politics

Noda aims to reduce Japan's reliance on nuclear power

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By Linda Sieg and Tomasz Janowski

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© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012.

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marcelitoJun. 18, 2012 - 12:16PM JST : What economically and engineering wise viable alternatives? Noda also seems to have no clue. There is simply nothing better than nuclear given our current scientific understanding.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"Japan is very reliant on air travel and therefore can not afford those changes ( solar ) due to economic and safety reasons"? I think earthquake prone Japan is even more reliant on Japanese public being able to live in safety and without the very real threat of another mega quake trigerring an even worse nuclear crisis than Daiichi.. .therefore Japan can not afford not to seriously get into the alternatives. Naturally the nuclear village vested interests and their paid off politicians will fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.

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Current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will be history much sooner than nuclear power...

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reply to warispeaceJun. 17, 2012 - 08:48PM JST

Basroil, why are you so intent on defending the nuclear industry? Your passion suggests you gain some personal benefit from maintaining this uneconomic (when all true externalities are included), unsustainable and highly dangerous energy source.

Please explain how nuclear is more expensive than the alternatives that Noda has not even touched on? Clearly coal, the main alternative Japan used prior to nuclear (and still the most used power source in the world) is much more dangerous due to pollutants that both ruin the environment and health. Solar is still untested at the scale that would have to be implemented not to rely on coal or oil for baseload production. It can have a detrimental effect on wildlife, and perhaps the micro-climate.

As an engineer, I know what Japan can chose as it's short term solutions, coal and oil. Perhaps they will try to tout solar, but considering replacing 15% generation AND nuclear base load with solar will be economically unfeasible at best, an ecological nightmare at worst.

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Basroil, why are you so intent on defending the nuclear industry? Your passion suggests you gain some personal benefit from maintaining this uneconomic (when all true externalities are included), unsustainable and highly dangerous energy source.

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zichiJun. 17, 2012 - 04:04PM JST :

The cost of nuclear energy does not factor in the cost of providing safe and secure storage for millions of tons of spent nuclear fuel, for 10,000+ years.

Even if Japan went 100% nuclear, it would be physically impossible to create millions of tons of spent fuel. The total amount of uranium ore deposits is about 6.3 million tons. It generally takes four tons of ore to achieve one ton of fuel, so the entire production of nuclear fuel possible is about 1.5 million tons. However, the total mined uranium so far is about 2.4 million tons, of which much went into the production of nuclear weapons. Even without that assumption, were are nowhere near the million tons claimed. Most uranium is reprocessed and the highly reactive elements concentrated, and what we consider nuclear waste is actually not uranium, rather the concentrated byproducts which generally add up to 2.5 tons per reactor or so. This is comprised of byproducts with primary half-lives of up to 100 years (and comprise the entire radioactivity delta).

The waste products is a political game, not scientific or engineering one.

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reply to kurisupisuJun. 17, 2012 - 03:46PM JST : Have you ever seen a solar farm from the air? Since the panels are typically pointed towards the sun to maintain maximum incidence, they tend to reflect back into the air. It can be as dangerous to pilots as it is to point lasers at them. Not as much of an issue as wind, which disrupts ground radar, but still enough so that flight paths will be changed to avoid panel areas during landing and takeoff. Japan is vary reliant on air travel, and therefore cannot afford those changes for economic and safety reasons.

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Basrolil said: Solar is impossible given Japan's limited land available (can't put panels in city rooftops without disrupting air travel)

Why not?

If the Japanese.can erect massive towers inTokyo , I fail to see how solar panels are going to be a problem.

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response to Thomas AndersonJun. 17, 2012 - 01:21PM JST : Yes, the plants themselves are expensive, but operational costs are almost nothing, and in fact, lower than operational costs for solar in an environment like Japan. The cost per MWe over the lifetime of the reactor is generally half that of clean coal and natural gas, a third of oil, and about a fifth of solar. These are investments, and very stable ones at that. Even with a 10% increase (high end estimation) in costs associated with design changes and retrofits due to Fukushima and things to come, it is still far cheaper than other options. The only generation source with better cost averages is hydroelectric, but Japan cannot build more dams and generation capable areas would have to be re-damed to allow for electric generation, at a much higher cost.

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Anyway, even if the nuclear plants were "safer" or could be made safer, adding more safety means higher cost for nuclear plants. Then nuclear simply does not become financially competitive anymore. Nuclear plants are already expensive, and after Fukushima the safety standards have been raised even further.

