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Japan Power

Will Japan's New Government Restart the Nuclear Power Program? 177

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-business dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about speculation that Japan might restart its nuclear power program. "Japan's newly-elected Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a strong supporter of atomic energy use in the past, should restart plants shut after the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, said the CEO of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd . The LDP, headed by Japan's next prime minister Shinzo Abe, won a landslide victory on Sunday, fueling speculation that the new coalition government would take a softer stance on nuclear power. Public opinion remains divided on the role of atomic energy after natural disasters last year triggered a radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant."
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Will Japan's New Government Restart the Nuclear Power Program?

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  • Hopefully (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:15PM (#42316379)

    There are roughly 850 nuclear reactors in the world and so far only 3 have melted down. I don't see any reason for an overreaction because one plant turns to shit. It's a decent and clean way to power a nation in terms of pollutants and in terms of climate change (CO2).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kav2k (1545689)

      Except when they DO melt down, it can be catastrophic in terms of consequences.

      Both Chernobyl and Fukushima resulted in an uninhabitable zone that will take decades to clean up, if that is at all possible, and long-lasting effects on the ecosystem.

      Japan has no territory to spare for exclusion zones.

      • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:53PM (#42316683)
        Yes, Coal's constant spewing of fly ash, carbon dioxide, and various other assorted chemicals like mercury and thorium, into the atmosphere in which we breath is a much better alternative than having a relatively small exclusion zone from a disaster every forty years (Chernobyl was the only other one to require such an effort).

        And the newer reactors at Fukushima Daichi, the ones built with a few added safety features... not a single one of those failed. Just the old, poorly designed reactors 1, 2, and 3. 4, 5, and 6 shut down just fine. But that's a reason to condemn the newer, safer designs too. Because nobody learns anything from past failures.

        And let's totally ignore that not a single person died from the meltdown. Nevermind the ever increasing death toll from the pollution coal plants cause. We should totally shut down all nuclear plants.

        (For the sarcasm impaired, the previous was entirely sarcasm.)
        • And let's totally ignore that not a single person died from the meltdown

          Ok, I am a massive supporter of Nukes, HOWEVER, NOBODY can honestly claim that not a single person died from the meltdowns. In Japan, the ones that went into the reactors were much older because it was known that their lives will be massively shortened. In fact, they brought retirees in to do the work because it was known that it was going to kill.
          Likewise, even IAEA says otherwise, WRT Chernobyl.
          2. How many people died as an immediate result of the accident? [iaea.org]
          The initial explosion resulted in the death o

      • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:57PM (#42316725) Homepage

        I think it's telling that even counting Chernobyl, the deaths per terawatt hour for nuclear is the lowest there is.

        If you look at civilian nuclear power, it's a good sign that it took 40+ years of civilian nuclear power for there to be a plant that released anything more than a few bananas' worth of contamination outside the plant boundary. (Yes, you'd receive more radiation eating a banana a day for a year than you would have at the TMI plant boundary.) Even then, for the first significant civilian contamination incident to happen, it required a massive natural disaster that killed *25,000 people within days*.

        (As to why I say 40+ years - While the Soviets claim that Chernobyl was a "civilian" reactor, in my opinion a graphite-moderated water-cooled reactor can't be considered civilian. Its safety was fundamentally compromised by its weapons-friendly design.)

        Chernobyl was not an accident - it was an act of gross negligence compounded with compromises in safety done to allow the reactor to be used for weapons production if desired. (Reactors with a positive void coefficient have never been legal in the USA to my knowledge.)

        • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bobbied (2522392) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:11PM (#42316909)

          I wonder if you added up all the land which is now unusable from mining coal and disposing ash if you would get anywhere close to the size of the exclusion zones...

          I'm thinking that Necular power has even less impact per terawatt hour in land use too..

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Right, because coal is the only alternative to nuclear. It's not like you can burn, oh I don't know, gas or something to produce electricity. And renewables, let's just dismiss those out of hand.

            Interestingly if you add up the total cost of property damage by energy production for all time nuclear still comes out at about 40%. If you want to argue about how terrible non-renewable energy is just remember that lives are not the only measure.

