to know that public opinion is against nuclear power generation. But recent shareholders' meetings at electric power companies clearly suggested the latter's continued belief that the more nuclear energy they use, the more money they can make.

Communities that host nuclear power stations are still as financially dependent on them as ever. If more reactors are restarted as a matter of course in the days ahead, we will have learned nothing from the Fukushima disaster.

July 7 is "shosho" (small heat), according to the traditional calendar of 24 seasonal divides. It is time to confirm our commitment to power-saving efforts this summer. Unlike the space station, our planet offers various options. It would be good if we could prove with concrete numbers at the end of this summer that we had no need for nuclear power generation.

I want Japan to become a country where people don't have to grimace when they think of where their electricity comes from.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
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