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Japan Power

Japan's Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown 267

Posted by Soulskill
from the less-power-to-the-people dept.
mdsolar sends this quote from an article at the NY Times: "All but two of Japan's 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted. With the last operating reactor scheduled to be idled as soon as next month, Japan — once one of the world's leaders in atomic energy — will have at least temporarily shut down an industry that once generated a third of its electricity. With few alternatives, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has called for restarting the plants as soon as possible, saying he supports a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over several decades. Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."
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Japan's Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown

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  • Re:See? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JosKarith (757063) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:23AM (#39299831)
    And when (if) fusion becomes commercially viable what then? Japan was leading the world in fusion research and it was expected that they'd crack the break-even point first. I'd hate to see such an important development set back because a poorly maintained fusion reactor that was past its decommision date couldn't survive a simultaneous earthquake and tsunami...
  • energy rations? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by e3m4n (947977) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:23AM (#39299837)

    I guess with 1/3rd of their power offline, they could mandate energy rations to everyone. If they get tired of that system they can, as a community, opt to re-instate their reactors and make a long term plan to switch to some other non-petroleum source for power. They have brilliant scientists, I'm sure they can figure this out. Greed seems like less of a hindrance there than here in the USA.

  • by olau (314197) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:25AM (#39299845) Homepage

    Danish television had a reportage on the effect of the Fukushima incident on the people living nearby.

    After seeing the reportage, I can understand why they are shutting down the other reactors for the time being. It's one thing reading that nuclear power plants statistically kills very few compared to other sources of energy, it's another thing when you have to leave your ancestors home for 12 generations, or be stuck with a house that nobody will buy because even if it's outside the immediate danger zone and the authorities say it's safe, noone wants to take the risk.

    Whether fair or not, the incident violated the trust people had in the administrators of the nuclear tech, and it's going to take something to earn that trust back.

  • Alternatives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paleo2002 (1079697) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:25AM (#39299847)
    And what are Japan, Germany, etc. going to do for energy once they've phased out their big, scary nuclear power plants? Unless they find a way to quickly and effectively implement large-scale solar plants/farms, geothermal, etc. they're going to resort to burning fossil fuel. A big step backwards because, under extreme circumstances, nuclear can be dangerous.

    You know what's even more dangerous than an accident at a nuclear plant? A world-wide war over the planet's dwindling fossil fuel supplies.
  • Re:Alternatives? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:33AM (#39299919)

    The difference between them is that Japan doesn't have fossil fuels either.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:39AM (#39299955) Homepage
    At least he has a name.
  • Opposition? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bensam123 (1340765) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:41AM (#39299973)
    I'm not Japanese, but I'm pretty sure the only people opposing nuclear power in Japan are in politics and fearmongers from other countries. Sounds like a global politics issue, which is stupid.

    I'm sure the citizens will be thrilled when they drop coal burning plants down right next to the nuclear plants that didn't emit any sort of noticeable byproducts.
  • Re:Alternatives? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:41AM (#39299977)

    I'm not worried about Germany. Already in 2011 clean energies (wind/solar/biomass/hydro) surpassed nuclear in production 108TWh nuclear vs 117TWh. This out of a grand total of 612TWh. Most of the electricity comes from coal.

    There are large programs under way to expand on that. The biggest challenge are the transmission lines who do not have the capacity to ferry large amounts of electricity from the new production areas (north) to where electricity is used and can be stored in hydro plants (south).

  • by thsths (31372) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:47AM (#39300015)

    Fossil fuel power is even more expensive, generates toxic gasses and residue, and does contaminate large areas of land. It also has the problem that the fuel is running out.

    Sometimes you have to pick an option that is not perfect, and nuclear was a perfectly good slice in the energy mix. Shutting it down suddenly just causes supply shortages.

  • Re:Alternatives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Asic Eng (193332) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:05AM (#39300177)

    Japan has a huge coast line, it's an ideal location for wind parks. Germany is investing heavily into that, but that means (among other things) to build HVDC transmission lines to reach the coast. Japan doesn't even need to do that. For reference, here is a report from the Royal Corps of Engineering about the costs of various power sources: Costs_Report [countryguardian.net]. Wind is actually quite affordable despite the standby costs (taken into consideration by the report). Electric cars and demand shaping (e.g. with smart metering) could help bringing that down further.

    Extreme circumstances are normal in the pacific ring of fire, and just like Germany, Japan has no place to store the spent nuclear fuel. Neither country can afford to lose a chunk of land like the region around Fukushima - they are densely populated and the land is highly developed and valuable.

    That doesn't mean that nuclear power doesn't make sense anywhere, but Japan is the wrong place for it.

