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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Is Japan too reliant on nuclear power?
At least four people have been killed in an accident at a nuclear power plant in Japan.

Several other workers were taken to hospital with burns, after steam leaked out of a turbine at the plant in Fukui, about 350 kilometres west of Tokyo.

Officials say there was no radioactive material in the leak and there was no danger to the surrounding area.

It is the second fatal accident at a nuclear-related plant since 1999 when a radiation leak at Tokaimura, north-east of Tokyo, claimed two lives.

Japan relies on nuclear power to supply 25% of its electricity but there are now increasing public fears over safety.

Is Japan becoming too reliant on nuclear power? How can public confidence be restored? Send us your comments.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Serious efforts need to be made to bring these companies in line with safety standards
Caroline Hutchinson, London, UK
Given Japan's poverty of natural resources and desire not to rely on world imports (quite aside from the issue of declining fossil fuel reserves), nuclear power seems a natural choice for the country. The issue here is rather that the company has knowingly shirked its responsibility to carry out safety checks, making it the latest in a string of food and energy companies whose execs end up on TV bowing apologetically. 'Sumimasen' is not enough; serious efforts need to be made to bring these companies in line with safety standards.
Caroline Hutchinson, London, UK

Japan is wise to invest in nuclear power. It lessens the country's dependence on oil, which has economic, environmental and security benefits, the risk of accidents notwithstanding. If anything, we Europeans should learn from Japan and invest more in nuclear power rather than depend on an unstable Middle East for oil supplies.
Roman Lajciak, Vancouver, Canada (usually Bratislava, Slovakia)

What is the statistic for work-related deaths from fossil fuel exploration, extraction and conversion? Look at the number of people killed in Iraq in protecting a fraction of the reserves. Four people killed since 1999 can be better but it is a pretty good record compared to the alternative.
Ian, Austin, Texas, USA

I think most agree that Japan could not operate as a country without nuclear power. All the trains and subways feed off electricity, and this power has to come from somewhere. But I find there is a mentality here which does not consider the importance of energy conservation, the department stores and trains are usually freezing cold in summer and boiling hot in winter due to mismanagement of the air conditioners.
Dale, Tokyo, Japan

How many more accidents do we need to realise that nuclear power is dangerous? Was it not enough with the Chernobyl accident? People and animals are still suffering from this accident. What happened to solar power?
Brigitte, France

It's fun to watch the poorly informed make accusations about the 'danger' of a Chernobyl type of incident. Let it be known now -- Chernobyl was running at over 100% capacity, and current nuclear reactors are less than 50%. If you put in the proper safeguards with no exception, there's no reason why nuclear power can't be safe, clean and exceptionally powerful source of energy for our future.
Shayaan Faruqi, Piscataway, NJ USA

Japan is clearly thriving on their current system
Is there really any activity on earth that does not carry with it the possibility of an accident or some potential for danger? Japan is clearly thriving on their current system. The only action needed here is to pray those lost and for the speedy recovery of those injured. Don't toss out the baby with the bathwater.

Compared to the growing cumulative global consequences of using fossil fuels, the local consequences of the worst possible potential disasters related to nuclear power use pale in comparison. The only better alternative is to explore the benefits that could be derived from developing a more comprehensive program of use for eco-friendly power sources.
Joe Schaedler, Minneapolis, MN, USA

At least Japan is using nuclear plants to provide its citizens with power, rather than trying to flex its power using nuclear weapons as North Korea does.
Prashanth Parameswaran, Malaysia

No, Japan is not too reliant on nuclear power. Aside from nuclear power's good safety record, we should remember that every bit of energy that comes from uranium rather than oil represents money that does not go to countries (such as Saudi Arabia and Iran) that support terrorism.
James Castro, Helena, Montana, USA

I think the posters thus far have forgot that nuclear power does generate pollution. It is called nuclear waste.
Randy, Los Angeles, USA

Nuclear power has an exceptional safety record
Vernon, Nashville, USA
Nuclear power has an exceptional safety record. However, it entails producing heat equivalent to the sun, just to boil water for my tea. Then, we are left with wastes that remain highly toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. Sumeria and Ur were just 5000 years ago. Should we be making garbage with a danger zone that transcends our concept of time?
Vernon, Nashville, USA

