Be Cautious with the Precautionary Principle: Evidence from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident
This paper provides a large scale, empirical evaluation of unintended effects from invoking the precautionary principle after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. After the accident, all nuclear power stations ceased operation and nuclear power was replaced by fossil fuels, causing an exogenous increase in electricity prices. This increase led to a reduction in energy consumption, which caused an increase in mortality during very cold temperatures. We estimate that the increase in mortality from higher electricity prices outnumbers the mortality from the accident itself, suggesting the decision to cease nuclear production has contributed to more deaths than the accident itself.
We thank Michele Baggio, Geoffrey Barrows, Francois Cohen, Olivier Deschenes, Tatyana Deryugina, Lucija Muehlenbachs, Peter Martinsson, Jisung Park, Alberto Salvo, Reed Walker, and Hendrik Wolff for their suggestions. The authors would also like to thank for their comments participants at the 6th IZA Workshop on “Environment and Labor Market,” 6th World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists, Workshop on “Environment & Health: An Economic Perspective” at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay, Cachan, 6th IAERE Conference, 23rd Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, and seminar participants at American University, Asian Development Bank, Hitotsubashi University, Nagoya City University, Shinshu University, and University of Verona. We acknowledge data support from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan that provided mortality counts by cause and age class upon special tabulation request. We also acknowledge financial support from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Murata Science Foundation, and Shikishima Research and Cultural Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.