Has Japan Learned Nothing from Fukushima?

After the disastrous earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan in 2011, causing a nuclear catastrophe, the country’s energy security, already flawed, was seriously weakened. Since the closure of almost all of its nuclear power plants, Japan is facing an energy’s security predicament. To restore lost power, the country turned more intensively to fossil fuels, a strategy that has caused its economy to decline since the rise in fuel prices. In revisiting its energy policy, the Japanese government emphasized the importance of developing new energy sources which are more reliable, environmentally sustainable and above all safe.

Nanotechnology (the study and application of extremely small things [1]) may be the solution to Japan’s (and to the world) energy issues, going along with the country’s shift in energy policy towards the promotion of green innovations and the development of the renewable energy sector. Its application in solar power (electricity and fuels), could sustainably power homes and vehicles, through artificial photosynthesis, which chemically transforms sunlight into oxygen and carbohydrates, mostly through nanomaterials. In the future, it would allow Japan’s energy supply model to move from a traditional and centralized one to distributed small-scale energy sources, enabling families to develop their own solar energies, notably to self-provide their vehicle fuel and their electricity.

However, the picture is not all bright. The excessive use of nanomaterials also presents health and environmental problems, mainly because of the toxicity it can have on individuals when inhaled, and because of the environmental damages that it can cause through bioaccumulation (the persistence of these materials in biological tissues) in the case of a combined disaster. But there is no specific nanotechnology regulation in the country.

To avoid another disaster, the country urgently needs to create specific nanotechnology policies and safety regulations as well as a «security-oriented emergency response system» [2]. The post-2011 safety measures that were taken to prevent and manage nuclear disasters should be extended to nanotechnology. Otherwise, if Japan doesn’t revisit its legislative framework, it may lead to a fatal repeat of errors.

Juliette Cappuccio

Notes:

1) https://www.nano.gov/nanotech-101/what/definition

2) Nasu, Hitoshi. «Managing Future Disasters: Japan’s Energy Security and Nanotechnology Regulation.» (2014)

Bibliography:

–  Nasu, Hitoshi and Faunce, Thomas. «Nanotechnology in Japan: A route to energy security after Fukushima?» Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69 (2013): 68-74. DOI: 10.1177/0096340213501367

–  Motoyama, Yasuyuki. «Long-term collaboration between university and industry: A case study of nanotechnology development in Japan.» Technology in Society 36 (2014): 39-51. https:// doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2013.09.001

–  Kato, Yutaka. «Chapitre 3. The nanotech R&D situation in Japan and ethics of nanotechnology.» Journal International de Bioéthique 22 (2011): 57-69.

–  Nasu, Hitoshi. «Managing Future Disasters: Japan’s Energy Security and Nanotechnology Regulation». In Asia-Pacific disaster management: Comparative and socio-legal perspectives: 139-152. Berlin, Springer: 2014. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-39768-4_6

 

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

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