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Fukui 'Nuclear Alley' conflict: reactor danger vs economic reality

60 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

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“I think these idle plants should resume as soon as their safety is confirmed,” he said. “Our jobs and daily life are more important than a disaster that occurs only once in a million years.”

this taxi driver's opinion = people of Japan's (silent majority) = govt. of Japan's stand. They just need need IAEA certificate to show that nuclear power supply is restarted after getting approval from international community.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The NPP's do not have to remain nuclear they could be converted to waste-to-energy plants or steam-electric plants - coal and lignite or Gas- and Oil-Fired Steam-Electric Plants or combined-cycle and gas turbine plants - CCGT

Japan has currently: 22 steam-electric plants - coal and lignite, 14 Gas- and Oil-Fired Steam-Electric Plants, 25 combined-cycle and gas turbine plants - CCGT, 32 conventional hydroelectric plants, 9 pumped-storage hydroelectric plants, 7 waste-to-energy plants.

109 power plants that are NOT nuclear. + 18 nuclear power plants

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

" If no idled plants get approval to restart, the country will be without an operating reactor by the end of April."

Good road on the start to not relying on nuclear power then, I'd say.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

keep it nuclear -

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Money and the economy are much more important than health and safety. These plants need to be opened as soon as possible and need to be working at full power so we can all become rich. Worrying about health and safety is against the "ganbaru" spirit and therefore unjapanese.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Fukui is a beautiful area. That whole coastline and the little towns along it with hard-working people deserve a better way than nuclear power. There is always another way to do something. Nice to see the governor standing strong.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@some14some:

I used to think the silent majority might be neutral, or at the worst, pro-nuclear, but most people I speak to in Fukui are considerably anti-nuclear power. It's not surprising considering the governor is anti-nuclear power as well.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A resident says:

I know they added stress tests, but what exactly are they doing?

An expert from Todai and a member of the IAEA says:

"I don’t view their evaluation as something that is trustworthy or carries any weight”

Some other experts say:

"they are meaningless because they have no clear criteria, and view the IAEA as biased toward the nuclear industry"

And the government still keeps people in the dark as to what they are doing, just that the pressure to restart the plants is building up on the residents. By whom? The government, who doles out subsidies. The NPP operators, who gives out baito and pa-to jobs to the residents.

Thing is, when things go wrong, who are the ones who usually take the blunt? Surely not the operators who got a lot of money, and not the government officials who will just shout at the operators.

To stay blind and deaf, or to strive for another way to live ... that is the question.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Gifu - I think your post is overly simplistic (not to mention a bit smug smug and condescending toward Japanese). Some of the people who actually live there obviously view the negative effects resulting from an extremely limited income (such as malnutrition, high stress levels, and depression) to be worse than possible radiation exposure at some point in the future. I'm not a proponent of nuclear power by any means and am just as worried as everyone else, however, I also believe that people who live in areas in which nuclear power plants are the largest employer do have the right to express their opinion on the matter.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

it's going to happen again in japan and other countries because of the greed in govs. and they don't care about us ppl,

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When you read this article, did anybody else get a mental picture of the Mayor of Amity Island in the film "Jaws"?

He knew full well the risks involved, was desperate to get a piece of paper "proving" that the danger was over, and reopened the beach so that the local area could enjoy the economic benefits of the 4th of July weekend.

That didn't go too well...

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Eiici Inoue, stick to your guns, some may say nuclear power is quite safe, despite the continuous threats of earthquakes, most will say it is not. Do not allow commerce to bully you, apply your conceince, and stick to it. I wish you every success.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It doesn't take an expert to discover that the whole nuclear industry in Japan is all about kickbacks and payoffs.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

How did people live for thousands of years in these places BEFORE nuclear power??

