Fukushima’s Shadow

Lincoln Davies is an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a professor at S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah. Alexis Jones is a Quinney Research Fellow at S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah. Their article discusses the March 11, 2011 tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi power station in Japan, which immediately etched its place in history as arguably the most noteworthy of the three nuclear energy disasters to date. This Article surveys the response to Fukushima both in Japan and worldwide. It observes that rather than stopping what many thought was a burgeoning “nuclear renaissance,” the global policy reaction post-Fukushima was more varied. Using the examples of Germany, the United States, and China, the Article examines the three general approaches to nuclear energy that nations have followed since Fukushima: abandonment, status quo, and expansion. The Article then uses these different responses to highlight core tensions in energy policy, namely, between markets and planning, between resilience and path dependence, and in values. The Article concludes by summarizing Fukushima’s likely impact on nuclear power going forward, noting the inherent complexity in energy and energy law and policy systems.