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As demonstrators from the Coalition Against Nukes ( ) prepare to descend on Washington DC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the world’s third-largest economy has taken a landmark step toward Solartopia.

A pro-nuclear Japanese government has announced it will phase out all commercial reactors by 2040 ( ).  

It comes as atomic power continues to plummet in Germany, France, Quebec, California and elsewhere.      

Japan’s announcement has gotten mixed domestic reviews.    Powerful industrial leaders say it’s unrealistic.  A burgeoning grassroots No Nukes movement demands a faster phase-out.  

But the announcement clearly makes the odds against Japan ever building a new commercial reactor very steep.  

In principle, Japan has joined Germany in moving to end the nuclear age.  The world’s fourth-largest economy---the biggest in Europe---Germany has shut 8 of its 19 reactors and will have the rest down by 2022.  Like Japan, Germany has been at the core of the global reactor industry, and once harbored plans for many more.  Now it has plunged deep into the business of renewables, with heavy emphasis on wind and solar.

All but two of Japan’s fifty-plus reactors remain shut.  Its No Nukes movement has soared since Fukushima, with mass marches frequently in the tens of thousands. Despite dire industry predictions, Japan survived a nuke-free summer without major blackouts.

The aggressively pro-nuclear administration of Noda Yoshihiko has met fierce grassroots resistance to forcing open two reactors, and is expected to lose upcoming elections.  Its advocacy of a long phase-out was meant to placate both industrial and No Nukes interests, but has angered both ( ).

Japan remains at the center of the global industry.  Key heavy components are still being manufactured there.  But bitter debate about the health impacts of Fukushima continues to rage.  New reports cast serious doubt on the integrity of safety regulations, and on the wisdom of siting so many reactors near earthquake faults and in coastal areas threatened by tsunamis.

The industry’s decline has been accelerated in France, where the new Socialist Prime Minister Francoise Hollande has confirmed he will shut an embattled reactor at Fessenheim “as soon as possible.”  ( ). Public opinion polls show substantial support for a shift to renewables.  

 A new government in Quebec will shut Gentilly II ( ).  In California, new reports on the cold San Onofre 2 & 3 indicate deep problems that make a re-start more doubtful than ever ( ).  And a whistleblower has warned that flood damage at Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun reactor may be more serious than previously believed ( ( ).  

Riding the wave of anti-nuclear news is a September 20-22 series of DC events organized by the Coalition Against Nukes ( ).  The action starts Thursday with a rally on the Capitol Mall, a Congressional briefing and an evening gathering.  Friday opens with a ceremony at the Native American Museum, followed by a demonstration at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Rockville, Maryland, and evening film showings at the Letelier Theater in DC. Saturday concludes with a day-long strategy session.  With activists convening from around the US and Japan, the gathering promises to lend the No Nukes movement new focus.  

They’ll be dissecting an industry in steep decline.  Germany and Japan’s phase-out decisions mean two of the industry’s key players will build no more nukes.  The four reactors barely under construction in the US are already plagued with structural and financial problems, and are under intense political fire.  

China has yet to decide what it will do in the wake of Fukushima.  India is being rocked by huge demonstrations at the Koodankulam complex ( ).  Russia and South Korea remain in the hunt, but it’s unclear how far they can go with a global complex on the brink of implosion.

Nuclear tensions in Iran also cast a shadow.  Before 1979 the US and France wanted the Shah to build 36 reactors.  Now there’s talk of war over a “Peaceful Atom” that many believe could lead to an Iranian Bomb.

All-in-all, one can only view the “nuclear renaissance” as being in serious relapse.  Even major industrial leaders such as General Electric’s Jeffrey Immelt have begun portraying atomic energy as an obsolete, uneconomic alternative ( ).

As Germany, Japan, France, Quebec and so many others leap toward Solartopia, the future of wind, solar and a green-powered future look ever more promising.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What I would like to see (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CentralMass, native, Russgirl

    Thanks for this diary HW. Very important subject.

    I'd like to see a lot more pro-alternate energy rallies, rather than anti-nuke (or anti-oil).

    I'd like to develop a net-zero carbon emission housing complex here that would be affordable for middle class folks like me. Or make changes to my 80+ year old house to make it net-zero. My problem is that I'm not finding the sort of info that would make it easy or practical for me.

    We need to see alternate energy as easy, practical, beautiful and with the same amenities as what we have now. Saw a great TED talks video about this (on Netflix, sorry no link) and the speaker pointed out that we think we're giving up something to go green.

  •  You are aware that Germany is building (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kalmoth, Blubba

    multiple new coal plants to replace lost nuclear capacity?

    And China is taking a leadership role in next generation reactor and fuel cycle development:

    “It appears that the Fukushima disaster may lead China to adopt newer, third-generation (or Gen III) reactor designs created by Chinese firms,” Zhou writes in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “allowing China to wean itself from purely foreign reactor technology much more quickly than was expected pre-Fukushima.”

    Gen III reactors like the Westinghouse AP1000 incorporate safety features developed since the proliferation of Gen II reactors like those at Fukushima and like many in the U.S.

    China still plans to increase its nuclear capacity from about 12 gigawatts before Fukushima to 70 gigawatts by 2020, Zhou says.

    Although Chinese officials initially said they would not change the country’s nuclear plan in the wake of Fukushima, they halted reactor construction and adopted new safety standards.

    The safety standards will not be applied to reactors that were already under construction in China, but they indicate China is shifting to Gen III reactors in the future, according to Zhou.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 07:49:09 AM PDT

    •  And the coal plants are short term in Germany (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      native, AoT, Russgirl

      and were intended to be built long before Fukushima.

      As anyone who can do basic arithmetic understands, adding the number of plants needed to slow global warming effects can't possibly be either funded or built in time to make any difference in the real world. The multi-trillions simply don't exist; neither do the production facilities; and the uranium isn't getting any cheaper (or carbon-neutral) to obtain.

      For a fraction of the same money, and in a fraction of the same time, equivalents of Kinetic Energies -- especially if combined with conservation, or the natural conservation coming from a world in recession -- can equal or surpass any real-world construction of nukes.

      As to the "newer and safer" reactor designs -- these too are every bit as experimental as the plague we've had so far; they all depend on guesses about geology and nature (which are even now being revised) and over-confidence in statistical hunches; and they all will continue to leave radioactive waste problems for our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great children and beyond. Much longer than say, since the signing of the Magna Carta or the First Crusade.

      Nuclear is dead, ask GE. Now we have to hope the nuclear in place is dismantled before it kills and damages another wide swathe of earth, and the living things in it.

      Here's the News for you: The Nuclear Safety Fairy doesn't really exist, and never has.

      PS: Safety standards in China!? HaHaHaHaHaHa!!!! Tell us another one. Standards in Chinese construction are notorious for being observed until the bribe money or the venal authority says "build cheaper, build faster." The whole world knows this, except nuclear advocates.

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 10:03:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outside of Japan and Germany we are mostly (0+ / 0-)

    seeing very old reactors being shut down. Construction of new reactors is going on in many countries. So it's not as simple as you're describing. As we have seen after Chernobyl, protests against nukes are pretty strong for a few years and then they die down.

  •  we must shut all nukes... (0+ / 0-)

    as soon as possible.

    the technology is there to get us to solartopia, and if we don't use it, we won't survive.  simple as that.

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