Caixin
Mar 30, 2011 02:54 PM

How Japan's Earthquake Will Shake the World

Japan's 9.0 earthquake will increase global inflationary pressure through means such as the Bank of Japan's monetary expansion policy, disruptions for automobile and electronics industrial supply chains, and rising demand for fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the Japanese yen is likely to depreciate substantially this year, pressuring other Asian currencies. And the catastrophe has exposed Japan's incompetent leadership as well as forced the world, including China, to dramatically change course on nuclear power development.

In the long run, the disaster and its aftermath discredit the nuclear power industry. No matter how well a nuclear power plant is designed, risks of an unanticipated event or human error always remain significant. When a nuclear power plant breaks, the consequences can be catastrophic and long-lasting.

I had always been a big nuclear energy supporter. I argued in its favor on environmental grounds and for reasons of economic efficiency. Earth may not be able to sustain the pressure if developing countries, which now account for 80 percent of the global population, consume as much fossil fuel as developed countries while they undergo economic development. I saw nuclear power as a lesser evil and, hence, worth trying.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant incident changed my mind. It reminds us that human error could bring the world to an end sooner than global warming. It is virtually impossible to eliminate human error from nuclear power plant operations.

Fukushima reminds us all that overconfidence in man's ability to control nuclear power is folly. At a moment like this, we see that it would be better to give up 10 times the benefits of this plant's 40 years of power than face this catastrophe.

In the wake of the crisis, China has suspended expansion of its nuclear power industry. This was the right thing to do. Despite reassurances we've heard from many government officials, China should suspend the country's nuclear power expansion plan indefinitely and shut down existing plants located near population centers as soon as possible.

While many Chinese officials have assured the people that the nation's nuclear technology is safer than Japan's, I cannot stop thinking about the nation's other challenges in areas such as unsafe food, the world's highest traffic accident rate, and widespread product quality problems. When I stretch my imagination to the country's nuclear power plants, I'm terrified.

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