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In the July 31 letter “Kan’s escape from nuclear reality,” True Spence writes that “Renewable sources may someday offer practical alternatives, but not in our lifetimes, barring major breakthroughs.” Maybe “not in our lifetimes” is an appropriate turn of phrase for someone living in an old-age home, but the reality about renewable energy is that it is very much becoming a viable power source worldwide. Along with conservation, it could make up for power formerly provided by Japan’s nuclear facilities.

Spence bristles at the idea that one of Japan’s leaders might actually articulate a vision of a nonnuclear future. He writes that he is disappointed that Prime Minister Naoto Kan “has decided to promote the unattainable ideal” of a Japan without nuclear power, adding that the fact that 70 percent of the population supports this ideal “does not make it any more attainable.”

As a point of political fact, 70 percent support for an idea such as this does, indeed, make it more attainable. Vested interests in the nuclear industry frequently counteract and manipulate popular sentiment through a variety of tactics, but there are signs that these interests are weakening amid growing public outrage.

Apparently Spence is among the 30 percent of people who still cannot or will not see that the risks of nuclear power here far outweigh the benefits. He calls Kan’s echoing of public anti-nuclear sentiment demagogic, and then writes something that must have left many readers, especially those most affected by the current nuclear crisis, incredulous: “It needs to be said and re-said that, despite the damage from the earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 11, the systems and safety measures in place performed magnificently.”

Really? Has Spence missed the news of contaminated food products, displaced residents, children with dosimeters and radioactive “hot spots” hundreds of kilometers from Fukushima? I would hate to see Spence’s version of poor safety performance.

Spence persists in his defense of Japan’s nuclear power sector: “It is important to note that plant designers never contemplated a magnitude-9.0 quake and a 14-meter-high tsunami.”

But isn’t it now obvious that precisely because the time, location and magnitude of quakes are virtually unpredictable, building nuclear power plants in Japan is a bad idea? It is prohibitively expensive and likely impossible to design power plants that will resist what cannot be predicted.

So, why not go with options that don’t require fuel to be constantly cooled from a power source to remain safe and stable?

It is not the practicality of renewable energy solutions that is preventing them from becoming a reality in Japan; it is the political will of those who are resistant to change. Readjusting this balance is no easy task, but for a country that basically rebuilt itself from scratch after World War II into one of the world’s largest economies, it is certainly possible.

Kan’s echoing of public sentiment to shake the vested interests that have led Japan to nuclear complacency should be commended, not condemned.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

pete hourdequin

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