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Japan Power

Japan To Be Without Nuclear Power After May 5 267

mdsolar writes in with a Reuters article about the continued fallout of Fukushima on the nuclear industry in Japan. "Japan will within weeks have no nuclear power for the first time in more than 40 years, after the trade minister said two reactors idled after the Fukushima disaster would not be back online before the last one currently operating is shut down. Trade Minister Yukio Edano signaled it would take at least several weeks before the government, keen to avoid a power crunch, can give a final go-ahead to restarts, meaning Japan is set on May 6 to mark its first nuclear power-free day since 1970. 'If we thoroughly go through the procedure, it would be (on or) after May 6 even if we could restart them,' Edano told a news conference, adding that whether they can actually be brought back online is still up to ongoing discussions. The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered radiation leaks, has hammered public faith in nuclear power and prevented the restart of reactors shut down for regular maintenance checks, with all but one of 54 reactors now offline."
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Japan To Be Without Nuclear Power After May 5

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  • by dsmey ( 193342 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:30PM (#39711715)

    Still haven't seen any good articles about where they have offloaded all that generation to. Are they burning more coal now that 53 reactors are offline?

  • So simple? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:31PM (#39711729) Homepage Journal

    I love how it sounds so simple. Just shut the nuclear power plants off, stop generating electricity and bury the fuel forever. Of course, for a country with few natural resources - how are you going to make up for the power generation short-fall. Nuclear power plants are really efficient at generating massive amounts of power, more so than any other power generation technique available today (by size, configuration, and technology). They can't just throw up a handful of wind turbines and hope to call it even. They can't erect coal fired or natural gas plants, especially if their reserves of such resources are marginal at best (Japan is an island, after all). All petroleum-based power generation will just make oil and it's derivatives vastly expensive - it STILL won't make up for the gap.

    Are they going to ration power? Black out selected parts of the country to help keep the demand in check with the new available supply? Eliminate enough power generation technology, and you suddenly send your nation back to pre-Industrial Revolution economy... not good for a country that is the current technological leader of the entire planet.

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@beau . o rg> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:32PM (#39711751)

    > Or are they back into the dark ages now?

    Looks like it. Remember guys, fear is the mind killer.

    Yes, if a record earthquake whips up a wave nobody could have thought possible hits a land that suddenly sinks a foot or two, AND they make several other mistakes.... then a old first generation nuke plant can have a total failure and what? Leak tiny amounts of radiation?

    Suck it up, turn on the frickin' lights and start designing better reactors. Live and learn.

  • Re:So simple? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:33PM (#39711775)

    You do exactly what is being done now: Shift from a trade surplus to a trade deficit as you start buying ridiculous amounts of oil to compensate for the massive loss of generating capacity. On top of power shortages.

  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:33PM (#39711777)
    The industry is busily building new reactors in developing countries like Turkey - even though the local population there really, really doesn't want to live near a nuclear reactor (not that that has ever stopped the shady N-Industry). For every Japan reactor they loose, they'll build 3 - 4 new ones in developing countries eager to join the "prestigious club" of developed nations that use nuclear power. And then we'll probably see brand new Fukushimas/Tchernobyls happening in countries that could have - and should have - invested in renewables like Wind and Solar Energy instead.
  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:36PM (#39711833)

    Basically, suffering a considerable amount of economic damage for no good reason.

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:42PM (#39711897) Homepage Journal

    A while back I left a comment here [] explaining that Japan needs to stop devaluing their currency, because they'll be in a hole without so many resources needed to rebuild their broken infrastructure, and it would be much cheaper for them to buy these resources from around the world if the Yen was valued much higher, than what their government allows. Well, guess what, that comment is still completely appropriate today as it was then.

    Japan needs a lot of raw materials and energy, so they really need to trade with countries at least for those resources, and stronger currency would help Japan immensely, especially now, that they've been hit with too many natural disasters and they need all sorts of materials and energy to rebuild everything.

    Japan needs to rebuild their infrastructure in many places, so they need to allow their currency to appreciate, so that more investments would be put into it, so they could buy more, and they need to stop listening the insane Keynesian charlatans, who really caused their economy to stagnate for 20 years. Nobody should be bailed out and nobody should be protected from rising currency with government intervention. Having currency fall looks good on a quarterly statement due to more sales in devalued currency, but it's terrible for the actual citizens and consumers, who have rising prices because the government destroys the money.

