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Tohoku Electric seeks gov't OK to hike power rates

31 Comments

Tohoku Electric Power Co on Thursday filed a request with the government to hike electricity rates from July.

If implemented, the rate for households would be increased by 11.41% a month, which would mean an average monthly rate hike of 540 yen. For businesses and large-lot users, the utility is seeking a 17.74% rate hike.

Headquartered in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, the utility supplies power to six prefectures in the Tohoku region as well as Niigata Prefecture.

Tohoku Electric Power Co President Makoto Kaiwa told a news conference that the utility had no choice but to apply for a rate hike in the face of tough economic conditions, Sankei Shimbun reported. He said that his company will do all it can to cut back on costs and that all executives will take a 20% salary cut for three years.

Tohoku Electric Power had hoped to get government permission to restart its idled Higashidori nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture by 2015, but that now appears to be in doubt after a panel commissioned by the Nuclear Regulation Authority said in January that two major faults underneath the plant are believed to be active — a contradiction of operator Tohoku Electric Power Co's assertion that they are inactive.

The panel said the faults could cause magnitude 7-class earthquakes near the reactor, which was opened in 2005 and is among the newest of Japan's aging reactors.

Unless it can present evidence that reverses the current analysis, Tohoku Electric would have to re-evaluate the seismic impact and reinforce the facility before it could reopen, a process that could take years.

© Japan Today/AP

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31 Comments
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The reason for the hike is because it is everybody's fault that these reactors were not well built. So let's all pay the price!!! How about pay cuts to all the board of directors first??? These kind of articles are a win win for the electric company, they will either get people used to the idea of the rate hike or help change public opinion about restarting the reactors. People are so gullible.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Saulo AkazawaFeb. 15, 2013 - 09:56AM JST

The reason for the hike is because it is everybody's fault that these reactors were not well built.

Absolutely false. The reason for the hike is the fact that they are paying twice as much to make electricity with oil and gas. Not having nuclear available is the reason, and unless they bring reactors back online, you'll see more 15% increases bi-annually as gas and oil prices keep increasing. If you want to blame something, blame OPEC and Russia for their high fuel costs.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Basroil, I wonder what your position is on liberalization of the energy market. For example separating power generation from power transmission and opening up power generation to more competition. Also how do you explain the "safetry theater" of the Japan nuclear industry that has resulted in an output vs. capacity ratio that is less than half of other countries such as, for example, the USA.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

ogtobFeb. 15, 2013 - 10:37AM JST

liberalization of the energy market. For example separating power generation from power transmission and opening up power generation to more competition.

That doesn't work at all... Just look at other countries with it, the electrical prices increase at the same rate as before, and the grid itself slowly falls apart. Besides, there are no other power stations not already being used, so you would wait a decade or more before new companies show up, and when they do, it'll mean increased pollution (and cancer) due to the use of coal power (since it's the cheapest alternative).

Japan nuclear industry that has resulted in an output vs. capacity ratio that is less than half of other countries such as, for example, the USA.

The ratio is far higher actually, almost 70% compared to about 85%, so not sure where your "half" came from. Hell, Tomari 1 and 2 constantly ran between 80 and 100% capacity when including the inspection cycle. However, it is on average lower than other countries, and the output issue is two-fold. First off the mandatory inspection cycle is ridiculously short, meaning most reactors can't even hit peak production for a year before powering down again. The second one is that most reactors in Japan are relatively new, and the capacity is probably being calculated from the first reactions rather than first run at full power. Doesn't affect older plants too much, but can lower the ratio on newer ones.

Regardless though, even a 50% operational one is cheaper than oil.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

If implemented, the rate for households would be increased by 11.41% a month,

Glad its not me paying for companies building nukes on top of active faults and now having to go back to fossil fuels as a result. Which, with the falling yen, will cost even more to import. Gonna be a challenging few years, at least.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

So it starts, this is the aftermath of shutting down all the reactors and for having such a clusterfrick for a power grid where the southern half of the country can not support the northern half on the grid.

The increased use of fossil fuels to generate electricity is going to increase, and with the yen getting weaker, imported oil is going to cost more, and as more is needed is going to jack the prices of oil as well.

Until alternative energy sources are online the Japanese consumer is going to end up paying more and more for energy, and Abenomics proven to fail policies are going to just make things worse.

You get what you ask for.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

So where are all those years of profit gone to?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Dennis BauerFeb. 15, 2013 - 12:13PM JST

So where are all those years of profit gone to?