  • Re:Alternatives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:17AM (#39300283)

    "You know what's even more dangerous than an accident at a nuclear plant?"

    cucumbers. ecoli in salad killed 40 people in europe last year.
    (aids, cars, air pollution, war, tobacco, heart disease, natural disasters, etc also come come out quite high)

  • by openfrog (897716) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:18AM (#39300289)

    They are an emotional and over-reaction group of people. But the US made them that way.... the US did it to Germany as well. When we 'pacified' them over the decades, we shifted their thinking and their sense of reason. So instead of saying "okay, here are the causes of the problem, let's fix them!" they are more concerned about who is to blame and are focusing on the fact that nuclear energy is an awesome and powerful source of energy which is also very dangerous. Well, yes... yes it is. But they forget that it's also controllable and containable with vigilant regulation and oversight.

    Vigilance of regulation and oversight are expensive... and annoying... and definitely slow things down and make things cost more. But without it...?

    Not commenting on how reeking of paternalism and colonialism this is, you are just here contradicting what you asserted at the beginning of your post, that the cause of this is corporations dictating their own regulations to the government, except that you then try to localize the problem by linking it to Shoguns and Daimios and cultural traits.

    From TFA:

    “March 11 has shaken Japan to the root of its postwar identity,” said Takeo Kikkawa, an economist who specializes in energy issues at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. “We were the country that suffered Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but then we showed we had the superior technology and technocratic expertise to safely tame this awesome power for peaceful economic progress. Nuclear accidents were things that happened in other countries.”

    Is that what you call an emotional statement? From TFA again:

    In many respects, Japan is already on the road to recovery from the huge earthquake and tsunami, which killed as many as 19,000 people, and to a lesser degree from the nuclear accident. The northeastern coastal towns that were flattened by the waves have cleaned up millions of tons of debris and are beginning to rebuild.
    But it is the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi that looks likely to have a more lasting impact, even though it has yet to claim a single life. Japan is just beginning what promises to be a radiation cleanup that will last decades of the evacuated areas around the plant, where nearly 90,000 residents lost their homes. The nation is also groping to find effective ways to monitor health and protect its food supply from contamination by the accident.

    ...
    From TFA still:

    Japan has so far succeeded in avoiding shortages, thanks in part to a drastic conservation program that has involved turning off air-conditioning in the summer and office lights during the day.

    With a third of their electricity cut off, they manage! That is remarkable and unexpected. The Japanese are showing great courage in keeping shut plants that cannot demonstrate that they are safe. The Japanese population is disciplined enough to follow drastic measures to save electricity, and it is working!

    A great lesson to us all. I raise my hat to them.

  • by Walterk (124748) <dublet@ac[ ]rg ['m.o' in gap]> on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:20AM (#39300305) Homepage Journal

    Actually, I'd happily buy a house that like at a steep discount.

  • by azalin (67640) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:21AM (#39300311)
    Ah the possibilities of starting a pro-/anti-nuke, liberal vs tighter regulations and many more...
    But let's stay nice today and just state a few simple facts:
    • Nuclear is about as dangerous as possible, if not properly built, maintained and inspected by an independent(!) group
    • The benefits of having nuclear power are big and the risk of something going wrong is rather low, but
    • If the shit hits the fan, it does so big time.
    • There are newer and safer designs available, but most reactors in the wild are older versions
    • Nuclear isn't actually that cheap if factoring in ALL external costs. (Waste storage for a few thousand years, insurance that would completely cover the costs in case of meltdown, etc.)
    • Other energy sources have other drawbacks (pollution, price, radioactive fallout-yes I'm looking at you coal-, having to hand over money to dictators and many more)

    My opinion on this? Nuclear is fine because it produces a lot of energy with a comparatively low environmental impact. It is quickly adjustable to current needs and is independent of wind or weather. But if there ever was one industry that needs tight oversight and jail time for any manager that fucks up security it is nuclear. The oil spill was bad, but it is over. Though it will take many years for the ocean to regenerate it will. But if a reactor blows up for good, the damage stays with you for several hundred years. So you have to make damn sure it never happens.

  • Re:See? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:30AM (#39300401)

    Maybe they need to see another demonstration?

    Did that already with Nagasaki. You mean a third time?

  • by dominious (1077089) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:37AM (#39300475)

    Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."

    This is Slashdot:

    In one thread, people go paranoid about governments not thinking of their people.
    In another thread, governments are stupid because they ask their people of what to do.

  • Re:See? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El Torico (732160) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:44AM (#39300551)
    It's already significantly affected Japan. For the first time since 1980, Japan has a negative balance of trade. This is from the Trading Economics [tradingeconomics.com] site page on Japan.

    Last year Japan’s trade balance fell into an annual deficit for the first time since 1980, driven by subdued global demand and soaring fossil fuel imports in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power crisis.

    I fully understand their desire to decrease dependence on nuclear power in light of the disaster, but quitting "cold turkey" obviously has had a strong negative impact.

  • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:53AM (#39300633)

    Go back in time 30 years and say that, and we MIGHT have one or two newer plants today.

    The fact that a new nuclear plant is orders of magnitude safer than any old design doesn't matter. This is an EMOTIONAL issue. Nuclear = bad! All nuclear plants are the same as the worst nuclear plants! Rabble rabble!

  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:25AM (#39300961)

    Actually, this is one of the rare cases where business is the force for "good", while public opinion is the force for "evil".