    Maybe the Japanese should think about kicking their government in the balls for these 20 years and taking away their ability to print money in the first place and do something smart for a change and switch to saving and trading in gold and let the investments come into the country, because that's what would happen.

    They would fix the unemployment in a hurry, with more investments coming in and they would be able to fix their infrastructure with strong money and they wouldn't even need to make these cuts in scientific spending.

    Also while the Japanese have to re-evaluate some of their nuclear power plant safety features, such as not all generators being in one basement together, or whatever else, including extra cabling to connect the plants to the grid, they cannot just rely on buying up oil to run their electrical grid. Oil is going to get more and more expensive and if they keep devaluing the Yen, it will be as expensive for them, nominally, as it is going to be for the Americans, and it's not a good example and a path to follow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:42PM (#39711911)

    Right you are. China is the model country to lead the way with massive development of nuclear power plants.

    They can't even distribute milk without poisoning children.

    On the other hand, the world will learn A LOT about how nuclear plants can go wrong.

  • by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:43PM (#39711921)

    No one wants to live next to a power plant but they still really really want power.

    People always forget the 'base line power' argument, too, and all renewables, so far, can't overcome that reliably. Solar doesn't work at night, wind doesn't work on calm days, hydroelectric and geothermal have geographical limits. But we still need power on calm nights far from dams. We're making progress, but it's still not quite there. (Face it, until things like molten salt batteries stop making headlines, it's not ready for prime time.)

    And frankly, I'd rather live next door to a nuke plant (and, I actually sorta do) than be a day's drive from a coal plant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:46PM (#39711963)

    There'll always be another event that nobody would have thought possible before. Someone will always make a mistake.
    The only reasonable course of action is to minimize the potential disaster.

    Also: where did you read the nonsense about "tiny amounts"?

  • by LordZardoz ( 155141 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:47PM (#39711967)

    Nuclear Power has its issues. But the alternatives are not exactly free of cost either. At the end of hte day, the costs of nuclear power are arguably less than anything else that is capable of generating power at that scale. Wind / Solar would be optimal, but they do not have the scale yet to be seriously considered as alternatives unless you are content to live at a level of technology comparable to 1910.

    From an environmental standpoint, I think it would be a better choice to try to deal with the accumulated nuclear waste than to deal with trying to undo the damage of the toxic emissions from using fossil fuels. The nuclear waste is at least highly localized and it can be collected and contained. You cannot really clean up all the emissions from burning coal or oil.

    The problem with Nuclear power is that the costs associated with an accident are so massive (environmentally and financially) and they are incurred all at once. You will never convince most people to buy a car for $30 000 in one lump sum, but it is easy to sell someone on paying $40 000 if you tell them they can pay a little bit each month.


  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:49PM (#39711987) Homepage

    Even though it was newer in time, because the Soviets were a bit behind the West in nuclear technology, it was way behind any Western power reactor in terms of safety. Chernobyl was a fundamentally dangerous reactor design that has NEVER been built in the USA. It had fundamental instabilities AND they decided not to bother with a containment building.

    Fukushima was one of the oldest operating reactors on the planet. Unit I was originally scheduled for decommissioning prior to the disaster. For Fukushima to make, at most, a handful of people sick, it took a massive disaster that killed 25,000 people outright in a matter of hours. Newer plants with improved safety designs would have been able to shrug off that wave without damage, as the diesel generators are no longer safety critical in modern plants.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:55PM (#39712049)

    Yes, if a record earthquake whips up a wave nobody could have thought possible hits a land that suddenly sinks a foot or two, AND they make several other mistakes.... then a old first generation nuke plant can have a total failure and what? Leak tiny amounts of radiation?

    Suck it up, turn on the frickin' lights and start designing better reactors. Live and learn.

    The problem has never been nuclear - it's a great option. However, it's the management of such facilities that's a problem - in the goal to extract greater and larger profits (bigger bonus!), they start cutting, and the problem is, once you start cutting down maintenance and safety at a nuclear plant, things start going bad.

    Hell, they're even reducing the amount of money needed to clean up after a plant closes (cuts into profits, and they want that bond money back - not have some governement agency spend it "cleaning" - that's a problem for the next guy).