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All countries must follow Germany and phase out nuclear energy.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You couldn't pay me enough to live in that area

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Brave of Mari Yamaguchi to use the word reactor 'danger' in the headline. :clap:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sarcasm321:

" How did people live for thousands of years in these places BEFORE nuclear power?? "

They lived without the amenities of modern life. For that matter, people also "lived" before the invention of the wheel and fire. It can be done. Try it and come back to report.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"You couldn't pay me enough to live in that area" yeah I live here and I love it!!! FYI Fukui-ken was voted the NUMBER 1 HAPPIEST prefecture in ALL of japan!

"All countries must follow Germany and phase out nuclear energy." where do you think Germany is getting its power from after they shut it down??? FRANCE! what kind of power does France use? NUCLEAR! so they are going to put more stress on Frances nuclear power plants. do you think if they have a meltdown Germany will be magically saved?

Why do you think Japan is in a trade deficit right now? over 10% of the 12% increase in imports was ALL energy imports like coal (FROM CHINA!!!, LGP (from china!!!) and oil. why?? because all the nuclear plants have been shut down. so lets see. Shut down the plants. cause japans economy to fail, so no one will have a job, food, or even money to pay the electricity bill, FURTHER strengthen china's economic power by buying more engergins from them, and increase green house gasses even further because we are burning far coal and oil!!!

Is nuclear power 100% safe. no! was the Tohoku earthquake one of the STRONGEST and RAREST earthquakes in human history? yes? are nuclear rectors built to withstand MOST average to strong sized quakes, YES! was more problems caused by the Fukushima reactor, or the HUMAN error? Human Error! so turn on the reactors. create a BETTER nuclear regulatory board. Reinforce reactors better. Save Japans economy. yeah! we all have jobs next year!

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I think its funny that people actually WANT to live in poverty, because that is EXACTLY what is happening because they turned off all the nuclear plants. I usually don't argue with all the sheeples because its pointless, but this one time it is something that I feel extremely strongly about.

I mean. who am I kidding? We live in a world where we try to save the lives of a few NON-endarged whale species, rather than try to put food in the bellies of the 50 million starving children.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

All countries must follow Germany and phase out nuclear energy.

Germany is the greatest example of 'NIMBY'. They don't have any nuclear power plants, they just import it from France.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thanks zichi for the good post.

As for the "new law is required banning nuclear power plants from using untrained nuclear gypsies", I definitely agree, but this would also mean more costs for the plant operators, hence more future costs for the consumers. At the same time, that would mean less job opportunities for the local residents who rely on the current gypsy system.

Cost and safety vs profit ... just two of the most important issues of a giant business' balancing act. Which side will the NPP operators take?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many of these nuclear 'gypsies' are actually Yakuza, procured by construction companies run by Yakuza. Results of a search: http://www.google.co.jp/search?q=percentage+of+nuclear+workers+yakuza&rls=com.microsoft:ja:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7RNWE_enJP311&redir_esc=&ei=iToiT423LMvJrAeoua2ZCA

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Love it: Only four more to go. The baby doomers pet project being tossed out where it belongs, in the cold! No to nuclear is the majorities call, that is not unclear but very clear.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

UtrackJan. 27, 2012 - 07:34AM JST

The NPP's do not have to remain nuclear they could be converted to waste-to-energy plants or steam-electric plants - coal and lignite or Gas- and Oil-Fired Steam-Electric Plants or combined-cycle and gas turbine plants - CCGT

That is a possibility, though the increased freight needed to supply the plants might be a problem. Coal and lignite would also present an ecological hazard to the areas the plants are sited at, and any burning will increase CO2 emissions.

At the Shoreham NPP gas turbine generators were installed to use the existing switchgear at the mothballed plant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoreham_Nuclear_Power_Plant

1 ( +1 / -0 )

gifuJan. 27, 2012 - 08:36AM JST

Money and the economy are much more important than health and safety. These plants need to be opened as soon as possible and need to be working at full power so we can all become rich. Worrying about health and safety is against the "ganbaru" spirit and therefore unjapanese.