            • Interestingly if you add up the total cost of property damage by energy production for all time nuclear still comes out at about 40%.

              Did you obtain this number by way of rectal extraction, or are you willing to share a link?

          • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Solandri (704621) on Monday December 17, 2012 @04:45PM (#42318307)
            It's not just coal. Hydroelectric dams create a large reservoir behind them, making that land unusable. China had to permanently relocate 1.3 million people to build Three Gorges Dam. And ice throws from wind turbines [windaction.org] are now recognized as a hazard, with a recommended setback distance of 1.5x(D+H), or about a quarter kilometer radius for a standard GE 1.5 MW turbine (80-100 meters high, 77-82.5 m diameter blades). Figure the exclusion zone front/back is one-fifth that (eyeballing the diagrams), for a total of 0.5*.05 = 0.025 km^2 per turbine. Nuclear's capacity factor is about 0.9, so the 4700 MW Fukushima plant generated on average 4230 MW. To match that with wind at a (optimistic) capacity factor of 0.25, you'd need 16920 MW nameplate capacity, or 11280 of the 1.5 MW turbines. That works out to 282 km^2 of unusable land (well you might be able to farm on it provided the insurance company was ok with the liability to the farmer). Yes Fukushima's evacuation zone is bigger, but that was only after an accident. The exclusion zone around a turbine in ice-prone climates would be unavoidable and permanent as long as the turbine is there.

            Everything has its drawbacks. The moment you start comparing assuming one of the choices has no drawbacks, you're doing it wrong.
            • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

              Why would you use 1.5MW turbines? 10MW is fairly standard now, and we are rapidly ramping that up. Plus your estimate of 0.25 is hopelessly pessimistic. Wind is extremely reliable because it is so distributed, unlike nuclear where a single reactor problem can take out 500MW+ in one hit.

              You also have to consider that you can build wind turbines offshore, an area that can't be used for any other type of generation except perhaps wave power. Offshore wind is more expensive but once in place the base lasts pret

              • by bobbied (2522392)

                Wind is extremely reliable because it is so distributed.

                Um.. Not really. Problem with wind is that you are never quite sure when and where it will blow so you have to over build by about double to have any reasonable chance of being sure of how much power you can generate 24 hours from now. Keeping the grid stable means that we have to only count on a fraction of what the weather forecast says we will get, something like half.

                Most folks don't realize that electrical power must be generated the instant it is used. There is very little energy storage in the ele

              • by khallow (566160)

                You also have to consider that you can build wind turbines offshore, an area that can't be used for any other type of generation except perhaps wave power.

                Or nuclear and fusion. Water makes a great heat sink.

                Wind is extremely reliable because it is so distributed, unlike nuclear where a single reactor problem can take out 500MW+ in one hit.

                Centralization is not the only systemic risk that a network can have. Highly correlated failure modes introduce their own systemic risk. Here, it's possible to have low wind over a large region.

                It's worth noting that reliability is very important to most electric grids. Hence, merely having enough theoretical power isn't generally good enough. They also need enough power to cover for failures, including wind cessation and nuclear reactor downtime.

                Offshore wind is more expensive but once in place the base lasts pretty much forever and you can just replace the turbine on top after 50 years service.

                Based

              • Also that there are plenty of warm, dry places where ice doesn't form anywhere, let alone turbine blades. For example, there are plenty of hot, dry deserts out there that are often very windy.

                As stated above, everything has its drawbacks. There is no "silver bullet" to replace our reliance on fossil fuels, but it's irresponsible to reject a power source because it won't supply 100% of our needs by dinner time this evening.

          • Hell, don't even need that. Just tally up the land that's unusable due to the coal mine fires that have raged underground for decades!
      • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:03PM (#42316805)

        Comparing Fukishima to Chernobyl is ridiculous. Chernobyl basically had no safety systems, was operated in the worst way possible, and the disaster and following cleanup were done in such a way that it would be hard to conceive of a worse outcome. The amount of radiation released in the 1st second of Chernobyls overload that lead to the eventual meltdown (and killed everyone operating it at the time) released more radiation by several orders of magnitude than the entire failure at Fukishima.

