Bart’s Comet and the Japan nuclear blackout: how long will mob logic rule?

It has been 4649 days since a violent earthquake unleashed a tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast coast, killing tens of thousands and destroying the homes and livelihood of hundreds of thousands. The country has rebounded admirably, but is far from returning to the life it had prior to March 11 2011. And due to misguided and misinformed fear of nuclear energy, Japan’s return to normalcy will take even longer.

That is because all its nuclear reactors are shut down. Before March 11 2011, these machines made 30 percent of Japan’s electricity. So Japan is making do with less than three-quarters of its power supply. This is possible because of what is euphemistically referred to as “demand destruction”—i.e., the disappearance of demand for electricity. Usually that means big power users going out of business. In Japan’s case, demand destruction was literal: the tens of thousands of people who were killed by the tsunami are no longer using electricity. Hence the country can get along, barely, with much less power supply.

But it is painful. A couple of days ago, Reuters reported that Japan is now bracing for major power shortages as summer approaches and demand for air conditioning rises.

So the question is, how resolute will the fear of nuclear power be in the minds of the Japanese who oppose nuclear restarts? After all, they are opting to go without the only source of energy that did not kill anyone on March 11 or at any time since.

My own prediction: Japan will most definitely restart most if not all of its nuclear reactors. Sooner or later people will realize they simply cannot sacrifice their way of life to silly misguided fear.

In the Simpson’s episode Bart’s Comet, Principal Skinner, after months of painstaking observation, discovers a new comet. (Through typical bad luck, Skinner’s discovery is mistakenly attributed to Bart.) It then becomes apparent that the comet is on a collision course with Earth, and that the town of Springfield will be the very point of impact. When the comet dissolves harmlessly in Springfield’s smog, Moe says “now let’s go burn down the observatory so this never happens again.”

That is essentially the same logic underpinning the Japan nuclear blackout. Sooner or later the Japanese will come to their senses. They are too smart to live with such dumb decisions.

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Very expensive LNG imports have made the refusal by Japanese government to allow nuclear plant restarts, so far, quite lucrative for Japanese government

Of the revenues on a general-account basis, those from petroleum and coal tax expanded 12.1 percent to 39.57 billion yen due apparently to more consumption of liquefied natural gas by utilities

at the expense of the rest of Japanese society —

Among other key components, revenues from personal income tax dropped 3.1 percent to 563.52 billion yen and corporate tax slid 4.1 percent to 839.08 billion yen.

If the economy sours enough that the decision-making class ceases to benefit from the shutdowns, perhaps they’ll begin find the street protests less persuasive of the need to continue them.

It’s even conceivable they had some hand in getting those protests to happen.

11 years ago

Some news is starting to be a little more reasonable:

“The panel discussion, at the National Press Club in Washington, is one in a series of events timed to the first anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident at the nuclear plant in March 2011. While the quake and tsunami killed an estimated 20,000 people, radiation has not killed anyone so far, and members of the Health Physics Society, drawn from academia, medicine and the nuclear industry, suggested that the doses were too small to have much effect”.