Poverty has it's own health and safety problems. It's a much less clear cut situation than you present.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

zichiJan. 27, 2012 - 09:05AM JST

The nuclear power companies in Fukui have paid more than ¥50 billion in anonymous donations to the prefecture to keep the locals sweet on nuke power. Kansai electric have paid more than ¥15 billion anonymous donations since 2006 when it told the prefecture it would run an aging reactor for a further 10 years.

Can you provide a link to info on these anonymous donations to the Fukui Prefecture Government and whatever Kansai Prefecture Kansai Electric paid off?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

zichiJan. 27, 2012 - 02:09PM JST

Everything needed for a nuclear power plant is also imported from uranium to steel, plastics. Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build using an enormous quantity of imported materials.

Not different from a lot of other enterprises in Japan

The country lacks many natural resources like coal, gas and oil, all are imported for thermal power generation. Coal from Australia, oil and LNG from the middle east. Russia offered to supply LNG at lower prices following the 3/11 disasters.

So we can save on the materials to build nuclear pps, but import a lot of fossil fuels?

But there are natural resources which the country isn't fully using to generate electric power. Solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, generating power from waste burning, biomass.

Solar and wind require a lot of space, and a lot of imported products. Geothermal might have potential, but then again - might not. Tidal has environmental impacts, biomass and waste burning adds CO2, and in the case of biomass can affect food production.

It will cost more than ¥30 trillion to clean up the Fukushima atomic power plant. More than 90% of that will be paid by the taxpayers of the future. The nuclear disaster has contaminated, according to the Science Ministry, 8% or 30,000 sq kms of the total land mass, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. It has destroyed the communities of about 78,000 people who had been living inside the no-go zone. It has contaminated the food chain with both land based foodstuffs and sea foodstuffs. It turned many schools into places of health risks.

From Hokkaido to Kyushu? Really? As for the food chain, we need more info.

30 trillion over how many years? It's easy to arrive at a large number on multi-year projects. To put that cost in perspective, TEPCO estimates the cost to fuel its fossil fuel plants is about 1 trillion yen per year.

A new law is required banning nuclear power plants from using untrained nuclear gypsies. All workers from the lowest to the highest position must be trained in nuclear safety and how to deal with nuclear emergencies. Why can't they all become trained employee's?

Not just nuclear power, poor workers are put at hazard all over Japan in many fields of commerce and industry.

The government withheld an estimate that there would be no electricity shortages in the upcoming summer in an apparent bid to underscore the need to restart nuclear power plants, it has been learned. Instead of releasing the realistic estimate, the government announced that the supply of electricity in Japan “will be about 10 percent short across the country”.

I'd need to see the data, but here in Tohoku, this summer, we came within one percent of production capacity - and this was not a hot summer.

Furthermore, the released government estimate greatly downplayed the supply of renewable energy, disregarding the country’s actual energy status.

It was found that electric power companies were capable of procuring 7.59 million kilowatts through renewable energy under the current law — equal to the output of about seven nuclear reactors. However, the released government estimate stated that utilities were unable to provide renewable energy supplies.

I'd like to see a bit more detail, that's from the Mainichi Daily News, and it's hardly Nature or The Economist

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Equality said:--- however, I also believe that people who live in areas in which nuclear power plants are the largest employer do have the right to express their opinion on the matter.--- If their opinions affected only them, they can do whatever they want as far as I am concerned. But I live directly downwind from Fukui and their opinions and decisions are potentially life threatening to my community and me. I have every right to oppose the decisions they make, which make money for them in the short term and endanger my well being in the (hopefully) long term.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Come on Japan and step up to the plate. Show the world how a major 1st world country can back away from Nuclear Energy. May have to shut down the powerful lights of the pachinko and love hotels, but I am sure those who want their services will be able to find them!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Shut down all the nuclear plants and just learn to live with less.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So what do the fishing villages without nuclear plants do? Are they all starving to death? Theyre certainly not running for their lives, leaving all their belongings, pets and livelihoods not to return for 20,000 years. Two small places on our planet have become uninhabitable due to the convenience of nuclear power. Lets knock it on the head now. Geo-thermal all the way. Just stop thinking of nuclear power as an option and necessity will breed invention. I think 30% is definitely doable if thats all the energy nuclear plants produce. Switch off some pachinko lights.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Where's Willy? We need the other 'side' of the argument.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The government can't keep track of 3000 cesium cow corpses, if a pile of dead meat is too much to handle...don't think something as complex as N-power should be considered as an option. But hey just have to cast our minds back over the last year to see what happened with these baboons in charge. N power safe?...the answer to that is in the food chain the air and rain. And perhaps coming to a polyp near you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Police have arrested three people for allegedly dispatching a worker to the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture under a falsified contract, sparking a police probe into the yakuza's possible involvement in nuclear-related jobs. Various temporary agencies have been suspected of siphoning off workers' wages and crime syndicates are suspected of playing a part in dispatching such temporary workers.(1/13/2012)

