Nanotechnology in Japan: A Route to Energy Security after Fukushima?
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 2013, 69(5), 68-74
7 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2014 Last revised: 21 Feb 2018
Date Written: 2013
This article reviews the recent shift in Japan's nanotechnology policy and regulation, analyzing policy documents and government guidelines as well as interviews with prominent scientists and government officials. The authors consider the potential role of nanotechnology in addressing Japan's pressing energy security challenges after the Fukushima nuclear accident. They find that Japan's regulatory focus on preventing and controlling exposure to nanoparticles, rather than on merely reporting and registering the use of nanomaterials, arguably provides greater flexibility and societal support for scientists to experiment with a variety of ideas for using nanomaterials-particularly solar power technologies for distributed energy generation, such as artificial photosynthesis. Japan provides a valuable case study of two major economic and political challenges to the development of energy-related nanotechnologies: industry pressure to continue investing primarily in centralized electricity generation from sources that are environmentally risky but profitable to major power companies, such as nuclear power and fossil fuels; and growing public interest in the research, development, and rapid rollout of nanotechnology-enhanced renewable energy sources that are well suited for distributed energy generation, while the effectiveness of nanotechnology regulation is still being tested.
Keywords: distributed energy generation, energy security, Japan, nanotechnology regulation, safety, solar power
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