Nuclear power takes radioactive material out of the ground, uses it for energy, then puts it back in the earth less radioactive than before. So long as it is done safely as it has been in the USA and France, nuclear energy is far superior to other forms of energy; it is clean and relatively cheap. Unfortunately, a few minor accidents outside of the former Eastern Block and we're concerned about safety? How many people have been killed in coal burning power plants?
Aaron, Munich, Germany ex USA

One thing many environmentalists are conceding is that in the foreseeable future, renewable energy will not be commercially viable on a pandemic scale, meaning that we will have to use nuclear power to supply our needs. I agree that there is a risk associated with this, but it is much better than what will happen if the polar ice caps melt.
Graeme Phillips, Midsomer Norton, UK

Reliance on Nuclear resources for energy needs are better than relying on oil or other carbon derivative energy sources. It has to be made safer and better disposal mechanisms for nuclear waste needs to be implemented. It has much lesser environmental pollution impacts (on going pollution, occasional, short term and long term). Oil prices soaring at the rate it is, and the pollution it causes are enough reason to move away from fossil energy. The best way to build public confidence is by having routine inspections of facilities, making the disposal of waste a clear priority of governments and making sure radiation samples are taken on a real time basis
Paul Ignatius, Jackson, NJ, USA

It is the lack of knowledge of nuclear power that places it on the public's Frankenstein list
Andrei Cernasov, Ringwood, USA
If we count the indirect health hazards of pollution (deaths due to induced lung and heart problems) the nuclear power / fuel cell combination seems to be our safest long term solution, even after including the occasional Chernobyl type disaster. The safety record of the nuclear industry is relatively good; it is the lack of knowledge of nuclear power that places it on the public's Frankenstein list. I believe the solution for our energy needs may be as simple as!
Andrei Cernasov, Ringwood, USA

No! Japan is an island (like us), doesn't like to rely on others for its power to much (like us) and thus have sensibly chosen nuclear power. A reliable, long term and relatively low (in comparison with fossil fuels) environmental impact choice for energy needs. British MP's need to get some guts, and return to the issue of how we are going to generate energy in the future, because wind power only blows so far.
Tom Graham, Birmingham, UK

Count your blessings nuclear power is a timely answer to environmental problem arising from burning fossils fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. The effects of the burning fuels culminates to environmental hazardous which will lead to the ever contentious issues of global warming, fuelling the air activity with acid rain. The quality of life can be spared if we find such alternative instead of regretfully crying over the disastrous events.
Melvyn Lee, Malaysia

4 people is nothing when compared to the thousands who were killed in coal mines worldwide
Alain Hernu, Andresy, France
Not as reliant as France anyway, where 75% of electricity is nuclear power produced. 4 people is nothing when compared to the thousands who were killed in coal mines worldwide. However nuclear power retains a certain amount of 'irrational fear", particularly fuel by "extreme" German ecologists. At any rate coal is finished, oil is becoming scarce and highly polluting anyway. So some other source of mass-market energy will have to be found. And windmills, albeit very bucolic are certainly not the answer. So apart from nuclear power, what is there? Nuclear power is safe and non-polluting. Except for wastes which in fact represent a very small - virtually negligible - pollution compared to the dramatic emissions of carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuel burning, such as coal and petrol.
Alain Hernu, Andresy, France

Japan's technological ability lies at two extremes. At one extreme are competing companies like the Sony's, Honda's & Nikon's, that are rightly famous throughout the world. At the other extreme, are Government run (or pork-barrel subsidized) and monopolies like the nuclear power industry. People living outside of Japan are amazed to learn that such companies are as inept, corrupt and behind the times as Sony etc are with it. Is Japan too reliant on nuclear power, maybe not? Is the nuclear power industry too reliant on people who don't really know what they are doing? Definitely.
Gary, Japan

An accident in a conventional power station where several people were killed would not make international headlines, which just goes to shows the global phobia of anything with "nuclear" in its name. Nuclear power remains the only viable alternative to fossil fuels for global energy production. Compare the widespread fossil fuel pollution and imminent climate change to the single Chernobyl nuclear accident. Which is better for the environment?
Piotr, Warsaw, Poland

Accident at Japan nuclear plant
09 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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