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120113p2a00m0na015000c.html

Nuclear energy (used to be called clean energy) is always involved in such a dirty world "YAKUZA".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good job Blair, you should be a reporter, oh no card. Maybe a researcher. Story says a lot about the whole dirty business.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Cricky, thanks.

Am I a reporter? researcher? NO! Googler :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

YongYang:

Why interrupt such a beautiful mutual gratification session?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

TheBigPicture:

" All countries must follow Germany and phase out nuclear energy. "

Get your facts straight. Germany has not phased out nuclear energy yet, they are only blabbering about it. And if they really do phase it out, they do not yet have any other viable alternative than to buy electricity from France, where it is produced by ............. drum roll............ nuclear reactors. It is hardly a coincidence that France has several new nuclear power plants on the drawing board, all on the German border. Ditto for Poland, by the way.

Brilliant example you found there.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Germany is the greatest example of 'NIMBY'. They don't have any nuclear power plants, they just import it from France.

Have to correct that. Germany is still a net energy exporter. True, the primary energy has an import ratio of approx. 97%, but in terms of elctrical energy Germany is still a net exporter - even though half of the German nuclear plants are in (eternal) cold shutdown.

That makes the "German buys French nuke power" argument quite ridiculous. Germany buys less power from neighbouring countries than it sells them at times where the renewable sources have high output or the demand is low. Germany currently has to use the power grid of its neighours because the German power grid is not up to date for the recent change in the local distribution of energy producers and consumers.

And the distortion of truth goes even beyond that. The only way a country like Germany (or Japan) can get primary energy without importing it is using its mostly deplenished coal reserves, tiny uranium (or thorium) reserves or investing in renewable energies. Ergo, renewables are good for the trade balance. They are (mostly) CO2 free. They are still perfectly suited for technology export, when the number of people who can afford a big Benz or BMW will have decreased significantly because gasoline becomes too expensive.

And - by the way - whoever says wind power is expensive is a liar. It is in fact the cheapest power source available (because the construction of the plants costs next to nothing in comparison to all other conventional sources).

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@ Robert Dykes:

was the Tohoku earthquake one of the STRONGEST and RAREST earthquakes in human history? yes?

Yes, deep in the ocean it was one of the strongest. At Fukushima it was strong, but absolutely not unusal. Several earthquakes of that strength happen every year in Japan.

are nuclear rectors built to withstand MOST average to strong sized quakes, YES!

From what we have learned in the last year, we can say that for Fukushima Daiichi and Genkai (Saga) the answer is no. For other reactors in Japan we can't say because nobody dares to publish the data. For several rectors in France, Germany and Switzerland the answer is no as well, they are not designed to withstand earthquakes which can be reasonably expected in the areas where they are built. Cutting corners on safety is not limited to Japan because of the huge cost "savings".

was more problems caused by the Fukushima reactor, or the HUMAN error? Human Error!

Well, it depends how you define human error. In Fukushima you cannot blame the operators who were handling the plant at the time of the disaster. If you take negligence during the design and construction into account, then you are right. Are you aware that all the estimations for the failure rates of NPPs do not consider human errors? We know from other areas that human errors account for a large part of accidents yet for NPPs we exclude them systematically.