        And Modern reactors CAN NOT melt down. It's physically impossible. But we're not building those due to the lobbying efforts of environmental groups. What should be done is a thorough review of existing reactor designs, and the government should fund upgrades or replacements of these older, more dangerous reactors. We then need to move on to more stable, efficient and reliable reactors.

        Our next step is space based solar arrays. But those are at least 50 years off. So we need nuclear for now.

        • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:37PM (#42317287)

          But we're not building those due to the lobbying efforts of environmental groups.

          That's an interesting perspective. We're not building them because no one is even applying to build them, and the industry has made clear that it isn't interested in building or operating additional reactors without even more insulation from any responsibility for disasters than they already have. The lobbying effects of environmental groups are relevant insofar as environmental groups are sometimes among the groups opposing the increased socialized risk to support private profit that such additional liability shields involve.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The issue isn't insulation from responsibility for disasters. The industry wants loan guarantees so they can borrow money at a reasonable rate to fund construction. Chernobyl and Three Mile island didn't kill nuclear power in the US. Shoreham did (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoreham_Nuclear_Power_Plant). Investors built a nuclear power plant that they could never operate because the governor refused to approve the evacuation plan. You're never going to be able to borrow billions of dollars at a reason

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
            Nobody is bothering to apply because they know that enviros will make it their mission in life to make the project unfeasible - economically, socially, and if necessary at the homes of the officials involved. There is a religious fervor that exists, opposition to nuclear power has a long and storied history. There are people who would love to relive their youth and teach a new generation the joys of thwarting new technology.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fireylord (1074571)

          Comparing Fukishima to Chernobyl is ridiculous. Chernobyl basically had no safety systems,

          Incorrect. They had safety systems, sadly they were all disabled for the purpose of running the test that led directly to the disaster. The big design flaw at Chernobyl was the large positive void coefficient. Bad idea, made even worse by not explaining this to the technicians running the plant, nor (from what i understand) what a void coefficient was.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          And Modern reactors CAN NOT melt down.

          Famous last words.

          Our next step is space based solar arrays. But those are at least 50 years off.

          You know Scotland is on target to produce 200% as much energy as it requires, and that half of that will be renewable, by 2020, right?

          • by Guspaz (556486)

            Meh. Quebec has been producing pretty close to 100% of its power from renewable resources for like a century (HydroQuebec itself is only ~7 decades old). Quebec has a larger population than Scotland, and particularly during the winter, much higher electricity usage. And Quebec also produces a great deal more than it needs, since it sells a ton to surrounding provinces/states. Something like a third of all of Vermont's power is supplied by HydroQuebec. Which makes sense, since HydroQuebec is the single large

            • For energy needs relative to land mass Quebec may as well be the least populated place on the planet.

              In fact going by Energy Need vs land mass quebec would at least be in the top 10.

              Newfoundland exports a shitload of Hydro as well... but we have 750k people and several large hydro plants... every single potential hydro source in newfoundland fully developed wouldn't power new york state alone, and we have more potential hydro energy than any 5 of the northeastern states combined.

            • by tsotha (720379)
              Right. If you're Quebec or Iceland all this stuff is academic. But for the other, you know, 6.99 billion of us things are different.
          • by greg_barton (5551)

            The design the grandparent post refers to is no doubt the liquid fluoride thorium reactor. Note the word "liquid." It's already running in a melted state, so can't melt down.

      • How is this different than any other environmental disaster? Are you aware that huge swaths of land have been rendered uninhabitable by mining and other industrial operations? That spills caused by oil drilling have residual environmental impacts decades after cleanup? If an uninhabitable zone is your concern, what about the huge swaths of land consumed by hydro-electric, solar, and wind power?

        http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/ [epa.gov]
        http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Issues/AlaskaCoal/CoalMineReclamation.html [groundtruthtrekking.org]

        • by tsotha (720379)

          If an uninhabitable zone is your concern, what about the huge swaths of land consumed by hydro-electric, solar, and wind power?

          The difference, of course, is that if you tear a wind turbine down, drain a dam, or cart solar cells away the land can be used for something else immediately, whereas land around Fukushima and Chernobyl is pretty much ruined for the foreseeable future.

