The No. 4 reactor building of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station is seen through a bus window Photo: Ap file
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Japan plans carbon emission cuts, more nuclear energy

17 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

Japan is calling for further efforts to cut its carbon emissions by promoting renewable energy while also pushing nuclear power despite its 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

An energy policy paper, adopted by the cabinet on Friday, said Japan faces the urgent task of reducing carbon emissions by utilities that rely heavily on fossil fuel plants to make up for shortages of cleaner nuclear energy. The call comes as nuclear reactors around Japan are slowly being restarted — despite lingering anti-nuclear sentiment since the Fukushima crisis — after being shut down to meet tougher safety standards.

Japan wants renewable energy's share in 2030 to grow to 22-24% of the country's power supply from 16%, while pushing nuclear energy to 20-22% from just 3% in 2017. The report said the cost of renewables also needs to be reduced.

Japanese utilities rely more heavily on fossil fuel plants than those in the U.S. and Europe, the paper said. Coal and natural gas accounted for 74% of Japan's energy supply.

Nuclear energy made up about one-third of Japan's energy supply before 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's cooling systems, sending three of its reactors into meltdowns.

Despite the government's renewed ambitions for nuclear power, reactor restarts are proceeding slowly as nuclear regulators spend more time on inspections under the stricter post-Fukushima standards, while utility companies have opted to scrap aged reactors instead of investing in additional safety measures.

Nearly half of the 54 reactors in Japan have been designated for decommissioning, and only nine have resumed operation since the accident.

The slow reactor restarts have added to Japan's large plutonium stockpile from spent fuel. Japan has resorted to reducing the 47-ton stockpile by burning plutonium in conventional reactors after the country's fuel recycling program stalled. The plutonium is currently enough to produce about 6,000 atomic bombs.

But the amount is not decreasing, and experts are now calling for more drastic steps to reduce the stockpile amid criticism that it makes Tokyo's calls for nuclear non-proliferation less credible.

About 37 tons of spent Japanese fuel is being stored in France and Britain where it has been reprocessed since Japan lacks the capability to do it at home.

Japan's main reprocessing plant at Rokkasho, where plutonium and spent fuel are stored but reprocessing has not started, says the 10 tons stored in Japan is under close monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and there is no risk of proliferation.

In a recommendation to the government this week, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a Japanese policy research group, said Japan should drastically reduce the stockpile to the amount just enough for 2-3 years and keep it under IAEA oversight to ensure the international community of Tokyo's commitment to peaceful atomic use.

The recommendation by a foundation panel goes far beyond government guidelines last year that put the cap at 47 tons, with a pledge to eventually reduce it at an unspecified rate.

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17 Comments
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Japan is calling for further efforts to cut its carbon emissions by promoting renewable energy while also pushing nuclear power

And how do they plan to reduce the radioactive emissions damaging health, ocean, rivers, land and quality of life?

How about this, government wants Nuclear Plants on dangerous fault lines? Then shareholders getting rich off of nuclear energy pay for the clean up. They get rich and tax payers clean up the mess and suffer the health issues!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

How about this, government wants Nuclear Plants on dangerous fault lines? Then shareholders getting rich off of nuclear energy pay for the clean up. They get rich and tax payers clean up the mess and suffer the health issues!

Shareholders are tax payers.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The report said the cost of renewables also needs to be reduced.

How much is too much? I can’t believe they consider renewables more expensive than nuclear power. Nuclear power is not clean, cheap or safe. The cost of decommissioning aging reactors is five to ten times more than it costs to build them. The majority of japans reactors are over 30 years old and will have to be decommissioned in the next twenty to thirty years. Then, add to this the cost of storing spent fuels and you very quickly understand that nuclear energy is not cheap or efficient. This is without adding the cost of the Fukushima clean up.

The cost of renewables should be irrelevant because the long-term cost of not using them is much greater. Japan has a chance to become a world leader in renewable energy, but cannot get their heads out of the nuclear cloud.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Japan wants renewable energy's share in 2030 to grow to 22-24% of the country's power supply from 16%, while pushing nuclear energy to 20-22% from just 3% in 2017. The report said the cost of renewables also needs to be reduced.

This is an embarrassingly weak plan for a country that is already way behind the ball. Just 22% by 2030?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Japan has a huge potential in geothermal energy, and could tap the ocean currents near shore.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Japan is too conservative. I can understand with things like wood or coal, oil or gas, as there are finite limits to them. Being super careful to keep some for the future, sure, but with renewables Japan is blessed.

Blessed is Japan, in abundance! And these can be used right now. All this time these automatically renewable energy sources are being wasted, just blowing away in the wind. Get behind them Japan, and set a glowing example to the world!

And instead of 'waiting till the costs come down', it may be that costs will come down as a consequence of your very engagement.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

We're done with nuke energy. During 50 years of nuke energy the country invested very little in renewable energy except for hydro dams. Even the UK is generating more power from renewables and many days zero from coal fired.

http://gridwatch.co.uk

Japan could achieve 50% of power demand by renewables by 2030.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Unfortunately reality and facts get in the way of wishful thinking. In Germany, the infamous Energiewende didn't achieve much, if anything. After investing billions in renewables, CO2 output is twice as high as France with twice the energy price. Resistance against wind energy is rising because windfarms wipe out insects, birds, and bats. In addition, it costs millions every year to balance the fluctuating output of renewables.