Reinforce reactors better.

You can do that when you build a reactor from scratch (at huge cost, btw), but after the reactor is built you can do very little.

Save Japans economy. yeah! we all have jobs next year!

A fast switch to alternative energy would be a huge economic stimulus, much better and with much more lasting effects that all the government stimulus programs in the last two decades. Alternative energies are cheaper than nuclear, but you have to invest into a new infrastructure. Japanese companies could use their technology in combination with manufacturing scales driven by the domestic market to become strong international players. But yet again it seems Japan is missing it's chance due to lack of vision.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

zichiJan. 27, 2012 - 06:02PM JST

The pro nuke boys and groupie's are totally blind to the dangers of operating nuclear power plants at less than the highest safety standards and not operating plants built on fault lines like Hamaoka and Fukui, or even operating any atomic plants in a country which experiences 10% of the world's powerful earthquakes.

As long as the plants are designed to withstand the earthquakes, and get covered against tsunami threats I'm fine with that. There has been a lot of linking to activists who were anti-nuke before March 11th, and talk of Fukushima Dai-ichi having serious earthquake damage, then that report getting switched to Dai-ni. I'll believe it when I read it in Nature or another serious scientific publication.

As for safety, seeing how many earthquakes we get - are we going to see a campaign against dams in Japan? Imagine the carnage if a quake broke one of those!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Ignoring the bad labor practices of the most dangerous industry in the country. That's alright because it happens even in non nuclear industries

That was not my point, though I was unclear - there should be laws against exploitative working conditions across the board.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

There are only three reactors in operation producing less than 5% of total power, and the lights are still on, the offices and factories are still working.

Power-saving, factories moving production overseas, offices and workplaces freezing, and fossil fuel plants operating at full-tilt.

And when we are trying to switch to an electric transport sector (Mitsubishi MIEV, Nissan Leaf) the electrical enegry needed is going to increase - a rule of thumb is that it will double.

Since 3/11 production of CO2 has only increased by 4% which leaves Japan at per capita level lower than many other countries. America, China and India have no interest in climate agreements. America didn't even sign the Kyoto agreement which is up this year.

No, as this link makes clear - the 4.4% increase was for the financial year that ended in March 2011. The increase for this financial year is not reported as yet. http://populationmatters.org/2011/blog/japan-co2-emissions-rise-44-percent-201011/

The pro nuke boys are always in denial. I would like to see no atomic power plants within 25 years and I can accept the need for restarting some reactors, between 5 to 10 of them can provide the power. We just don't need 44 of them.

I want to see all nukes that are safe to run in operation, lessons learned (like how Onnagawa seems to have had no problems despite being much closer to the earthquake epicenter), Geothermal potential explored, and Solar and Wind used to expand electrical generation into the transport sector (where off-road vehicles can store the power).

Prior to 3/11, nuclear energy generated about 25% of total power. That figure can be reduced to 10%, with 10% savings being made from business and private use by better use of consumption. The other 5% can easily be taken up by converting all the waste incinarators and increasing the over night pump stations. These two can be quickly achieved. That's even without building a single wind turbine, tidal generator, solar panel, whatever.

I'd agree that savings can come from decreasing consumption - but not at the risk of people's health, my wife is currently freezing in a govt. office that refuses to turn the heating on for more than 30 minutes. Waste incinerators I'd have to be convinced on - people forget that whist an incinerator might be rated at, say 60 MW, if it only operates at full capacity for four hours a day then it's equivalent to only a 10 MW plant. Also, pumped power storage is expensive - you have to build a dam, tunnels, install generators - all the things you have to do for a real hydropower dam, save that your power comes from the grid, and not falling from the sky. And if you have a drought, like we did in Tohoku in the mid 2000s then your hydro, pumped or otherwise means nothing.

If you want links you'll find them in my recent comments.