      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        Except that the WASH-1400 report, pubished in 1975, stated specifically that the containments of the BWR reactors (the Mark I containment was the only BWR containment back then) were not equipped to deal with a meltdown and would emit orders of magnitudes more radioactive material than PWR containments, such as Three Mile Island.

        And that was just a report summerizing previously known facts - including tsunamis being a clear and present danger to nuclear power plants (although, at the time, not the in the US

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        Japan also has no alternative source of energy that isn't extremely dependent on imports from unstable regions. They basically either invest massively into coal, including coal imports, or they restart nuclear. They simply have no alternatives, as they are indeed a small island for the population they have.

        They still have serious problems with power to this day because of nuclear shut downs.

      • by nojayuk (567177)

        The town of Okuma has just been reopened to access by residents who can visit but not stay permanently yet. It is adjacent to the Fukushima Daiichi plant but due to the vagaries of wind and weather is was not actually the most heavily contaminated area outside the reactor site itself.

        Quite a few other areas within the original 20km exclusion zone have been reopened permanently to their residents and active decontamination of roads, schools, shops and houses has been taking place along with constant monito

    • 2 meltdowns is what I think you wanted to say. 3 Mile Island was only a partial meltdown. (being pedantic, of course.)

      • There was a meltdown at a test reactor at a military base in Arizona back in the 50s/60s... it was very small however.

    • Re:Hopefully (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:40PM (#42316569)

      Exactly. Not to mention this is one of Japan's only real options. They have one of the highest domestic consumptions of energy per capita in the world, and have no real domestic resources. Their options are nuclear power, with Uranium imported from Australia, or coal imported from either China or the US, or natural gas imported from the Middle East. Their oil is mostly imported from the Middle East (about 90%). As the world's third biggest economy and with a huge electricity and energy demand, between those options nuclear energy with Australian imports is the safest economically and politically.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054)

        Exactly. Not to mention this is one of Japan's only real options. They have one of the highest domestic consumptions of energy per capita in the world, and have no real domestic resources. Their options are nuclear power, with Uranium imported from Australia, or coal imported from either China or the US, or natural gas imported from the Middle East. Their oil is mostly imported from the Middle East (about 90%). As the world's third biggest economy and with a huge electricity and energy demand, between those options nuclear energy with Australian imports is the safest economically and politically.

        At the end of the day this is exactly why Japan will be forced back to Nuclear power.

        They simply don't have the land mass for solar solar generation, and until every roof can be economically covered with solar panels its not going to fly.
        Wind power totaling over 2300 MW is currently installed, out of the national total of 282 GW of total installed electricity generating capacity.

        Still, Japan produces most of its power from Thermal/Fossil plants [wikipedia.org].
        Since virtually every bit of this is imported, it represents a

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          They simply don't have the land mass for solar solar generation, and until every roof can be economically covered with solar panels its not going to fly.

          That could be done today, or if you really want to be pessimistic in the next 5-10 years. Without any subsidy current solar panels take ~10 years to pay for themselves, and then it's all profit. The problem is the initial up-front cost, but for a government borrowing money for projects on that time scale is nothing. Subsidy and public liability for nuclear would cost more.

          Japan has lots of other renewable energy sources too, and has done an incredible job of making itself more energy efficient over the last

          • by khallow (566160)

            That could be done today, or if you really want to be pessimistic in the next 5-10 years.

            And why should it be done? Nuclear power works now. Japan already has somewhere over 30 GW of installed nuclear power ready. That's going to take a vast amount of subsidized solar to cover that. I just don't believe that whatever subsidies are currently given to nuclear is going to be more than what it takes to cover that much solar power.

            What TFS fails to mention is that both major parties, including the one just elected, have pledged to move away from nuclear power. It seems unlikely that anything is going to change now.

            There is the reality party. It's not going to matter what they pledge, if they can't make those pledges work. Japan already has a huge amount of debt.

          • by ballpoint (192660)

            There's this crazy period called night when even millions of square miles of solar panels will produce zilch.

        • by kromozone (817261)

          They simply don't have the land mass for solar generation

          That's utterly and completely false. Germany gets less incident solar energy and they would only have to cover 10% of the roofs of houses/buildings alone to generate as much as they consume. Not that solar is some sort of total energy solution but it's certainly great for addressing peak load issues.

