The new Japanese government has said it will reconsider the previous administration's decision to abandon nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
The 15 December general election was won in a landslide by Shinzō Abe's Liberal Democratic party. The outgoing Democratic party had said it wanted to phase out nuclear power by the 2030s, but The Japan Times quotes the new economy, trade and industry minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, as saying that they will "reconsider" that decision.
Before the disaster Japan had generated almost a third of its total energy from nuclear power, but a comprehensive review of the nation's nuclear security procedures led to many nuclear plants closing down, albeit temporarily, while their ability to cope with seismic activity was reassessed. When the Tomari-3 reactor in Hokkaidō closed down for maintenance on 5 May 2012 there wasn't a single active nuclear reactor in the entire country, though reactors began to be started up again in certain places by July amid large protests.
While it may be understandable for the Japanese people to turn against nuclear power, there are several reasons that their government may not be so hasty to give up on it. Much like in the UK, Japan would struggle to adapt to other energy technologies like renewables fast enough to make up for the lost capacity from closing nuclear plants.
The subsequent report into the Fukushima disaster also found that it could have been prevented, with commission chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa stating that it was a "profoundly man-made disaster". The general mood among the nuclear power industry, and the new government, is that the Fukushima disaster was not the fault of nuclear technology as much of a regulatory failure. It's an argument that has done little to assuage the fears of the reportedly more than 80 percent of Japanese people who now consider themselves anti-nuclear power.
The Fukushima plant remains surrounded by a 20km exclusion zone, with the expectation that it will take decades to decontaminate the landscape. In August 2012, Wired.co.uk reported that butterflies caught from inside this area were found to be passing on dramatic genetic mutations down to as many as three generations of offpsring.
Japan is not the only country to have experienced a drop in public support for nuclear power after Fukushima, with the German government announcing in May 2011 that it would seek to close all of its nuclear reactors by 2022. Britons, however, were apparently left unfazed, neither losing or gaining enthusiasm for the technology -- and, while the coalition government has stated it would like to see new plants built around the country, there have been problems securing the private sector funding that would be necessary for construction.