In Japan's Wake, Can Nuclear be Relied Upon to Fuel Asia's Boom?

Anti-nuclear activists hold a protest near the presidential palace in Manila on March 15, 2011. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Asia Society Global Council Co-Chair Simon Tay has penned an op-ed entitled "Japan gives Asia pause in its nuclear ambitions," published earlier this week in Singapore's Today newspaper and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. The rapid growth many Asian nations are experiencing needs to be fueled somehow, Tay explains, and many countries in the region had been looking to nuclear as a cleaner, more reliable source of energy than its carbon counterparts. China has major plans for nuclear, and Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are either moving toward nuclear power or pondering it. "Even for countries without active seismic activity, there are cautionary lessons about risk management," Tay explains. "This is especially as many do not have the high safety culture that Japan has." 

He concludes: 

The Japanese have lived with energy insecurity and nuclear power for many decades. In tandem with establishing Japan as a world leader in energy efficiency and alternative energy, they have developed their nuclear energy capabilities over the decades with what appear to be the strictest safeguards - although fresh doubts are being cast by the Japanese media and international groups.

In the wake of the tragic quake and unfolding nuclear concerns in Tokyo, other Asian countries that wish to pursue the reward of nuclear power must be advised to take the time to ensure they meet the highest standards. Even if they do, they and their people must also understand, and be prepared, that even the highest standards may still not prove to be enough. 

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About the Author

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Dan Washburn is Asia Society's Chief Content Officer. The Financial Times named his book, The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, one of the best of 2014.