All went back into delaying the inevitable price increase. The power companies have been shelling out over 10 billion DOLLARS a quarter in increased fuel prices that couldn't be contained within their revenue. Total increase in fuel expenditures is about double that of 2010, before including the recent weak yen and strong oil prices.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-13/japanese-power-utilities-lng-imports-rise-to-5-2-million-tons-in-january.html

Anyone who doesn't believe that oil use is the main cause should check that article. Up to 180% increases in fuel purchases, and 50 billion yen extra PER MONTH in crude oil alone! (and about the same in pre-processed fuel) Right now oil is used about four times more than it was in 2010, and it is the single largest increase in consumption, making it larger than coal even (http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE_Fossil_fuels_rule_Japan_3105121.html), and about 2/3rds the energy used by LNG (and about the same as LNG before 2010). The extra 2 million tons of LNG needed per month also isn't cheap (and can't be offset by plastics and other petro-chemicals), coming in at 340 billion yen. Taking that to ten years makes it 50 trillion yen in increased fuel costs, not to mention a couple tens of thousands of cases of illness due to fossil fuels.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Tohoku used 14% of it's total power consumption from oil in 2011-2012. http://www.tohoku-epco.co.jp/ir/report/factbook/pdf/fact02.pdf

In case people are confused, they used just 3% from oil in 2009-2011, almost 500% increase over that time period.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Should be 400% increase (5x).

0 ( +2 / -2 )

basroilFeb. 15, 2013 - 06:35PM JST

Tohoku used 14% of it's total power consumption from oil in 2011-2012. http://www.tohoku-epco.co.jp/ir/report/factbook/pdf/fact02.pdf

Unlike what some people believe, gas is usually not base load, so gas capacity is much higher than it needs to be to generate the same electricity. In addition, Tohoku-den only produces a fraction of it's needs itself, unlike in the past where it actually net exported as much energy as it's net importing now!

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@Zichi

Why is the country having an energy crisis, because the power companies didn't construct their atomic power plants with safety features able to withstand an earthquake and tsunami which caused the world's second largest nuclear disaster at TEPCO'S Fukushima plant.

When you say "atomic power plants", are you referring to the 55 or so power plants existing, all of which withstood the earthquake just fine, and only one which failed due to an unpredicted 5-story tsunami? Wow, what lousy safety features.

Foe decades the people had been told nuclear energy was safe, clean and cheap. Another busted urban myth.

Hmm, so you buy a Mercedes, ignore the maintenance for 10 years, drive it through a blasting zone, drive it into a lake, and then claim that the car industry is at fault when one of the tires pops?

Baseload power is not a fundamental requirement of modern energy production and modern gas turbines can respond to load demands.

Sure, as long as you are willing to abandon being an industrial nation. Base load power is absolutely essential for heavy industry.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Zichi

Extensive damage to important buildings like the main admin building which houses all documents relating to the site. No worker has been allowed in that building since 3/11.

Ah, yes, I said plants, instead of reactors. My bad. So, out of the 54 reactors (weren't there 11 ready to go on-line, or being built?), 2 reactors were damaged. Are you including earthquake damage to the Admin building as part of your "Foe decades the people had been told nuclear energy was safe, clean and cheap. Another busted urban myth." statement?

The new NRA have decided, the safety standards at the atomic plants are just not good enough. All the atomic plants will have to be updated before permission is given to restart reactors.

Good. That will make the plants even safer. But that doesn't take anything away from the fact that the plants did indeed survive the earthquake, yes, even if they did get damaged, which I would like to know your source, as I haven't come across that information.

The various investigation, especially the one by the Diet Commission showed that the nuclear disaster could have been avoided had there been higher safety standards at the Fukushima atomic plant. TEPCO have accepted full responsibility for the nuclear disaster. Diet Commission lays the blame on the nuclear village.

So, again, I re-emphasize: It isn't nuclear energy that is the problem. You are claiming that nuclear energy is the problem, but you are actually talking about the administration, which apparently likes to keep secrets.

And really, with that sort of attitude, it is a little hard to blame them. People freak out whenever they hear anything about nuclear accidents. The fearmongering isn't just a problem during the actual emergency, when it makes people panic; it's actually a bigger problem during the peace, when it makes people hesitate to actually prevent the problems in the first place because people equate prevention of accidents with imminent danger.

There are many experts who would disagree, including the CEO of General Electric.

No, he wouldn't. He's smart enough to listen to his engineers, who told him that, yes, heavy industries do require a base load, and that the base load is much higher than that of the normal populace, which makes current power plants, which aren't as flexible at powering up or ramping down, somewhat inefficient for that sort of job.

Modern gas turbines can respond to power demand.

Actually, no, they can't. Even GE's FlexEfficiency line, the most current design, can't manage the base load. All it can do is work in conjunction with existing base load suppliers to "top off", so to speak, the peak demand hours. Modern gas turbines, by themselves, would be no better at supplying the actual fundamental base load requirement than any other fossil fuel generators would. The price in environmental, economic, and political loss would remain just as high (actually, higher, due to the increased demand).