          • by ballpoint (192660)

            With the gradual closing down of the nuclear power stations, Germany is increasingly relying on dirty coal or even dirtier lignite for electricity generation.

            Heavily subsidised solar was just appeasement of ignorants who can't tell W from J and had their day in the sun while the economy was booming and money could be pissed away.

            There is a remarkable coincidence between the economic downfall of Europe and the effects of unwise energy choices...

        • by tsotha (720379)

          Still, Japan produces most of its power from Thermal/Fossil plants. Since virtually every bit of this is imported, it represents a huge drain on the economy.

          This is a real strategic problem for Japan, since you could completely shut down the Japanese economy (including the train system) with a half-dozen modern submarines. They can't afford to leave themselves that open, especially with the way tensions have been rising in the region lately.

    • by edibobb (113989)
      I agree. Japan has to import all its coal and petroleum. Nuclear power makes a lot of sense for the country.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      And the ones that have, have done so due to negligence. It's not nuclear energy that's the problem. It's the inability of society to force powerful people (such as the operators of nuclear power plants) to play by the rules.

  • by Guspaz (556486) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:15PM (#42316381)

    It's worth noting that the LDP has been in control of Japan for roughly 53 of the past 57 years. There is obviously a pretty high tolerance for what they do to keep getting re-elected when they've formed the government in the Diet except for two segments...

    • The LDP has indeed been in the driving seat for a LONG time. Both during the rise AND fall of Japan in fact. The reason they got kicked out was NOT because people really liked the alternative but because they were fucking sick of the LDP. Same as Labour with Blair got back after the Brits were totally fed up with Tory sleeze and to an extent even how Obama was elected because he was not Bush.

      And then it turned out the new guys couldn't fix a decade and longer of mis management and the honey moon ended. So.

      • Well said. The LDP is neither liberal nor democratic.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        And then it turned out the new guys couldn't fix a decade and longer of mis management and the honey moon ended.

        Well, not quite. One guy resigned because he was unable to fulfil an election pledge to move a US airbase... I know, the mind boggles, a politician taking responsibility for failure and not having to be forced/voted out. They had problems with internal politics and handling of the tsunami/nuclear crisis too.

        The prevailing view in Japanese news media seems to be that the public experimented with the alternative because the LDP seemed to be getting them nowhere, but the experiment failed. Turnout this time ro

      • by tsotha (720379)

        So much of what you've written here is just plain wrong.

        The LDP has indeed been in the driving seat for a LONG time. Both during the rise AND fall of Japan in fact.

        Japan's fall? Even post bubble Japan is still one of the richest and nicest countries to live in in the world. The economy is growing, if not swiftly. That's something you'd expect, by the way, with a shrinking population. To describe any event since WW II as a "fall" is just hyperbole.

        And then it turned out the new guys couldn't fix a decade

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:18PM (#42316401)

    Nuclear power doesn't have to be inherently unsafe - it's simply a question of improving the engineering until the requisite safety threshold is met. Even solar panels are capable of killing lots of bugs and birds, which are fooled by their shine into thinking they're landing on "water". Even wind turbines also kill birds. No technology is absolutely perfect, but nuclear power has more scope to improve through better engineering. The Fukushima plant was old, and wasn't built to modern standards. Others should not be deterred from moving towards nuclear power in the future, just because of the failures of older-generation technology, and we should keep trying to improve the engineering. Nuclear power will help us move out into space.

    • It’s not more engineering per say that is needed.

      You have 2 trends. On one side there is a lot of energy expended into theoretical safeguards to appease the NIMBYs who – by definition – can never be appeased. On the other hand there engineers who, though the use of theory, think they can make safe proof designs.

      The end results are very expensive bespoke nuclear power plants. Because of this customization, lessons learned at one plant can’t be translated to the next plat. What societ

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      It isn't an engineering problem, it is an economic one. It costs too much to be really safe, and the profit/shareholder motive is always at odds with doing the right thing.

