Monday, March 3, 2014

Japan's post-Fukushima energy plan

Of course, no one could have seen THIS coming.  Japan has 48 nuclear reactors that were producing power until shut down in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown.  The shut-down was a result of this burst of never-again idealism that postulated that Japan could get along on electricity provided by a combination of fossil-fuel plants and renewables.  But fossil fuels are polluting and expensive—which led to rare-for-Japan trade deficits, while renewables are still mostly in the design stages.  And there aren't a lot of obvious choices for renewables. For example, off-shore wind turbines will be very expensive because the waters get deep very quickly of her coasts.

So there they are with these power plants that were working not so very long ago combined with bad choices for replacement.  I'm surprised they didn't restart them sooner.  And IF this shutdown time has been used to maintain and bring all these plants up to some shiny new standards, a second Fukushima will be very unlikely.  Industrial progress has always depended on learning from your mistakes.  And even IF Japan has some crafty scheme for going to renewables, building the new infrastructure will require power.  Besides, a nuclear power plant that is operating is probably no more dangerous than one sitting idle with a skeleton crew.

Japan unveils draft energy policy in wake of Fukushima

Tokyo says nuclear power remains important source of electricity and reactors should be restarted

Associated Press in Tokyo, 25 February 2014

Japan has unveiled its first draft energy policy since the Fukushima meltdowns three years ago, saying nuclear power remains an important source of electricity for the country.

The draft, presented to the cabinet on Tuesday for approval expected in March, says Japan's nuclear energy dependency will be reduced but that reactors meeting new safety standards set after the 2011 nuclear crisis should be restarted.

Japan has 48 commercial reactors, but all are offline until they pass the new safety requirements.

The draft of the Basic Energy Plan says a mix of nuclear, renewables and fossil fuel will be the most reliable and stable source of electricity to meet Japan's energy needs.

The government had planned to release the draft in January but a recommendation submitted by a panel of experts was judged to be too pro-nuclear. Tuesday's draft added more emphasis on renewable energy.

The economy, trade and industry minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, told reporters that "in principle, the direction has not changed". He called for additional efforts to accelerate the development of renewable energy over the next few years.

The draft says Japan will continue its nuclear fuel recycling policy, but adds there is a need for flexibility for possible later changes to the policy.

Japan has tonnes of spent fuel and a stockpile of extracted plutonium, causing international concerns about nuclear proliferation. Officials have said the most realistic way to consume and reduce the plutonium is to restart the reactors to burn it.

The previous energy plan in 2010 called for a boost in nuclear power to about half of Japan's electricity needs by 2030 from about one-third before the Fukushima disaster. more

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