Zichi, you are doing a somewhat slippery little dance here, not addressing the direct points I made and trying to switch them off with similar, but not equal, separate points. You condemn nuclear power in general, but your main complaint is about administration. You claim that base load power is not fundamental for heavy industry (a claim that makes as much sense to engineers as claiming that fuel isn't essential to a trucking company) and cite the CEO of GE (let me guess: you read a few articles about the FlexEfficiency design, but didn't quite understand them), but the CEO of GE specifically had this design made in order to complement the base load in existence.

Even on just a logical level, your arguments don't follow. Even if modern gas turbines could offer the same efficiency as the existing nuclear plants, you are comparing modern designs, which would have to be built and installed, and which would require a reliable and continuous fuel source from a foreign country, to 30 year old nuclear technology. If we are talking about modern turbines, why aren't we talking about modern nuclear plants? Ones with passive prevention systems, which do not require power to prevent incidents, with fail-safes such as meltdown catchers in the floor, where a designed soft spot would be melted through first, funneling the core melt into a cavity designed to contain and dilute the melt, as well as use its own heat to pressurize its own prison?

While we are at it, why don't we talk a little about this "meltdown" boogie man so many people like to trot out? People like to talk about a meltdown as if it is equivalent to a nuclear explosion. A meltdown is actually a safety features designed to avoid an nuclear explosion to begin with. And what exactly is a meltdown in the first place? A meltdown is really nothing more than the outer cladding of the core material getting so hot that it melts and exposes the core. Now, this is serious, of course, because an exposed core means that there is now radioactive material out in the open...or, actually, no, not really. It means that there is radioactive material penetrating the first line of defense. It still hasn't escaped the reactor chamber, and it still hasn't escaped the containment building (which is one of those safety features that Chernobyl didn't have). Modern reactors incorporate safety features into both of these structures as well, including gas relievers for accidental hydrogen build-up (this was a problem at the Fukushima plant) and radiation scrubbers for the pressure relief systems in the containment buildings (releasing steam into the environment isn't the problem; it's releasing steam carrying radioactive debris that causes an issue.)

Meltdowns aren't the end of the world. There have been almost two dozen meltdown incidents in reactors through the history of the technology, and only three have resulted in disasters. That's three out of heaven only knows how many reactors have come and gone since the technology began.

The problems all really boil down to the same issue. If you want as much energy as Japan needs today and in the future, you will need to build or re-fit the existing power plants, nuclear, fossil, or otherwise. If you refuse to continue with nuclear power, you are going to spend a whole lot more money having to build a whole lot more plants, and you will spend even more money maintaining all those plants and constantly refueling them, making yourself even more dependent on foreign fuel. You will also have to pay the unavoidable cost in terms of pollution to the environment.

If you go with nuclear power, you get safe, clean, and cheap, power. Yes, even with the administrative mess, it is still safer, cleaner, and cheaper, and that should tell you something right there. You don't have to build as many plants. You don't have to be dependent on constant foreign fuel supply. You don't have to add all that destruction to the environment.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@Zichi

For me, a reactor means all the plant inside of a reactor building and not just the reactor vessel holding the nuclear fuel. Everything inside a reactor building is vital and essential plant.

Okay. I'll stick to the engineer's definition, which is the actual device that initiates and controls the reaction. Let's see how much more confusing we can make this.

At the Fukushima No1 plant the earthquake caused extensive damage...

To the reactor? Or the reactor building? Or the reactor systems?

Or to the admin offices?

The loss of the admin building due to the earthquake was important because all the plant documentation is kept in it. That would be a vital building in any nuclear emergency.

That's your justification for claiming that nuclear energy is unsafe? You are including the location of the filing cabinet as an integral part of the technology that is nuclear power?

Man, that's beyond a stretch. To bring back my Mercedes example, it's like claiming that the auto industry is unsafe not just because the tire popped, but because the manual on how to change tires wasn't in the glove compartment.

Some nuclear event happened at the Fukushima No1 plant following the earthquake, but before the tsunami struck because following the earthquake a radiation alarm, 1.5 km from the plant sounded. Why? I don't know.

That would indeed be very vital information, and fairly easy to confirm. After all, it isn't as if the radiation alarm just turns itself off, or the radiation goes away. Where's the follow up? Something like this is kind of significant; new safety regs would certainly have to take it into consideration.

Or is it just another anecdotal tale that can never be verified?

It would have to have been one hell of an earthquake to destroy all 18 atomic plants in the country.

Agreed. And considering that this was one of the strongest earthquakes in human history, that's saying a lot.

Which, again, calls into question your claim that nuclear technology is inherently unsafe.

But is another nuclear disaster possible, yes!

Of course. But possibilities mean diddly-squat to engineers. It's the probabilities you have to deal with in life, not the possibilities. Heck, anything's possible. Not everything is probable.

If the safety standards at the other atomic plants are not updated, there remain a possibility of further nuclear disasters caused by powerful earthquakes and tsunami.