  • Anywhere else (Score:2, Insightful)

    If this were almost anywhere else in the world, it would be an unconditional "Yes." Germany and a few other countries have been lucky enough to have access to enough alternative energy sources (believe it or not, wind, unlike air, isn't plentiful everywhere) to be close to, if not having already completed, going nuclear free. But Japan is small and it's population density very high. There just isn't enough land for solar or wind. That leaves only two alternatives for base load plants: Coal and nuclear. Coal

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      Uranium however, can be sucked out of ocean water

      OMG the oceans are FULL of uranium!!!!

      (Sorry, couldn't resist. :-) )

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Actually Japan has more thank enough renewable energy available, it just needs to develop it. Offshore wind, geothermal, rooftop solar PV and small scale hydro are all available. Offshore wind and geothermal in particular represent a vast untapped energy supply.

      The real problem is the timescales involved, but since Japan got through the summer peak without problems due to increased efficiency and people making an effort to save energy both major political parties have signed up to going nuclear free over ~2

  • Japan should focus on its robotic programme or the development of high tech worker protection clothes or nuclear diagnosis tools. These were the largest international embarassments of Japan during the Fukushima crisis. In the 80ths you expected Japan to come up with flying cars and nano technology wonders. Meanwhile Germany does the switch to renewables [boell.org].
  • by drdread66 (1063396) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:35PM (#42316517)

    The thing that worries folks in Japan is not the suitability of the engineering or the technology in general. The problem is the Japanese culture of silence, cover-up and cronyism. When you're faced with something potentially as disastrous as a nuclear plant meltdown, you want to have reasonable assurance that the government is actually *regulating* the plant operators, not participating the in cover-ups and denials that problems exist.

    Nuclear power actually has a pretty good safety record, except when plant operators do something patently stupid (Chernobyl), criminally stupid (Fukushima), or just plain make a mistake (Three Mile Island). So what you really want is to know that the government is looking out for the public's best interests, and not allowing plant operators to do stupid things...but in today's Japan, that's not what happens.

    Can the LDP change that culture? Probably not, because frankly they have been in control of Japan for most of a really long time. They *are* the problem, in many ways. If you're a Japanese citizen, the LDP wanting to re-start Japan's nuclear plants probably doesn't sound so great to you.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Monday December 17, 2012 @04:15PM (#42317901)
      The problem isn't limited to Japan, nor is it limited to nuclear power. It's human nature to overemphasize large high-impact events, while overlooking small low-impact events. Even when cumulatively the low-impact events have a greater effect than the high-impact event. Wind power killed more people than nuclear power last year [wind-works.org] (mostly falling deaths of maintenance workers), despite generating about 1/10th the power of nuclear and the second-worst nuclear accident in history happening that year. The difference is that each wind-caused death only made the local news, while Fukushima made global news. (Don't even get me started on how many people are killed by the pollution spewing out of coal plants.)

      Same thing happens with a mass shooting. The average of over 30 homicides a day by guns in the U.S. is not enough to stoke a debate about gun control, but if 26 of them happen in one place it is. How does that make any sense? Or with plane crashes. About 100 people are killed per year in the U.S. in commercial airliner accidents, and after each crash we have criticism of how the system failed, and we have to make air travel safer. Yet 40,000 people are killed in car accidents a year in the U.S. and nobody questions automobile or traffic safety.

      It's just how we are wired, and we need to start recognizing and addressing this flaw in human nature. We have to stop making policy based on anecdotes and emotional response to large statistical outliers. We need to be making it based on averages and overall trends. (Or I guess you could just give up and exploit it, like states do with lotteries. Millions of people losing a few bucks is glossed over, while the though of being the one person who wins millions prevails and overrides our better judgement. So they've enshrined a system which is negative sum and thus destroys productivity into state law.)
      • But you are only looking at the problem from one aspect(# of people killed), there is a lot more involved there. After those wind accidents, did people within a 20km radius have to move out of their home and businesses for who knows how long? Is it going to take decades to clean up afterwards? These are things you have to take into consideration, just saying "well since (almost) nobody died this time, everything is A. OK!" is not a very useful way of looking at problems like this....
  • I hope so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JosephTX (2521572) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:40PM (#42316567)

    It's worth noting that the massive earthquake needed to disable that nuclear plant also caused several oil refineries to outright explode. And the nuclear "disaster" was also largely overblown; none of the cleanup crew working INSIDE the plant has shown any sign of health issues, and the evacuation was a safety precaution that American "news" networks squawked at and circled like vultures and sensationalized into the start of the zombie apocalypse (4 days away, btw).

