International inspectors July 15 confirmed that North Korea had shut down the nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon research facility, the fruit of a painstaking diplomatic effort in which the DPRK will immediately start receiving oil aid from South Korea. (WP, Reuters, July 12) The following day, a 6.8 earthquake in Niigata prefecture, Japan, caused a fire and leak of radioactive water into the sea at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, run by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), is the world's largest commercial nuclear plant. Japan has a fast-growing nuclear industry, with 55 plants operating and another 11 planned. Nuclear power currently provides a third of the country's energy, but Tokyo plans to boost this to 40%. The plans are opposed by environmentalists and local residents who say the government is inviting disaster by building so many reactors in a seismically unstable country. (The Independent, Reuters, July 17)
This juxtaposition of news stories indicates the absurdity of dividing the world's reactors into "good nukes" and "bad nukes." As unfashionable as it may be today, we stand by the old slogan of the '70s anti-nuclear movement: SHUT 'EM DOWN!