Had to search, but yes - the anonymous bungs, above and beyond that permitted by law are not on.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Johannes WeberJan. 27, 2012 - 10:43PM JST

That makes the "German buys French nuke power" argument quite ridiculous. Germany buys less power from neighbouring countries than it sells them at times where the renewable sources have high output or the demand is low. Germany currently has to use the power grid of its neighours because the German power grid is not up to date for the recent change in the local distribution of energy producers and consumers.

But Germany still needs to buy power, some of it from Nuke Plants in France and the Czech when the renewable output is low?

And Germany is also planning on building 20+ Coal-Burning Stations to make up for the loss of the NPPs, is it not?

And the distortion of truth goes even beyond that. The only way a country like Germany (or Japan) can get primary energy without importing it is using its mostly deplenished coal reserves, tiny uranium (or thorium) reserves or investing in renewable energies. Ergo, renewables are good for the trade balance. They are (mostly) CO2 free. They are still perfectly suited for technology export, when the number of people who can afford a big Benz or BMW will have decreased significantly because gasoline becomes too expensive.

That depends on how much the rare-earths for the wind turbines and solar panels cost, and how much the uranium or thorium costs.

And - by the way - whoever says wind power is expensive is a liar. It is in fact the cheapest power source available (because the construction of the plants costs next to nothing in comparison to all other conventional sources).

You have a Physics-based degree, do you not? Don't forget the other factors. If the cheapest power source available makes excessive demands on the power grid, requires a large area to get an adequate output, and requires massive power-storage demands then it is expensive - despite the construction costs of the basic facility.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Truth. Fact and solution. All the way. Winner. It's the ONLY way to be. Good luck to the detractors at the next debate.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All of the 54 commercial reactors are expected to be suspended by April. Edano admitted that even with all the nations nuclear reactors offline, that Japan's electrical supply would be adequate. Curbs on power use may not be necessary next summer even if the nation's reactors are all offline, Edano said. "there is a good chance that we can get through without issuing a restriction on electricity usage."Japanese governments report had been highly tainted and drastically underestimated the power generation from renewable energy sources.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120127x1.html

Isn't it some experts (Koide, Takano...) have been saying from day 1 or even before 3.11? And mainstream media were not so interested in interviewing them. For mainstream media companies, money from TEPCO (TEPCO spend 800million yen per year for TV/newspaper add) is more important than precious information from anti-nuke specialists.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

zichi, so Japan will lose even more jobs and factories. Without a dependable power supply more and more plants will be moved to China and India. The rich will still be rich but everyone else will be poor. Now what would happen if Japan loses its oil supply from the gulf? Russia will sell its oil to China and not Japan. So tell me what would happen? For me and my family it will be ok, Okinawa generates its electric from coal and some wind power. The USA still operates its plants and its power grid is not in danger. So what happens when Japan is facing a large shortfall in electric? There will be a shortfall and some of my friends in Kanagawa are still unemployed. The answer some say is to darken Pachinco pallors and shut down vending machines, pathetic.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

well, I know a lot of people in Kanagawa that are feeling the pinch directly due to the accident at Fukushima (aka the power company greed)

moving factory etc to China : maybe this is due to the fact they can make a lot more money paying kids to work in China?

sent from my iphone (thanks kids of China)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The locals up there are not partial to the fish either....

Anyone delving into cancer rates in Japan would not be surprised to know that Fukui is higher than average although that record may well be surpassed in a few years....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Have to correct that. Germany is still a net energy exporter. True, the primary energy has an import ratio of approx. 97%, but in terms of elctrical energy Germany is still a net exporter - even though half of the German nuclear plants are in (eternal) cold shutdown.

What is there to correct. Germany has gone on record as saying that it intends to be nuclear free but will continue to import electricity from France which will come from nuclear power. It's immaterial that Germany is an exporter as well because if they had sufficient energy capability they wouldn't need to import it. I stand by my initial statement that Germany is the perfect example of a NIMBY.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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