Abstract: Crumbling Dream: Japan's Nuclear Quest, 1954-2011

Steven Tolliday


On the eve of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, Japan was producing nearly 30 percent of its electricity from fifty-four nuclear reactors and planning to double this share by building a further fourteen new reactors in the next twenty years. One year later, not a single Japanese reactor was still in commercial operation, and at least twelve of them will never reopen. The nuclear dream had crumbled. This article considers why the Japanese nuclear power industry was so cherished and so vulnerable. Why did Japan place its bets so heavily on a nuclear future and then not watch over them better than it did? This is a massive topic, but the article begins to sketch out some key factors, considering in turn the role of business-government relations; corporate structures and governance; and the problems of Japanese energy security in a changing international political and economic order.

BEH On-Line Paper