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet: https://quillette.com/2019/02/27/why-renewables-cant-save-the-planet/

This just one sample of many. You will find similar views in many other publications by engineers, physicists, scientists, economists, and increasing environmentalists, people who actually know what they are talking about.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

In more than 50 years, the greatest amount of world electricity generated from nuclear energy was just a mere 14%. France generates 80% of it its total power from nuclear energy while Russian actually generates the largest amount but Russia is still running about 14 reactors like the one at Chernobyl which exploded.

The total world output of renewable energies far exceeds that of nuclear energy which the majority of countries can't even afford to construct.

people who actually know what they are talking about.

would they be like the ones who told us nuclear energy would be safe, clean and cheap, because in Fukushima that's more of a bad joke.

The eventual cost of the disaster will exceed ¥100 trillion. Very expensive.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I have seen a study somewhere that showed just how many nuclear plants the planet would need to power the earth (30,000?) and how there is no way enough uranium to run the proposed reactors, even half of them.

Here is one discussion.

https://www.quora.com/How-many-nuclear-reactors-would-be-required-to-power-the-world

So in order not to take sides here or get into an argument, may I suggest again that there is no ONE solution, but that a basket of the very best that humanity can come up with might just help us make it through, even assuming that humanity continues to be just as selfish and greedy as ever.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet: https://quillette.com/2019/02/27/why-renewables-cant-save-the-planet/

This is a pro-nuclear argument that does not address the main problem with nuclear. It's freaking expensive. The average cost over-run on the construction of a nuclear power plant is 200%. That is Olympic stadium territory. Decommissioning costs are usually off balance sheet too. The linked article ironically dismisses pumped storage for renewables in California because it is "expensive". Since nuclear power generation does not follow demand, it too has an excess power problem, one that France solves by selling power to Germany. Japan tried to solve it pre 3-11 with promoting overnight power use by eco-cute water heaters.

I think that actual danger of nuclear power generation is overstated, but the economics of are dismal in real world situations. The risks for nuclear are that it makes the stuff that goes in bombs and that any plant hit with a speedboat launched missile will become a nuclear weapon. They are very soft targets.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@ zichi

The total world output of renewable energies far exceeds that of nuclear energy

Sure. But output and actual used energy from renewables are totally different. The big unsolved problem with renewablesis that the energy it can't be created on demand, where and when it is needed, and thus a large part of is wasted. After decades of research on storage, solutions are evasive.

@ kohakuebisu

It's freaking expensive. The average cost over-run on the construction of a nuclear power plant is 200%.

Renewables are much more expensive than anybody expected. Aside from the construction costs and the infrastructure this happens now in Germany: Irregular and unpredictable wind and solar power is increasingly becoming a problem for Germany’s power grid. Utility company Tennet TSO spent almost a billion euros last year (2017) on emergency interventions to stabilize the national grid. Tennet is responsible for the electricity supply of about 40% of Germany's total area. The costs were thus about 50% higher than in 2016 (660 million euros) and around forty percent higher than in 2015 (710 million). That's for just stabelizing the grid, not building anything.

@ nandakandamanda

 I suggest again that there is no ONE solution, but that a basket of the very best that humanity can come up with might just help us make it through

I agree. My argument is not to give up on renewables, of course not. But it is just not as simple as some of the above posters believe. That Germany and Japan are switching off their existing nuclear plants and (especially in Germany) switching back to coal, with by far the most deaths per kilowatt is irrational and the worst possible solution for CO2 output and health and in case of Germany also hypocritical.

https://ourworldindata.org/what-is-the-safest-form-of-energy

Much more effort and money should have been put into the research of Thorium reactors instead of mainly focussing on renewables which fit the current ideological narrative. Just one sample, there are many others with more complex explanations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTKl5X72NIc

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I have seen a study somewhere that showed just how many nuclear plants the planet would need to power the earth (30,000?) and how there is no way enough uranium to run the proposed reactors, even half of them.

Did you even read the study that is linked to? It clearly states that the 30,000 breeder reactors with reprocessing would have enough fuel to last ~600 years, and that is assuming a world population of 9 million who all use as much energy as a current average American. And neither you nor the study mentions Thorium reactors which would add many centuries more of fuel.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

For more than 50 years, the government, gave every year, many hundreds of billions of yen, to the nuclear village, for R&D but we still ended up with the man-made nuclear disaster. We are done with nuclear energy in this volatile country.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Where are the solar panels on the numerous apartment roofs?

I don’t see any.....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

With the short lifespan of buildings here it really would be simple for planners to stipulate new builds are more energy self-sufficient.

More reliance on nuclear energy you say? What could possibly go wrong!?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

More reliance on nuclear energy you say? What could possibly go wrong!?

I can tell you what definitely IS wrong: After Fukushima, Japan, like Germany, reverted to more coal, the dirtiest, most polluting fossil and by far deadliest energy fuel. Currently 30 new power stations are being planned or built by Japan that burn coal. Coal is responsible for over 800,000 premature deaths per year globally and many millions more serious and minor illnesses. In China alone, around 670,000 people die prematurely per year as a result of coal-related air pollution. The ‘Coal Kills’ report estimates that in India coal contributes to between 80,000 to 115,000 premature deaths annually. In the United States coal kills around 13,000 people annually, and 23,300 in Europe. The economic costs of the health impacts from coal combustion in Europe are valued at about US$70 billion per year, with 250,600 life years lost.

As renewables won't be able to replace all energy on demand because you can't switch on wind and solar when and where it's needed (see above example Germany), the question is, which lunch (as there is none that's free) is the most preferable, taking into account all what we really know, and not what we assume, or fear:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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