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Japan Restarts Nuclear Reactors: Invest or Run?

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted August 7, 2015

restartJapan is ready to restart its nuclear reactors. If all goes well, the nuclear industry will get a solid vote of confidence.

In 1996, E.ON restarted a nuclear power plant after it had been mothballed for four years.

The result …

Six emergency shutdowns in the following year and the discovery of cracks in the equipment that turned a 38-day refueling project into one lasting more than four months.

I tell ya, I don’t envy any individual charged with the responsibility of restarting a temporarily retired nuclear reactor. But that’s exactly what’s about to go down this month in Japan.

Of course, it’s not just one reactor. 25 of Japan’s 43 reactors have actually applied for restart permits. The first one could go back online as soon as Monday.

Hopefully, the folks operating these reactors have decided to trade their desire to meet unrealistic expectations for a desire to ensure the highest level of safety possible. Anything less would be a tragedy.

Good luck!

If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know I’m not a huge fan of nuclear. At least not these days, anyway.

With the combination of competitively-priced renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage and energy intelligence systems, there’s really no rational reason to continue relying on nuclear power. From both an economic standpoint and an environmental standpoint, it’s simply a loser.

That being said, a lot is at stake for the industry with the restart of all these reactors that have been shut down for the past four years.

If the restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors goes off without a hitch, it will be a huge win for nuclear. It’ll show the world that nuclear power can be generated in a safe and responsible manner, even after a major meltdown.

News of such a thing would certainly be promoted and championed, not only in Japan, but in other parts of the world where folks are still hesitant about constructing any new nuclear power plants. And with steady, baseload power in place, I suspect the utilities will feel a little less pressure from the government.

All in all, the restart of Japan’s nuclear power plants could have a very bullish effect on the industry. Assuming all goes well.

But if things don’t go as planned, and any problems do leak out to independent media sources who have come to terms with the fact that all government spokespeople are liars and swindlers, then the nuclear power industry could certainly feel a bit of a sting. It won’t be enough to stop any new nuclear development in places like China, India, or Russia, but it certainly won’t offer much in the way of confidence for investors.

To be honest, it’s probably best to just sit on the sidelines and see how all this plays out. It’s just not worth the headache.

And as for the good people in Japan – particularly the more than 100,000 that were displaced after the Fukushima disaster, I wish them the best of luck, and offer one piece of advice …

Don’t let the government’s promises of a safer, more secure fleet of nuclear reactors dissuade you from pursuing a more modern, more economically and environmentally sustainable energy economy. You have valuable wind, solar and technological resources to turn Japan into a thriving nation powered by clean energy that, when the next Tsunami comes, won’t force you to evacuate your homes or get screened for radiation on your way to the market. That’s no way to live.