    Nuclear power is great, just it demands that people running it not be money-grubbing profit-seekers. Maybe they should be run like non-profits and forced to spend the excess money they have on improvements and new technology.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:57PM (#39712081) Homepage Journal

    Actually the lights are very much still on. I was there in the days after the quake when the power rationing was at its worst and in fact it was never that bad. There is more risk to the supply now due to decreased spare capacity, but obviously efforts have been made to reduce that.

    The "fear" in Japan isn't fear at all, it is pragmatism. Fukushima has cost Japan a hell of a lot and it's still early days in terms of clean-up and decontaminating the affected areas. A lot of people were displaced, lost their jobs and their homes, Japanese food exports were heavily affected and the government has picked up the majority of the bill. Like all countries they never required the plant operators to be fully insured for such an event because it would have made nuclear power uneconomical, so the government took on the risk and just hoped the worst would never happen.

    Japan is lucky enough to have enough natural resources to go completely renewable. People have a choice, spend more money on nuclear in a country that has regular large earthquakes and tsunami or try something else. Keep in mind that most nuclear plants are only rated for a magnitude 7.5 quake so it is more down to luck than design that there were not more serious problems, and in fact some plants were damaged.

    Try understanding the situation before accusing entire nations of being irrational and fearful.

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@beau . o rg> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:08PM (#39712215)

    > Also: where did you read the nonsense about "tiny amounts"?

    There was no major breach. The Japanese build a lot better than the Russians so there isn't going to be a huge no man's land that will be required to be maintained for generations around the site. Some nasty stuff managed to outgas, some 'hot' water leaked and so yes there are some hotspots to deal with because of that. But lets get a grip on reality here. If that was anything like the worst case scenario it was certainly survivable and always remember that this was a first generation reactor that was ran decades beyond its design lifetime because the anticipated replacements got lost in the paperwork created by the very greens who oppose any nukes at all.

    In other words, this was an own goal more than a natural disaster. Yelling and hollering about no nukes can convince politicians to snarl up licensing on new plants but barring a disaster on this scale it won't push em to shut down running plants and force everyone to sweat in the summer. So the old plants kept running while politicians and greens preened in front of the cameras. And because they control the media they haven't been forced to answer for their actions.

    There isn't a safe method of power generation. And there won't be. No, unicorn farts aren't going to be available someday. Even if fusion, which is fifty years off and has been for the last fifty years, comes along we already know it will also have problems. We all know the problems with fossil fuels and all the 'green' alternatives are flawed in at least one way. So we either accept the risks, doing what is possible to mitigate the worst of them, or declare the whole civilization thing a big mistake and go back into the trees.

  • Re:So simple? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:13PM (#39712289) Homepage Journal

    Are they going to ration power? Black out selected parts of the country to help keep the demand in check with the new available supply?

    Apparently you don't know that almost all of the country's reactors are already offline. There are, IIRC, only two still running and these are the ones that will shut down in May.

    There is no rationing for consumers. Industry had to cut down a bit, and everyone is being encouraged to save power where they can. But certainly there will be no blackouts (nor were there immediately after the quake, in fact apart from a reduced train schedule life carried on pretty much as normal with some slightly less well lit shops).

    Japan has inadvertently proven that a modern high-tech economy (3rd largest in the world) can go nuclear free in a year and not suffer too badly. You wouldn't do it that way by choice, but the idea that we would be thrown back to the dark ages without nuclear has been comprehensively proven to be false.

    Of course, for a country with few natural resources - how are you going to make up for the power generation short-fall.

    Actually Japan has enough natural resource to go completely renewable. Hydro, geothermal, wind, wave and solar. Obviously it won't happen overnight but Japan is also one of the world leaders in renewables.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:14PM (#39712311)

    Japan is lucky enough to have enough natural resources to go completely renewable.

    I'd love to see the documentation on this one. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of Japan's history over the last hundred years has been related to its lack of natural resources.

  • by quarkscat ( 697644 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:25PM (#39712483)

    I call balderdash!
    Only something so valuable as to be utterly priceless can defy rational thought to the extent that it isn't even considered, and hence of no value, like the value of the condition of the environment of "spaceship Earth" we would leave to our progeny.

