By Richard Rosecrance
Considering the rise of China, will Japan join a new West? The answer is likely to be “Yes.”
In the past Japan was a leader in charting new strategic choices for the world. In the late 19th century, Japan emerged from the Industrial Revolution and elected a military course, attacking China and then Russia. Later she expanded geographically into Manchuria and China, and took on the United States of America as well in World War II. In both cases other powers followed in her wake. Read more
Joseph S. Nye
By Joseph S. Nye
I recently visited Japan and met with Prime Minister Noda, Foreign Minister Genba, and several Diet members, as well as business people and members of the press. The good news is that I came away encouraged. During my last visit, a year ago, I came away worried that Japan was turning inward and might not face up to the problems of slow growth. Now that may be changing.
The tragedy of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March may have provided a stimulus for change. Many Americans admired the dignity and calmness with which the Japanese public dealt with the tragedy, and that increased Japan’s attractiveness or soft power. But there was worry about the economic effects. Now the latest figures show that Japan’s economy grew 1.5% in the third quarter, (an annualized rate of 6%.) This represents the first expansion of the economy in four quarters. Read more
By Ben Heineman
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By Ben Heineman
Japan faces the daunting task of rebuilding after the earthquake and the tsunami. But these natural disasters struck a nation with deep structural issues, including a slow-growth economy, an aging population, often sclerotic political, bureaucratic, and business leadership — and significant workplace discrimination against women.
Many commentators have speculated that Japan’s response to the immediate crisis creates the possibility — though hardly the certainty — of broader, longer-term renewal. And, if such a renewal occurred, an important dimension could be to redress serious gender inequality in the workplace which is more pronounced than in other industrialized nations. Read more
By William H. Tobey
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By William H. Tobey
(Before he became a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Will Tobey was Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration. Last week, he was asked by an ABC News editor to share some perspective on the Japan nuclear reactor situation. Here are his observations).
Here is what I have told family and friends:
There are no absolutely safe options; all forms of reliable energy generation carry risk to human life and health. In the United States alone last year 48 Americans were killed in coal mining accidents and 11 were killed on the Deep Water Horizon Offshore rig. Many more died earlier than otherwise because of the health effects of fossil fuel pollution. Read more
A satellite image of Japan showing damage after an earthquake and tsunami at the Dai Ichi Power Plant in Fukushima, taken just three minutes after an explosion. (DigitalGlobe Photo)
The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan is sending shockwaves through nuclear planning agencies around the world. Policy makers are asking for reviews of safety regulations, publics are expressing concern, and it appears likely that some of the planned construction will be curtailed. The politics of nuclear power is likely to be more contentious even in places where public support has been strong (or irrelevant). As a result, in the coming decade, nuclear power may make less of a contribution to the mitigation of carbon emissions than it otherwise might have, (though even before the current crisis its role in overcoming the climate change challenge was a minor one). Below are thumbnail sketches of how the discussion of nuclear energy is unfolding in key countries where plans for growth are most significant.
– Martin Malin, Executive Director, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Analysis by Yun Zhou, Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow
The Fukushima tragedy really gave the Chinese a serious wake up call on the importance of nuclear safety. Currently, China has 13 reactor units in operation and 28 units under construction. Although the Chinese government quickly claimed China would not change its plan for developing nuclear power projects right after the Fukushima crisis began on 12th March, the latest news shows the Chinese government taking actions to strengthen its nuclear safety at reactors in operation and under construction. On 16 March, China decided to conduct a comprehensive safety inspection for every nuclear facility. In the meantime, China will update current nuclear safety regulations and guidelines based on the lessons learned in Fukushima accidents. Nuclear projects which do not comply with the new safety regulation and requirements will be suspended or terminated. In addition, China will adjust “its medium and long nuclear energy development plan” and stop approving new nuclear power projects before the updated nuclear safety regulation and guideline are released. Read more
By Richard Wilson
Richard Wilson is Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He has been an affiliate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author or coauthor of 910 published articles and papers. His research has focused on the structure of nuclei and elementary particles; nucleon scattering and the scattering of leptons by nucleons; and electron-positron colliding beams. He has also conducted extensive research on risk and risk-benefit analysis. He chaired a committee for the governor of Massachusetts on the effects of Three Mile Island, he has visited Chernobyl many times, including the inside of the reactor building, and received awards for that work.
(Professor Richard Wilson’s notes were written at 3 pm EDT Monday March 14, and updated Tuesday March 15 at noon.)
I think that it might be appropriate to give you a quick rundown of the situation on nuclear reactors in Japan and how that problem compares to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Firstly in a reactor accident there are two steps. If anyone gets a radiation dose (effective whole body) of 300 Rems (3Sv) or more within a short time period, it leads to ACUTE RADIATION SICKNESS and the body fails within a week or two. At Chernobyl about 200 plant workers and firemen got this much and officially 31 died (my belief is 60 or so died because no one counted the army). But no one in the general public got acute radiation sickness. Read more
By Matthew Bunn
By MATTHEW BUNN
Harvard Kennedy School Associate Professor Matthew Bunn, whose research topics includes nuclear proliferation risks, the future of nuclear energy and its fuel cycle, and policies to promote innovation in energy technologies, offered these observations early Monday on the earthquake-damaged nuclear power plants in Japan.
1. NOT LIKE CHERNOBYL
Bad as it is, this accident is dramatically less catastrophic than Chernobyl. That accident spread millions of curies of radioactivity — 3-4% of all the radioactivity in the reactor core — around the surrounding countryside, exposing millions of people in several countries. Large areas are uninhabitable to this day. Here there is no real prospect of a runaway chain reaction as occurred at Chernobyl. Instead, what has happened is melting of fuel in reactor cores, leading to release of a very modest amount of cesium and other fission products. There is still a possibility of a larger release, if melted fuel falls to the bottom of the reactor and manages to burn through the containment, contacting water and creating radioactive steam. At present, it seems more likely than not (though the situation is still changing) that most of the evacuated people will be able to return to their homes and live their lives as before. Read more