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basroil:

The official estimation for insurance purposes is 10000 years MTBF. Considering 500 reactors are operational at 80% capacity, 25 years represents 10000 reactor years. Newer designs are considered an order of magnitude safer, so 500 new reactors at 100% capacity would mean 200 years between accidents, and by then we probably will have entirely different energy production means. While there is no such thing at 100% safe anything, the estimated quality of life reductions are far lower for nuclear than any other base load power options for Japan.

Clearly TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima have proved those THEORETICAL data wrong.

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Potential harm from N-plant accident, unimaginable. Potential harm from carbon based energy accidents, local Potential harm from green based energy, limited. There you are a pretty simple negative outcome/ cost report. Based entirely on potential, not probable. Just include a clean up and monetary loss section and it's a pretty compelling report. Unless you derive an income from the village.

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response to Thomas AndersonJun. 17, 2012 - 12:51PM JST : The official estimation for insurance purposes is 10000 years MTBF. Considering 500 reactors are operational at 80% capacity, 25 years represents 10000 reactor years. Newer designs are considered an order of magnitude safer, so 500 new reactors at 100% capacity would mean 200 years between accidents, and by then we probably will have entirely different energy production means. While there is no such thing at 100% safe anything, the estimated quality of life reductions are far lower for nuclear than any other base load power options for Japan.

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response to warispeaceJun. 17, 2012 - 12:10PM JST : You would be wise to note that Cigar Lake alone has an estimated 99000 metric tons of uranium (which is a bit bigger than 71000, but still smaller than 147000 at McArthur River ). While that source is from someone who used to be renown, it is taken out of context and valid only under certain conditions, namely that everything spontaneously decayed. The largest source of waste is actually low level wastes (which have highest concentration of the most dangerous short lived isotopes), for which researchers are already finding solutions to: University of Missouri-Columbia (2009, September 8). Bacteria Used To Make Radioactive Metals Inert. ScienceDaily.

continued: In fact, read Bernard L. Cohen's book chapter on nuclear waste. You will see is it not only not that dangerous, but in fact it is much less dangerous than a lot of other things people manufacture and use. The energy policies in Japan are currently dictated by politics and reactionary measures, not by engineering and scientific knowledge.

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There was no country that was more enthusiastic about nuclear than Japan, not even France. Japan has spent the most amount of money on nuclear than any other countries combined, something like 80%+ of their energy budgets went to nuclear research. Yet all they got in return was Fukushima. Nuclear has been a total failure and a gigantic waste of time and money.

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You can never argue with nuclear evangelists... they always go on about how "totally safe" nuclear is. We've all heard that before. Then Fukushima happens. Then they say that a new design will be "much safer!" Yeah, right. We've all heard that before when Chernobyl occurred.

There's no such thing as 100% safety, so we cannot have nuclear plants without them melting down at some point. Whether by human errors or by force of nature, it seems like a nuclear accident occurs every 25 years or so, not every billions of years like some nuclear evangelists have wrongly predicted.

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basroil's notion of safe nuclear energy is as shaky as the Fukushima Daiichi building #4. Even if (a big wishful if) the power plants can be "so safe", the issue of what to do with the waste is never resolved. As with the case of Daiichi, nuclear fuel rods sit in pools, 4 times over-capcity, in nuclear power plants around the US. A nuclear policy specialist, Robert Alvarez, reports "Spent nuclear fuel in the United States comprises the largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet: 71,000 metric tons." There is no wishing away this fact.

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smithinjapan, please link to a reputable source (non-blog) that states any place is entirely independent of the grid for power rather than simply net zero. Of the places in Japan that have high alternative energy sources, none are able to provide continuous power to match demand throughout the year without relying on the main (formerly nuclear powered) network for at least some hours every day.

To use your own analogy, I refuse to replace old bulb because I know that there are much better ways to reduce power, and know the problems associated with the new ones (see my posts on japan forcing LED by 2020). In fact, there is plenty of research that can be done in not only solar/wind, but nuclear as well. But just like the high efficiency incandescent from GE (basically a 50lumen/watt or higher halogen style bulb), being too narrow minded when something just a bit better now but horribly flawed in long term comes around will make things worse.

Japan shouldn't abandon nuclear, like the government is being pressured to do, they should make efforts at actually understanding it and improving it. In fact, new nuclear plant designs are so safe that you are bound to have more people hurt in making wind turbines than a complete containment failure of new plants. Noda should be aiming to reduce the number of Gen1-3 plants to zero by 2030, and number of Gen IV (and V when research catches up) plants to 50% like originally intended.