    Nuclear energy (civilian nuclear energy) isn't even viable economically, and only came into being in the USA to support the military nuclear weapons programs. The Department of Energy spun up the Tennessee Valley Authority under the threat to civilian power companies that their (TVA) nuclear energy "would be too cheap to meter". Of course, they lied, and the civilian power companies only committed to nuclear power when massive "corporate welfare" flowed in from the government. Those subsidies included, but were not limited to (1) grants for nuclear plant design, (2) passed legislation to underwrite power company liability by the taxpayer, (3) grants to fund nuclear fuel rod assemblies, (4) wide latitude in operational deregulation, (5) leave in limbo used fuel rod reprocessing, and (6) leave largely unaddressed the issue of nuclear power plant decommissioning and hazardous waste disposal (100's of metric tons of low-level radioactive waste && multiple metric tons of high-level radioactive waste, plus whatever is stored in the prerequisite cooling ponds.)

    One question neither answered nor acknowledged by the civilian nuclear power industry or the government is the longer-term period of radioactive waste management. At least one reactor (#3 ?) at Fukushima Dai-ichi used a hotter, more dangerous blend of uranium and plutonium called MOX. This has a radioactive half-life of 20,000 years. At that rate, even 500,000 years later (25xTau) this waste would still be deadly to all living things, and would need to be re-packaged periodically. Does any capitalist society actually plan that far into the future, as well as funding such a long-term project? Hardly so. That is the nature of the economic order we live under, corporate socialism (aka fascism). We have to leave it to science fiction writers to imagine such a future -- like "A Canticle For Leibowitz". Yes, a new technocratic religion is borne ...

  • At the end of hte day, the costs of nuclear power are arguably less than anything else that is capable of generating power at that scale.

    Considering the hundreds of billions put in to nuclear R&D that is unlikely to be true. If the same amount had been put into renewables we would probably be mostly coal free by now. Nuclear got all that free funding due to its usefulness as a weapon.

    Anyway, any lead nuclear had was wiped out by the cost of Fukushima. There was a recent interview on /. with some guys working on fusion power who said that they were about $80bn away from a working plant plugged in to the grid. Well, the cost of Fukushima is already in the hundreds of billions...

    It's such a terrible waste of money that could have been put to good use.

  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:43PM (#39712821)

    Yes, only Chernobyl was run by not for profit communists.

    You and I must be thinking of different communists.

  • by clarkn0va ( 807617 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:57PM (#39713047) Homepage

    The problem has never been nuclear - it's a great option. However, it's the management of such facilities that's a problem

    Isn't that like saying that "the problem has never been software, it's the bugs that people keep writing into it"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @02:01PM (#39713093)

    If you really think there is a 'tiny' amount of radiation being leaked, why don't you go live there?

    Hey--there's some awesome Slashdot logic for you. Even though the radiation probably won't kill me, maybe I should quit my job, sell my house, pack up my wife and kids, and then move clear around the world, and sit in a house near a nuclear reactor and exist for the next 80 years--just to prove to you that the slightly higher amounts of radiation aren't going to kill me.

    In a similar vein, getting kicked in the nuts also doesn't kill you, so why don't you let me kick you in the balls a few times just to prove it to you.

  • Regulator Capture (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @02:21PM (#39713455)

    Japan is now moving the regulators to the environment to create more distance. See below on why that is imporant.

    You are assuming that regulators can weigh the pros (cheap power) vs. the cons (rare events ) in a impartial manner. A weakness of regulation can be “Regulator Capture” where the interest of regulators and the industry align, thus diminishing true oversight..

    For example, in Japan, the industrial ministry regulated nuclear power. The ministry pushed nuclear because industry needed cheap power. Bureaucrats graduated from low paying public jobs to higher paying industry jobs. Regulating a technical industry requires hiring technical people, which means hiring from the industry that they are regulating – and of course those people tend of have confidence in the system that they built.

  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @02:26PM (#39713557)

    Also, capitalism requires that said rational actors usually suffer the negative consequences when an action they choose goes wrong.

    However, for things that are not a direct negative consequence to the actor (for instance, technically Tepco does not own most of the land that it contaminated, so if there were no government, it would not suffer the majority of the damages) a government is required to make those negative externalities stick to the culprit causing them.

    However, governments can in some cases be terribly corrupt, and the corporations can de facto bribe their way out of trouble. This happen in the United States on a routine basis, just not as overtly as it happens in, say, Somalia. (because the legal system in the United States is heavily slanted towards the side of a case with the more skilled, and more expensive, attorneys) Also, in the U.S. legal system, a final decision on a case can be delayed for 3-15 years, at a minimum.

