Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Abandoning nuclear power

Getting rid of nukes has been the dream of many.  Actually doing it is very difficult once they have been fully integrated into the infrastructure.  Germany announced that it will phase out their nukes over the next few years and that decision is costly and controversial.  Japan has just shut hers down.  Considering the catastrophe that is Fukushima, the decision can be easily explained.  Even so, we are talking about 54 reactors!  The Japanese have proven themselves to be extraordinarily resilient over the years but this is a very big deal and the costs are enormous.  We shall see how they cope.

Anxious Japan prepares for life without nuclear power

Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, but as of Saturday, not one of them will be in operation – how will the country cope?

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 3 May 2012

This weekend Japan will begin a bold experiment in energy use that no one had thought possible – until the Fukushima Daiichi power plant suffered a triple meltdown just over a year ago.

On Saturday, when the Hokkaido electric power company shuts down the No3 reactor at its Tomari plant for maintenance, the world's third-largest economy will be without a single working nuclear reactor for the first time for almost 50 years.

The closure of the last of Japan's 54 reactors marks a dramatic shift in energy policy, but while campaigners prepare to celebrate, the nationwide nuclear blackout comes with significant economic and environmental risks attached.

The crisis at Fukushima sparked by last year's deadly earthquake and tsunami forced Japan into a fundamental rethink of its relationship with nuclear power.

The Tomari shutdown come as the Japan braces itself for a long, humid summer that will have tens of millions of people reaching for the controls of their air conditioners, raising the risk of power cuts and yet more disruption for the country's ailing manufacturers.

In a report released this week, the government's national policy unit projected a 5% power shortage for Tokyo, while power companies predict a 16% power shortfall in western Japan, which includes the major industrial city of Osaka.

"I have to say we are facing the risk of a very severe electricity shortage," the economy, trade and industry minister, Yukio Edano, said, adding that the extra cost of importing fuel for use in thermal power stations could be passed on to individual consumers though higher electricity bills.

Before the 11 March disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for about 30% of its electricity, and there were plans to increase its share to more than 50% by 2030 with the construction of new reactors.

The release of huge quantities of radiation into the air and sea, the contamination of the food and water supply and the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents mean that vision of a nuclear-dominant, low-carbon future lies in ruins.

Over the past 14 months, dozens of nuclear reactors not directly affected by the tsunami have gone offline to undergo regular maintenance and safety checks, while utilities have turned to coal, oil and gas-fired power plants to keep industry and households supplied with electricity – imports that contribute to Japan's first trade deficit for more than 30 years last year.

Japan, already the world's biggest importer of liquefied natural gas, bought record amounts of LNG last year to replace nuclear. The international energy agency estimates the closure of all nuclear plants will increase Japanese demand for oil to 4.5m barrels a day, at an additional cost of about US$100m a day.

Last-ditch attempts by the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to win support for the early restart of two reactors at Oi power plant in western Japan have failed amid a hardening of public opposition to nuclear power. more
This article is from RT and suggests that many of these nukes will be restarted even though Japan seems serious about eventually getting rid of them.  A conversion to something else, no matter what that something else is, will require at LEAST a decade and the $100 million / day costs of oil substitutes in the interim will look increasingly ominous.  Yes, the costs of Fukushima are virtually incalculable so that oil bill could begin to look pretty cheap, but it will be very hard to leave idle so many working power plants.

Energy crisis looms: Japan closes last reactor

04 May, 2012

Japan is set to shut down its last operational nuclear plant following last year’s Fukushima meltdown disaster. However, with a giant energy quota to fill and no viable substitute, many predict a nuclear-free future will be short-lived.

The Hokkaido electric company closes down its Tomari plant, the last of Japan’s 53 atomic power stations, on Saturday, leaving a country-already dependent on foreign fuel imports -without nuclear energy.

Since the earthquake and tsunami caused a triple meltdown last March at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the Japanese government has been gradually de-commissioning and closing plants throughout the country.

The government has faced increasing pressure from environmental groups to abandon nuclear energy following the Fukushima catastrophe. It forced tens of thousands of Japanese from their homes after dangerous levels of radiation contaminated local food and water supplies.

The decision to turn away from nuclear energy is a controversial one in resource-poor Japan.

Prior to the March 2011 disaster the country drew approximately 30 per cent of its energy from nuclear power, a figure that was expected to rise to 50 per cent by 2030 to meet exploding energy demands.

The energy vacuum is set to incur shortfalls and power cuts this summer, with supplies falling short by 14 per cent in Tokyo and up to 16 per cent in western Japan.

"I have to say we are facing the risk of a very severe electricity shortage," said Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano in April. He added that rising fuel imports would be felt by the Japanese taxpayer.

As it stands the transfer to a non-nuclear energy infrastructure will be very costly as Japan will have no choice but to step-up its fuel imports.

Preliminary figures from the international energy agency increase oil-demand to 4.5 barrels a day, costing an additional $100 million, a bleak prospect for an economy that reported its biggest ever trade deficit in 2011.

The Japanese Finance Ministry said its deficit had risen to $50 billion because of the extra fuel imports needed to compensate for the lack of nuclear energy.

Environmental groups see the closure of the country’s last operational plant as an opportunity to wean Japan off atomic energy and follow the German model. However, creating the infrastructure for green energy will take time and significant investment. Currently, Japan gets around 8 per cent of its energy from renewable sources and is looking to raise that figure to over 25 per cent by 2030. more

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