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sf2k, deep water cooling is an energy reduction method, not production method. As with the reasons for the limited applicability of solar power and wind in Japan, geography limits practical use of deep water and geothermal power. While geothermal can provide a good deal of power, especially near onsen sites, the increased frequency of earthquakes (enough research data has not been accumulated to determine if all or just small earthquakes are increased), which may not be the best idea for Japan, especially with the massive increase in M5+ even after 311.

Specifically because of the geography of Japan, the country cannot (economically and otherwise) afford alternatives to nuclear given the present state of the country's finances and the commercially viable options now or in the next decade. Perhaps in two or three decades, when science has finally advanced enough to make an innovative energy method (that hasn't existed for more than 50 years like all current power is), Japan can focus entirely on better methods.

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I have been trying for three years to go back to school and become an engineer so I can deal with issues of local generated energy and design. I've been sidetracked economically unfortunately but will try again as soon as I can. It looks like Japan is equally being sidetracked by limited views.

The impression remains with me that people in countries that do nothing simply will not do anything until someone else does something for them. Continuing nuclear is to write off the future and stagnate. There are so many great ideas out there that work and new versions that can work in Japan. It really could be quite a lot of fun to do! But the polly's elected there (or even here in Canada) cannot lift a finger. It ruins their business ties. Democracy is not for businesses only

Given the geography of Japan it can do a lot more in renewables than other places with emphasis in areas particular to Japan. Deep water cooling and geothermal come to mind but also with all the solar manufacturing capacity. It's so sad that such potential for Japan to ROCK is right there but nothing will happen. I need a drink..

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The nuclear association masters are pleased. The puppets will now sing for us

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To "reduce reliance"? ...it only takes one accident at one plant to radiate a whole country. The citizens of Japan must keep the radiation plants closed.

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Noda is slippier than an eel that's fallen in a tub of grease.

What is it about Japanese and American politicians that they can't say anything without looking at the votemeter?

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basroil: Zichi is correct on villages that are generating 100% of their own power, although I admit I had only heard of a couple, not 17. I HAVE heard, though, that there are more in the works. One more thing I wanted to add to what Zichi said -- the longer that alternative energy is not fully invested in to replace nuclear energy the more money will be wasted in the long run; you can even see this on a microcosmic level in your own home if you refuse to replace old light bulbs because the new LED lights cost more.

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He only said "Japan should aim reduce reliance," there is no plan to stop or reduce reliance, its just a sham to quiet all those who oppose nuclear energy, by acting like he is doing something about it.

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zichi, commercial solar cells cannot be placed in mountains, as it would be nearly impossible to properly maintain them. Additionally, it would require land purchases and clearing forests, both of which are expensive and the second being counter intuitive from an ecological standpoint. While the places may seem abandoned, the land is owned by people and actually worth quite a bit.

As for geothermal, it is linked to an increase in low level earthquakes when used in open systems. Closed systems are far too expensive for electrical generation, and usually just there for ground source heating.

While you mention 17 towns with 100% power generated from alternatives (which I have never heard about, unless you are talking about some european towns), it is much more likely that they actually only produce half of their own power at most, with excess daytime production and zero or little nighttime production. They have to borrow power at night, but feed in more during the day, so the net difference is zero. This is entirely possible in rural villages with large space available, but not possible on a commercial level when you include manufacturing. Household power doesn't need to be very regulated, even for computers, and usually 10-15% over or under voltage is not an issue. However, commercial stations cannot have that type of sag, and usually is kept well within 5%.

As for "cell technology", do you mean cellphones or fuel cells? If the latter, not really an option, as you have an option between molten type hydrocarbon cells (roughly same efficiency as a high efficiency power station) or hydrogen fuel cells. The first has the issue of still releasing carbon byproducts that need to be disposed of, as well as requiring oil or natural gas (generally oil). The second has the issues of hydrogen fuel manufacturing (solar is possible, but nuclear is better), and the use of very expensive metals Japan has limited supply of.

Considering the technologies that are available and those that are in research, there really are only two engineering choices for base power, or being nuclear, second being more expensive and worse for the environment. There are more political choices, but since when have politicians really been any good at deciding important matters?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Noda is full of hogwash!!! He just started the reactors in Fukui prefecture. All that he says is only lies!!!

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Unfortunately I don't think Noda, who likely won't be around much longer anyway, has any interest whatsoever in weaning Japan off of nuclear power. This is simply a political ploy to try and lessen some of the blow-back he's getting with the restart of the Oi reactors. Once the Oi reactors are back up to full power electric companies will claim they staved off summer shortages, and more will press to have THEIR reactors back on line as well. And oh-so-subtly plans to build new plants will be pulled back off the shelves and have the power companies, building contractors, and politicians alike all licking their chops.