  • by thomasw_lrd ( 1203850 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @03:24PM (#39714501)

    Because all of the stories are about how nuclear power is the evilz. We can't use nuclear, too dangerous, we can't use coal or oil cause it causes global warming.

    I wish the human race would just commit harikari, so the poor old earth could just go back to normal. Here's an idea, why don't you be the first to save the planet from us. As The Bloodhound Gang so eloquently put it "Throw in the towel, no better yet take the towel and hang yourself with it".

  • by hackus ( 159037 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @03:37PM (#39714695) Homepage

    After spending several years discussing a wide variety of issues with Engineering departments at various Universities about Nuclear Power I came to some conclusions:

    1) Nuclear power is sort of a term that needs to be described, as more than one possibility. When you think of Nuclear power, you think of Uranium. That simply isn't the case, there are alternatives, including the most promising, which is Thorium.

    2) A decision was made a long time ago, by the government, that Uranium would be the only nuclear power that would be acceptable. This was for cold war reasons, because Plutonium was required for Nuclear weapons.

    3) Besides the by products of Plutonium, to make weapons, there was huge private interests in the University community and research that also had a part to play to insure the Uranium route was the path that the United States would follow.

    These three realizations of the historic Cold War, Military and Private institutional interests is why Nuclear Power is in the horrible state it is in today.

    However, the technology has come quite a long way since the 1950's and through various advancements in materials and ceramic technologies, Uranium power no longer has any advantages economically over Thorium based Nuclear Power plants.

    Besides the problem of refinement and fuel quantity is much more desirable with Thorium than it is with uranium.

    Thorium process technology does away with any sort of explosion, beyond steam, that might occur at a Nuclear Thorium based power plant.

    Including the generation of huge clouds of hydrogen, which as we see at Fukishima, blew highly radioactive parts of the building and infrastructure into half a mile trajetcories all around the plant with the explosions it created when the zirconium casings were melting around the fuel rods in contact with water, producing gigantic releases of Hydrogen gas.

    Thorium is now a very viable energy alternative and with the advancements in ceramics in recent decades, all of the engineering issues are much more easily handled. Cost is competitive, to operate as compared to Uranium plants.

    So as I have been watching the news, I have been wondering why such countries as Iran who is just really beginning on a energy program for their nations, would want to go the Uranium route? Why not just switch to Thorium?

    My personal opinion about the Iran bomb issue, is WHO CARES. I mean lots of countries have the bomb, even wacko's like North Korea who constantly broadcasts every day it will turn the South Koreans into a sea of fire....blah blah...for the past several decades.

    So I don't see Iran with a bomb any different that Iran without a bomb. Like most countries , Iran primarily do these things for national reasons. Anyone foolish enough to actually use one will be turned into a glass parking lot. Historically this line of thought seems to prevent their use....even through the nearly tragic 1960's with the cuban missile crisis. This keep in mind was all through the big terrorist years of 1980's with the CIA even back then publishing papers that the Soviets would use Syrian nationals to plant suitcase size nukes in large US cities.

    Never materialized, although today it is Al Queda that would be doing such things....just another boogey man in my opinion.

    So I am glad to see Japan put down the Uranium Nuclear option, but the country should reconsider Thorium.

    I am also aware, through various research, that there seems to be a strong international reproach, mainly from the U.N. and NATO, to restrict or discourage any sort of discussion or idea of Thorium options for power and to keep them out of the press. (Forbid to publish.) Now, it is in my own mind clear why this would be the case. If the world went Thorium, Nuclear weapons would be a _very_ hard proposition indeed without Nuclear fuel.


  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @05:25PM (#39716167)

    I think that may be right but I'm not sure, how do other industries cope with this? e.g. Mining? Chemical Plants? etc

    The same way nuclear does: There is a disaster somewhere and safety standards are improved. Somewhere between a decade and a generation later the lessons are forgotten, and there is another disaster somewhere. Most of the nasty mining and chemical accidents happen far away from the western world though, and they rarely get more than a brief mention in the papers.

    The economy and passenger ships work the same way. Except it seems that when it comes to the economy, memory lasts only a couple of years.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @06:14PM (#39716855)

    I, for one, welcome the sweet, sweet dispersed pollution of coal which doesn't frighten me because I can't see it on the news.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.