    If public didn't hear associate "radiation" with "oh god, a HORRIBLE DEATH GLOWING GREEN!", reactor subsystems would have been upgraded to more modern ones quite a while ago. But they can't be upgraded, because "upgrades to nuclear power plants peripherals" will be spun as "upgrading nuclear power plants" which will be heard as "we are building more nuclear power, HORRIBLE DEATH GLOWING GREEN!".

    So we end up having tech from 60s (when entire industry was born in 50s!) instead of modern reactors and modern peripherals that would have taken the punishment of that tsunami. Hell, we can't even research new tech because of public opinion, and are forced to use old tech. Fukushima was a great demonstration of how well plants were actually made - many forget that plants were built to withstand 7 magnitudes and reasonable tsunamis, and got hit by 9 magnitudes and biggest tsunami in a century and then some. And even so, the plant didn't cause a single death, even with tsunami wiping out essentially all infrastructure of the region and killing 30.000 people.

    We really should make a name for "stupid, loud and opinionated people" as a concept. "Sheepism" maybe?

  • Re:energy rations? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wrook (134116) on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:55AM (#39301267) Homepage

    I live in Japan. Life here isn't like it is in the west. Before the tsunami the air conditioner in the office was set to 26 degrees C. After it was set to 28 decrees C. In the winter, the heater was set to 15 degrees C before the tsunami and 14 degrees C after. Even then, because it was a cold winter where I am, they ended up pushing up the thermostat to 15 degrees anyway.

    BTW, I work in a school and the class rooms are unheated/uncooled just like always.

    Conservation works reasonably well. The problem was that the Japanese were already conserving.

  • by HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) on Friday March 09, 2012 @12:07PM (#39301407)
    It doesn't really matter why they're kept out of their homes; the fact that people are too scared to live in or buy homes in an area is still a real estate crisis, and, as we've seen in the U.S., real estate loss can be a quick way to lose everything. Sometimes facts aren't enough to stem fear, at least not right away.

    GP already addressed this point well in his post. It isn't fair to the nuclear power industry as a whole, but Fukushima shook the trust of the populace badly. Their fear is not unreasonable, especially in light of all the mistakes that were later uncovered (and, of course, widespread fear gives rise to "stupid regulations").

    Think of it this way: If you survive the very, very unlikely incident of a plane crash, would it be unreasonable if you started to fear flying, regardless of the overall safety statistics? Sure, you may be one of the many folks that flies again with no problem, but it would also be understandable if you decided to drive everywhere, instead. The psychology behind this type of fear makes clear sense.
  • by FlatEric521 (1164027) on Friday March 09, 2012 @12:09PM (#39301429)

    Business decided where to put the reactor

    Uh, no.

    Technical reasons decided where to put the reactor. Like all nuclear power plants, Fukushima needed a massive body of water to assist in cooling the plant. Japan isn't known for its huge rivers or lakes, so the coast becomes the default location to place power plants.

  • Re:See? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by borrrden (2014802) on Friday March 09, 2012 @12:32PM (#39301687)
    Probably not....Japanese people are much more willing to put up with personal discomfort for the sake of the collective. A big part of their culture revolves around keeping harmony with the people around them, so speaking up with a complaint is unbecoming. Also having an idea that differs from other peoples' is frowned upon. This summer will probably turn out to be the same as last summer, with the rolling blackouts making a comeback. Although since more power plants have been shut down, the radius of blackouts might be extended. I don't know what my company will do during the blackouts if they come to our area, since we develop software and obviously can't do that with no power ;P.
  • Re:Alternatives? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:15PM (#39302209) Journal

    Already in 2011 clean energies (wind/solar/biomass/hydro)

    Lumping hydro in here with the rest of them is not good for coherent analysis. Hydro is definitely viable on large scales; the only problem is that it's already mostly at capacity in Europe, because it was historically one of the first efficient ways to generate electricity. So when you count it as green, it completely dwarfs all other tech (solar/wind/biomass) on one hand, making green look big - but, at the same time, it won't grow in the future. Wind/solar, on the other hand, have capacity for growth, but even if they grow tenfold, the overall "green with hydro" will not change by much.

  • by DrBoumBoum (926687) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:02PM (#39308627) Journal

    Is that true, or is it another fallacious argument aiming at representing nuclear industry as the poor, benevolent guy trying his best to go good but being thwarted by crazy, enraged, hateful, irrational, almighty hippies, luddites and joe-six-packs? Honest question here. I have a hard time figuring out how a bunch of idealist activists did prevent the development of safer nuclear reactor designs and, if they were so powerful as to be able to do that, how were people demonstrating in the streets by the thousands all over the world incapable of preventing the Iraq invasion for instance? This just doesn't cut it.

    My feeling is that there is at least as much lies, blindness and dishonesty on the proponent side of NP than on the opposing side. In any case the condescending, contemptuous attitude towards NP skeptics that is so common here on slashdot in particular makes me strongly think that the issues at hand are definitely not as simple and clear-cut as the nuclear fanatics would like to make it appear.

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