Yes, continuous improvement and safety is an industry "Must", just like in any other industry. You don't need to keep repeating what no one is arguing against.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@Zichi

Is nuclear energy clean, safe and cheap?

According to the numbers, yep, it has the best record of all the energy sources out there.

No not at all in Japan. With its three Teutonic plates, its long history of powerful earthquakes and tsunami, its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the large number of active volcanos, Japan is probably a country that shouldn't have built nuclear atomic plants in the first place unless it was able and willing to build them to withstand all earthquakes and tsunami.

Which it did, at least for the earthquakes. Tsunamis, well, at the time it was built they used the standard 100 year measure to build a tsunami wall, and this was back when we only had a vague idea about tsunamis having something to do with tides. Certainly you would have been laughed out of the budget meeting for suggesting that preparations be made for a 50 foot tidal wave.

Today, of course, it is a different matter altogether, however hindsight is 20/20. I cannot fault engineers for something they had absolutely no reason to predict with the knowledge they had, and I cannot fault a country for doing what it could to progress when it had the technology that allowed it to do so safely. Predicting the future is one thing, foretelling it quite another.

...more than 8% of Japan's landmass is now contaminated from its manmade nuclear disaster.

Yeah, it is, and that makes it twice as bad as before.

Before? Oh yeah, the land was actually contaminated with Ce137 before, from nuclear testing by other nations. Has been since the late 80's, early 90's (fuzzy on that, don't hold me to it).

So, how bad is the contamination? Well, no need to wonder, let's have a look: http://jciv.iidj.net/map/ Here's a real-time radiation reading for Japan. Sure, the actual plant is heavily contaminated. But what about next door? The radiation level suddenly drops from the 193,000 gray (nSv/h) to...500.

So, it isn't that 8% of Japan's land mass is now contaminated, but rather that it's more contaminated, and the contamination, other than at the actual disaster site...well, it isn't great, but it's hardly uninhabitable.

The Diet Commission, and other leading experts have called it manmade because it could have so easily have been prevented. TEPCO have accepted full responsibility for causing the nuclear disaster.

As they should. Which, again, makes one wonder why you insist on referring to nuclear technology as unsafe.

Atomic power plants produce thousands of tons of spent fuel and other nuclear waste, and Japan so far, has been unable to resolve the problem of the safe and long term storage for thousands of years for the spent fuel and nuclear waste.

Why do you say that? Why wouldn't Japan be able to use one of the dozen solutions available?

Because of politics, you say? Because people would rather be scared of the nuclear boogeyman than treat it like any other problem we have found a solution to?

The nuclear industry have produced about 80 tons of high grade plutonium which is stored in Britain and France who wants it returned to this country, and some of it is stored here. Having so much high grade plutonium which could be used for atomic weapons is its own horror story.

Ironically, one feeds off the other. The fuel could be reprocessed and turned into new fuel instead of weapon-grade plutonium, however the fear that plutonium could go missing makes countries unwilling to move it around too much. Additionally, people tend to ignorantly object. France has no problem with either nuclear power nor with reprocessing, so their concerns regarding nuclear waste are much minimized.

Is nuclear energy cheap? No, not when all the figures are added up.

And yet, it is continuously listed as competitive with coal, oil, and gas. And this is without taking reprocessing into account, which will drop the price even lower. Or the political value of not being dependent on foreign nations for power. And unlike conventional utilities that also require government assistance whenever the price of fuel flickers, the main subsidy for nuclear plants is the initial capital to build it; after that, the fuel is remarkably stable (it's what attracted the majority of the people to it in the first place).

Is nuclear energy clean? Guess you should ask the question to the 150,000+ nuclear refugee's and other Fukushima people?

No, I don't think we should. Because that would be stupid. It would be about as direct a violation of double-blind polling as you could get. You don't do science by vote. You do it with numbers. You want to talk about 150,000 nuclear refugees? You want to start counting lives lost due to fossil fuels?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The NRA have said the current safety standards at all of the atomic plants are not high enough to allow any reactors to restart until new safety standards are agreed and the plants updated to those new standards which could take 3-5 years, or more. At least on the surface, the NRA seems to have the backing of PM Abe who said no reactors would be restarted for three years.

The NRA is also investigating four atomic power plants which might be on active fault lines, this involves a total of 14 reactors.

Following Japan's nuclear disaster, France reviewed the safety standards of its own atomic plants and found them lacking. The EU investigated the safety standards all its reactors and also found them lacking. One reactor was discovered to be able to go into meltdown within 60 minutes of power loss. The EU will now spend 25 billion Euro to update the safety standards for the reactors.

The country is facing for the first time since nuclear energy was begun, a summer with zero reactors operating.

If and when the NRA and the gov't decides to restart the reactor, priority should be given to the Tohoku Power Co.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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