Beyond Fukushima: Disasters, Nuclear Energy, and Energy Law

By Davies, Lincoln L. | Brigham Young University Law Review, November 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Beyond Fukushima: Disasters, Nuclear Energy, and Energy Law


Davies, Lincoln L., Brigham Young University Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

Fukushima changed everything. That, at least, was a popular view espoused after the disaster of March 11, 2011 - in the press, by the talking heads in the international media, and across the blogosphere.1 A nuclear meltdown in such a densely populated, welldeveloped nation could scarcely do anything less than utterly transform how nuclear energy would be seen, used, and not used for years to come.

That was the immediate reaction. As we inch away in time from the epicenter of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, however, the picture has become less stark than it often was painted in the days and weeks after the earthquake sounded, the tsunami struck, and a series of misjudgments, miscalculations, and chain reactions led to a partial meltdown of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Nuclear power long has occupied a precarious position in our collective energy landscape. "Our country, indeed the world, has always viewed nuclear power with fear and fascination."2 When a tragedy like Fukushima transpires, this fear and fascination spike. Though the harnessing of atoms to create electricity turned "swords into plowshares" long ago,3 there remains a view today that nuclear power - and its proponents - are "clearly evil."4 Nuclear disasters like Fukushima create an opportunity for those who hold such views to advocate for a new energy course: one that abandons this energy source.

Indeed, in the months after Fukushima, some nations announced their decision to forsake nuclear energy, Germany most prominent among them.5 Others, like Japan, weighed the idea, only to subsequently reject it,6 at least for the time being. By contrast, in the United States the non-nuclear option received little national political attention.7 Why?

This Article takes up the tragedy at Fukushima Daiichi as a vehicle for parsing the role that disasters play in nuclear energy policy - and, by extension, in U.S. energy law generally. In the public discourse, energy law often orbits disasters. No one talks about our oil dependence until there is an Exxon Valdez or a Deepwater Horizon, and then it is conversation fodder for Starbucks runs. We flip switches all day long without wondering where our electrons come from, and then there is a Chernobyl, or Three Mile Island, or Fukushima, and anti-nuclear protestors take to the streets.8 "Energy policy-making in the United States is a cyclical enterprise," Gary Bryner observed a decade ago.9 When there is a crisis on the news, "energy dominates the political agenda."10 When there is not, "it fades into the background."11 Energy disasters thus hold a tenuous relationship with energy policymaking. They create opportunities for change,12 but they also risk misdirecting the debate away from the truly important questions.

This Article posits that energy disasters in the United States tend to perpetuate both of these effects. They often cause change, but this change tends to be incremental. At the same time, by "solving" the proximate causes of the disasters - and those causes alone - these modifications to energy law obfuscate the need to look more deeply at the underlying, root causes of our energy dilemmas.13

These phenomena are largely a result of the dominant energy paradigm that dictates our energy laws and policy today.14 To mitigate the role that disasters play in shaping our law, disasters must be deemphasized as clarions for change. Alone, however, this will not be enough. A fundamental shift in our energy policy objectives and processes also is needed. By using nuclear energy itself as a metaphor for conceptualizing how U.S. energy law functions, this Article suggests that there are two primary changes that should be made to our system of energy governance. First, the goals of energy law should be realigned to reflect greater emphasis on sustainability. Second, energy law should employ more, and more robust, planning. Making these changes will not be easy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Fukushima: Disasters, Nuclear Energy, and Energy Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.