Accepted paper:

The "Structural Disaster" of Renewable Energy Development: A Strong Similarity to "Nuclear Village"


Miwao Matsumoto (The University of Tokyo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper elucidates a structural similarity of the social mechanisms which run through “nuclear village” and renewable energy regime employing the concept of “structural disaster” with reference to the carry-over effects of wrong expectation in the initial wind turbine development in Japan.

Paper long abstract:

The "structural disaster" indicates the repeated occurrence of failures of a similar type deep-rooted in the science-technology-society interface. This paper elucidates a strong structural similarity of the social mechanisms which run through "nuclear village" and renewable energy regime employing the concept of "structural disaster" with reference to the initial wind turbine development process in Japan. In particular, the paper focuses on the path-dependent process after the initial technology assessment in which the myth of the impossibility of wind turbine generation was created. This myth can be regarded as comparable to the myth of safety in nuclear power generation. The paper argues that such a myth-creation can be traced back to the haphazard events in the initial assessment of wind turbines which led to the "lock-in" state where a maker producing technologically appropriate wind turbines was excluded from the domestic market. There are two different factors involved. Firstly, the underestimation of the potentiality of wind turbine generation by the government made the policy goal of future energy supply by wind power unduly lowered. Secondly, the accidental breakage of imported wind turbines being tested by TEPCO created the myth of impossibility of wind power generation, which made domestic makers withdraw from wind turbine development. The paper draws sociological implications from the working of such a myth from the perspective of "structural disaster" with particular attention to carry-over effects from wrong expectation as manifested in the myth of safety of "nuclear village".

panel T078
Contested energy futures and temporalities in retrospective: instruments and practices of forecasting and scenario work