Between this month and the next, the world marks the 10th and 35th anniversaries of two of the most devastating nuclear disasters known to man. The April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in what was then the Soviet Union, now Ukraine, was triggered by engineering misjudgments and released an estimated 400 times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant was caused by a natural disaster: the worst-ever earthquake to hit Japan triggered a massive tsunami that overwhelmed the facility, shutting off cooling systems and leading to meltdowns of three reactors.
More than 160,000 people were evacuated after the Fukushima meltdown and Japan closed all its 54 reactors, some permanently. Today, just nine reactors are back in operation. This has significant implications for the Japanese economy, where nuclear energy is now just 6 per cent of the sources of the electricity produced compared with nearly a third earlier. In the meantime, the share of noxious coal and oil-fired power plants in the grid - inevitable to meet soaring power demand - has gone up. With Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga having pledged to make his nation carbon neutral by 2050, the country will need all the nuclear plants it has at its disposal, and a few more perhaps, to hold itself to that promise.