    Even if nuclear energy WAS as terrible and evil as some people (i.e. oil companies and the people they fool) like to say, no amount of nuclear radiation in a few concentrated waste areas would be anywhere near as ecologically disastrous as the worldwide effect that CO2 emissions given off by oil and gas.

    So I seriously hope the LDP restarts Japan's nuclear program. Closing it in favor of importing oil was one of the biggest environmental crimes in history.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:45PM (#42316617)

    Contrary to Betteridge's Law [wikipedia.org], TFA says two reactors have already been restarted.

    What it does not say is how Japan manages waste disposal from its reactors. In the US disposal is a big deal, politically, and we don't have a permanent solution. Does anyone know what Japan does with its nuclear waste?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Example: new 1600 MW power plant in France: latest estimated build cost: 8.000.000.000 Euros (form original 3.3B). It should have been up and running by now, but they are nowhere near that, 2016 is an optimistic estimate.
    Due to the huge investment cost and long build times, there is substantial interest cost. Add to that the hight maintenance, and operational cost, and 10% downtime, and you are looking at more than 16 Bilion Euros total cost over any reasonable timeline.
    16.000.000.000 Euros / (1600.000 kW *

    • by medcalf (68293)
      Of course, much of that additional time and expense is regulatory and environmental, and of that, much of it is unnecessary from a safety standpoint. In other words, making cheap (relatively), safe nuclear plants is more of a policy problem than a technology or resources problem.
    • Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:55PM (#42317581) Journal
      Actually, it is cheap. The real problem is that these are built wrong. They continue to build on-site monsters with one-off software and equipment. Worse, they are doing LWRs, which require loads of active safety.

      BUT, by building small thorium reactors, these can be built SAFELY, and cheaply. And if we did these, I WOULD invest into them.
    • by Solandri (704621)

      Example: new 1600 MW power plant in France: latest estimated build cost: 8.000.000.000 Euros (form original 3.3B). It should have been up and running by now, but they are nowhere near that, 2016 is an optimistic estimate.
      [...]
      So form the construction start, it takes about 40 years to break even. If cheap solar makes wholesale electricity prices drop an extra cent over the next decade, a nuclear power station may never break even at all.

      How do you figure that? Solar panels right now are around US$1/Watt.

  • But instead of re-certifying decades old plants with iffy designs how about building new ones with better safety features? Job creation too.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:12PM (#42316923) Journal
    What is needed is to replace all of those old reactors with new safe ones that will burn the majority of the 'waste'. Either GE PRISM or a new Thorium reactors would be smart for them. Regardless, they should be small produced in factories, rather than monsters produced on-site. And new tighter regs need to be put in place.
  • ... they will restart, as they have learned or understood nothing. Nuclear is expensive, when when you do not take long-term waste storage or catastrophes into account.

    As to all the techophiles here: What kind of fuel do you think we are going to use to explore this solar system? Fusion is looking worse every year. And fission? Forget it, there is not that much Uranium available in the first place. And it is being wasted for generating electricity where perfectly good alternatives are available. Stupid, stu

  • It's worth noting that by "landslide" you mean they got 28% of the votes, with support of 17% of eligible voters, and actually received somewhat fewer votes than in their disaster election three years ago. A mandate it is not.

  • Not really a "new prime minister", since he already took the job 5 years ago.

  • More importantly, what will the world do to stop this aggressive power from it's nuclear ambitions that are obviously in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

    Oh wait I thought we were talking about Iran here.

  • It stopped when they stopped building reactors - it's just the long tail down until the things get too expensive to maintain. A "nuclear power program" is about making progress towards effective nuclear power generation capacity and they gave up on that years ago, instead just keeping what they have running until it wears out.
    With so little money going into R&D and the people involved in building the previous generation of reactors long gone into other jobs it's not going to happen without some sort of

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