I was struck by this headline in the Washington Post (7/10/11):
Loss of Support for Nuclear Power Threatens Japan’s Economy
There are probably a lot of things that are threatening the Japanese economy–a massive, deadly earthquake and tsunami, for instance. Or the massive nuclear disaster that resulted from that tsunami.
The news here is that Japanese officials are doing inspections of their nuclear reactors–as they’ve always done. The problem, apparently, is that they’re doing more than that:
Under ordinary circumstances, these shutdowns would be temporary. Instead, they loom as an urgent problem for Japan, whose government–itself divided over nuclear policy–has not yet mustered the political will or the popular support necessary to restart reactors once they are idled.
The “problem” is that the government is also doing stress tests to make sure the reactors can survive major disruptions. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea, given the horrendous disaster that they’ve just suffered. The Post describes the government’s decision to call for these tests as “undermining its cause,” apparently because this contradicted an earlier claim that the reactors were safe.
The problem, as defined by the Post, is a lack of political support for nuclear power, inspired by a government that wants to increase the country’s reliance on safe renewable energy. That position is what the Post is saying “threatens” the country’s economy. Others might argue that a massive nuclear disaster is to blame.