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Noda aims to reduce Japan's reliance on nuclear power

Nonsense! As Prime Minister, Noda has failed to show leadership that he means reducing reliance on nuclear energy. Instead, he will only be remembered for quickly restarting the silent killer nuclear plants, at a time when anti-nuclear sentiment was highest and apparently, Japan was fairly coping well without them. Examples are abound globally of countries with no earthquake concerns and better safety and security mechanisms, which have put a stringent timetable for stopping (not reducing) use of nuclear energy. For instance to show they mean business, one country has developed solar energy solutions to replace 15-20 nuclear reactors. I guess the difference is that in those countries, leaders are more accountable when accidents happen, don't shift blame and needless to say, more visionary! If people such as Noda are serious with what they say on restarting nukes, they should sign agreements with the people such that in case of accidents, they are locked up or hanged.

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First thing, I said to (not just focus on solar energy) I have a fuel cell generator that supplies 120 volts, 20 amps, It runs on water and or Green tea in a pinch!, ther are (many) more options but I didn't list all of them!!!!

Second comment, I said (Industrialized Nation), to be 100% nuclear free, let face it when it come to most of the nuclear Free EU countries , their industries compared to their (land mass) its not wotrth getting into!. Lastly, the mentality of EU is very different, they actually (truly recycle things) a soda bottle will be reused many times before being broken, melted and then "recycled". We have to start somewhere, change the way we think!

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

wind is ill advisable given it requires five times the land of solar, and it highly susceptible to earthquake damage

Really... that's funny, since 0 wind mills went offline due to the earthquake last year, unlike all the nuclear plants that went down...

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Solar is impossible given Japan's limited land available (can't put panels in city rooftops without disrupting air travel

We will see how that goes once FIT goes into effect in Japan. Then we'll talk.

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"Ehh, it's not my problem".

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Readers, Germany is not relevant to this discussion.

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zichi, the energy policies of germany (which actually only supply 9%, if you include hydro, which is not entirely renewable) are not applicable to Japan due to the vast differences in geography. Japan is much more mountainous and susceptible to vastly changing weather conditions, while Germany is more or less landlocked

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My question is: What is he proposing we rely on then?

Solar is impossible given Japan's limited land available (can't put panels in city rooftops without disrupting air travel), wind is ill advisable given it requires five times the land of solar, and it highly susceptible to earthquake damage. Coal causes more health problems, and gas/oil are too expensive.

So what is he expecting, fusion? Some sort of scientific breakthrough?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Noda plans to reduce Japan's reliance on nuclea power! ." Very little "was (said) about these headlines!!! Please remember that Japan has this opportunity to be the world leader of (cleaner energies) Japan is the only "industrialized nation" that is 100% nuclear free, at this moment, don't let it slip away!. Stop focusing on just one green energy like solar, there are many others, fule cell, tidal ocean generators, wind, ext. This can be the (new growth economy), it would create many new jobs. (If not for you), Please do it for our children! Thank you

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Noda is a double talker. Everything that he says is a total lie. Just a few days ago he stated that he must restart the Fukui reactors and now he is saying that Japan must reduce reliance on nuclear power as much as possible. If he really is true to his word about saying that Japan must reduce reliance on nuclear power as much as possible, then why is he trying to get the Fukui reactors started up again!!

This isn't double talking at all, it politik-speak. It isnt a lie either, the REALITY is that in the SHORT-TERM a number of reactors will probably HAVE to be restarted to prevent power shortages, which would further devastate the economy.

Reducing reliance is not the same as TOTAL reliance.

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Typical fuzzy Noda answer...he says Japan " should aim" to reduce the nuclear power reliance as much as possible" which can be interpreted in any way one likes and then he can,t even come up with a strategy outline over the next 50 years?...Yep , well and truly in the big nuke,s pocket, this one.

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Noda is a double talker. Everything that he says is a total lie. Just a few days ago he stated that he must restart the Fukui reactors and now he is saying that Japan must reduce reliance on nuclear power as much as possible. If he really is true to his word about saying that Japan must reduce reliance on nuclear power as much as possible, then why is he trying to get the Fukui reactors started up again!! And if you say its for jobs, that is a whole lot of crock!! If he wants to create more jobs, I`m sure there is other ways to create jobs without the use of nuclear reactors. Prime Minister Noda can no longer be trusted at all. He should resign from his post immediately and have someone else take his job who is willing to do the right thing and not get paid off to do do the wrong thing.

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So he waits until he's basically announcing the restart of the Fukui plants to say we should use nuclear power less?

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Finally getting the hint... good to hear.

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