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Fukushima Six Years After: East Asia’s Nuclear Energy Conundrum

Courtesy of thierry ehrmann/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 16 March 2017.

Synopsis

Human factors such as complacency and lack of questioning attitude have been  identified as key contributors to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But six years after the incident, East Asian states have yet to address human factors to make nuclear energy safe and secure in the region.

Commentary

JAPAN COMMEMORATED the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster on 11 March 2017. Since the tsunami–triggered disaster, qualified observers assess that the biggest risk associated with nuclear power comes not from the technology of the infrastructure but from human factors. The Fukushima incident must be regarded as a technological disaster triggered not just by “unforeseeable” natural hazards (earthquake, tsunami), but also human errors.

Comprehensive reports on Fukushima, including findings made by the Japanese parliament and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), examine how human factors such as the complacency of operators due to ‘safety myth’, the absence of regulatory independence from the nuclear industry, and reluctance to question authority all contributed to the “accident”. The Fukushima incident, like others before it, accentuates the utmost importance of addressing human and organisational factors so as to prevent nuclear accidents from occurring, or mitigate their consequences if they do occur.

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Today’s Energy Security Risks: Complacency, Uncertainty, and Ideology

Burning Oil Well. Image: LCpl. Dick Kotecki/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Atlantic Council on 3 December, 2015.

At the 2015 Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul, twenty-one Ministers and senior officials from Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East met to assess the changing geopolitics of energy security. The assembly was a reminder that energy security — the ability of a nation to secure affordable, reliable, and sustainable supplies to maintain national power — is very different for each nation.

It was clear that advances in technology — in oil and gas, and renewables — have changed the geopolitics of energy dramatically, and mostly for the better, from the world of 2008 or even 2011. We have moved from an era of resource scarcity to abundance, from a concentration of resources to ubiquity of access, and from monopoly power in oil and gas to gas on gas competition in Europe. There is now a clear de-linkage of oil and gas pricing, more hub pricing and a growing spot market in LNG. Floating LNG and containerized shipping are enabling lower cost and quicker access of nations to gas, helping them move away from coal.  US shale, with huge resources, low extraction costs, and rapid drilling times may help put a ceiling on the price of oil.  Changes in wind, solar, and energy efficiency technology have driven down the cost of renewables in many countries, making them cost competitive with coal or gas in many cases. » More

The U.S. Energy Pivot: A New Era for Energy Security in Asia?

A fracking site near Los Angeles.Image:Erik Gustafson/Flickr

This article was originally published by New Security Beatthe blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center, on 26 March, 2015.

The past decade has brought ground-shaking changes to global energy markets. The unconventional fuel boom has unexpectedly reduced U.S. dependence on oil imports, while in the Asia-Pacific region, energy-constrained nations are increasingly reliant on foreign sources to meet their soaring demand. With the U.S. slated to export liquid natural gas (LNG) to Asia as early as 2017, a new energy era has come.

The shifting landscape is forcing countries such as Japan, South Korea, and China to rethink regional cooperation on energy issues such as strategic oil stocks, and technological and institutional coordination, said Mikkal E. Herberg, senior lecturer at the University of California, San Diego, and research director of the Energy Security Program at the National Bureau of Asian Research, at a Capitol Hill event on February 24. » More

Economic and Security Reform in Japan: Harder Than It Looks

Image: Héctor Romero/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East-West Center in the 277th edition of the Asia Pacific Bulletin on 19 August, 2014.

The major ally of the United States in the Asia Pacific, Japan, has undertaken repeated reforms since the end of the Cold War and especially since the collapse of its economic “bubble’ in the early 1990s. These have spanned the country’s electoral, administrative, educational, and security sectors. Although some of these changes have been potentially transformational, many have been largely transitional. Cautious incrementalism has largely won out over bold renewal. » More

Rhetoric Increases as Falkland Referendum Looms

A sign in Argentina reads: 'The Falklands are Argentinian.'

A sign in Argentina reads: ‘The Falklands are Argentinian.’ Photo: Gilmar Mattos/flickr

Next month will determine the eventual fate of the Falkland Islands—and the 1.4 billion barrels of oil so far discovered there—when a referendum on self-determination is held.

In the run-up to that referendum, Argentina has stepped up the rhetoric, most recently with the Argentine Foreign Minister claiming that within 20 years, the Falkland Islands will be entirely under Argentina’s control.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has responded by calling this a counterproductive “fantasy”. Hague says the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has refused diplomatic dialogue and chosen instead a path of “bullying”. » More

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