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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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  • See? (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:16AM (#39299773)

    And a year ago you were laughing at Germany going non-nuclear.

    Now it is a competition between Germany and Japan to innovate the non-nuclear market with their new technologies.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:37AM (#39299941) Homepage

    ... but probably not much more than some of the more +1 Insightful commenters here.

    The core of their problem is arrogance and the influence business has over government regulators. The days of shoguns and daimyos are long behind Japan but somehow the mindset still lives on. There are a few very large companies in Japan with a rich and tight lineage that dates back to before the Meiji restoration. Their influence over government and their "job-for-life" filial piety along with their reluctance to challenge the people "in charge" of things has led to a poorly regulated nuclear industry which allowed the Fukushima disaster to occur.

    But Japan is not "unique" in this. It just so happens that they were the first to get tripped up with a natural disaster. But that said, they did a lot of things in the handling that simply made it worse and worse. (Still, they came in 2nd when you compare Fukushima to the BP oil spill and BP's handling of that.) In the US, the nuclear industry and been playing a pushing game where the NRC pushes the nuclear energy companies and the nuclear energy companies push back through various means not the least of which are lobbying and other forms of politics. One difference between the US and Japan is found in the success of independent watchdog groups who take personal interest in the environment and the safety of nuclear energy. Greenpeace is a huge annoyance, but they also serve an important purpose in that they can and do bring light to problems that would otherwise be swept under the rug. This exists less in Japan and problems that some people have knowledge of are often unheard and cannot speak. Their lack of openness is a critical problem.

    My initial reaction to this turn is that Japan is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. 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...?

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

    by olau (314197) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:46AM (#39300001) Homepage

    I get the impression this is a temporary shutdown?

    As for Germany, speaking as someone coming from a neighbour country, it seems they're really into getting more renewable energy sources up and running. If you were really interested in this, as opposed to just complaining, you could check out the Wikipedia page on renewable energy in Germany [wikipedia.org].

    To be honest, I think the tech is there, it's just a question of dumping some money into it, and the increasing oil prices are helping with that. The Danish engineering society had a plan for Denmark to get rid of (I think?) 90+% of the current dependence on fossil fuels in 2050. We have no nuclear power plants.

  • One difference between the US and Japan is found in the success of independent watchdog groups who take personal interest in the environment and the safety of nuclear energy.

    Too bad they are totally fucking pointless. Not only do we have reactors of the same exact type as what went kablooey at Fukushima Daiichi, but we also have reactors which are copies of it. And we have even more spent fuel lying around in pools waiting to be redistributed across our landscape.

    My initial reaction to this turn is that Japan is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They are an emotional and over-reaction group of people. But the US made them that way...

    ...When GE decided that Fukushima Daiichi #1 should be built on ground known to be unsafe, in spite of there being other, superior locations available, and when the US government forced the Japanese government to put the reactor where GE wanted it.

    Oh, is that not what you were talking about?

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

    Regulation and oversight did nothing to prevent the wholly preventable disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. In fact, they created the situation.

    The simple truth is that humans are not mature enough to handle the awesome responsibility of nuclear power. We have demonstrated this time and again. We The People are not responsible enough to stop The Powers That Be from fucking up and poisoning us all. Until we are, Nuclear power is a Bad Idea. OK, so in theory you could make a safe reactor. Get back to me when that happens, and when we decommission all the old plants that aren't safe because it's the proper thing to do. Until then, my point stands, and you are a nuclear playboy.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:07AM (#39300197) Homepage Journal

    So business created the tsunami?

    Typically anonymous and cowardly comment. Business decided where to put the reactor, in a location they knew were unsafe, and government forced that decision through. So while business didn't create the tsunami, they deliberately created the situation in which a tsunami would cause a meltdown, and did so with government oversight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:09AM (#39300211)

    people are being kept out of their homes by fear and stupid regulations, not by any real danger. There is no evidence of health risks for radiation levels 10 or 100 times above 'safety' regulations.

  • by operagost (62405) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:22AM (#39300315) Homepage Journal

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

    Great... we have politics trumping both science and democracy.

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

    by El Torico (732160) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:59AM (#39300691)
    I lived in northern Japan last year during the summer. The Japanese voluntarily cut back their electricity use so much that they didn't need to impose energy rationing. I don't know if that has changed since I left.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:24AM (#39300957) Homepage Journal

    So business created the tsunami?

    Typically anonymous and cowardly comment. Business decided where to put the reactor, in a location they knew were unsafe, and government forced that decision through. So while business didn't create the tsunami, they deliberately created the situation in which a tsunami would cause a meltdown, and did so with government oversight.

    Business doesn't decide anything in Japan. Japan has one of the most rigid centralized governments anywhere in the world. If you want to move a local street sign, you have to get permission from Tokyo. The government decides everything over there. I don't want to call Japan fascist... since they do have free elections there... but the Japanese government certainly does pick winners and losers in their corporate field in the way that classic fascist governments did, and the corporations in Japan take their marching orders from Tokyo. This is by design, and it's been the model since post WWII. This model is supposedly why Japan was going to rule the world via business (instead of by military force) by the mid-90's. Several books in the 80's touted the superiority of this model to the American market system, declaring the US system obsolete. It didn't quite work out that way. Japan is now in its' third decade of economic doldrums, yet the government clings to this top-down model. One of the things that Japanese companies found when they started building factories and plants in the US and abroad was that they had much more freedom to operate locally than back at home.

    You seem to think that businesses tell the government what to do over there. Quite the opposite. The government bureaucracy completely rules that country. If the reactors were built in a bad place, then Tokyo was just fine with that.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:39AM (#39301109) Homepage

    The main reason Japan was stuck on Gen I reactor design was because the COMPANIES that ran the reactors didn't want to spend the money to upgrade and the GOVERNMENT thought that idea was just peachy.

    It's called regulatory capture and the Japanese rewrote the book on it.

  • Re:See? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:11PM (#39303869) Homepage

    The Earth surface receives on average 116 petawatts from the Sun continually. Humanity as a whole uses less than 20 terawatts. We could power 7000 Earths with that energy.

    We don't need to use less, we need to get smarter on how we capture it instead of burning through the reserves.

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose

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