After Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan shifting towards costly fossil fuels

Hiroko Tabuchi reports in the NYT: "Japan, the world’s third-largest user of electricity behind China and the United States, had counted on an expansion of nuclear power to contain energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, its nuclear program is in retreat, as the public and government officials urge a sharp reduction in the nation’s reliance on nuclear power and perhaps an end to it altogether."


  1. it is well documented that the traditional (that is to say fossil fuel) power plants in japan, when including the furrowed ones because the nuke plants pushed them out, are more than capable of generating enough power during peak periods…. the utilities make more money (that is to say, charge the customer at a higher rate on elecs from nuke plants because of how the utility commission calculates the rate from the initial investments to the running costs). sure this puts all eggs in one basket (relying on oil producing nations) but the incentives for the utilities to build nukes came from their financial gains, not dependencies on oil…

      1. Which is really clear to anyone who has read your posts about Apple versus Cory’s posts. Though if boingboing did become a hive mind, it’d be simple to change the name over to borgborg.

  2. The problem that Japan is facing, is that it has no basis to create credibility by themselves to establish reasonable safety standards – which they had so far neglected. That’s why the reactor buildings could blow up in the first place, even though the problem has been known for 30 years and remedies installed over 20 years ago, at least in Europe. (I have no idea about standards in the USA.)

    The problem with using more fossil fuels are completely under appreciated. We should not be talking about CO2 – that’s the least of our problems.

    In the coming years, the first, third and fourth greatest economies in the world will replace nuclear power by coal and gas. But at the same time, the second largest (China) will definitely use more fossil fuel anyway and there are billions of people in developing countries who will do so as well. There has been a transformation in the economies, not just of China and India, but also Africa and Latin America. They are now doubling in GDP every 10-12 years (China every 7-8) and will need more fossil fuels – as they are the most accessible source of energy.

    And  don’t worry, they are perfectly ready to pay *much* higher prices than we could ever imaging. Because a gallon of fuel or a ton of coal in a developing economy is that much more *worth* than yet another one in Europe or the USA. And unfortunately, renewable energy has much tighter limits than some people seem to imagine. Danemark has pretty much hit the ceiling of what wind power can do and would have done so even earlier, if it wasn’t for massive exports to neighboring countries.

    Without massive, efficient, energy storage this won’t change. But no research or investments are done in that field.

    Forget about hydrogen – you need to use three kWh to have one kWh in storage. Pumped storage just needs to be too big for the amounts needed to bridge the long-term variations. Even a single day worth of electricity is 30 times more than e.g. Germany has to offer in terms of pumped storage.

    Just saying let’s stop nuclear, let’s stop burning coal, gas and oil and renewables will do the rest somehow is not enough. Because that “somehow” doesn’t (yet) exist. Somehow, people take this statement to be morally wrong. But this is not a moral question, it is one of physics and engineering. You can’t protest it, you can’t vote it out of office.

    This question will stay – whether you are satisfied with the answer or not. You may, however, change the answer – but not in a democratic process. Nature is harsh mistress, I know.

      1. Dear mods,

        max’s youtube link is inappropriate and certainly not the kind of wonderful content that boingboing wants to have.

        Btw, I love the civilized arguments that people who disagree with someone else bring forth on boingboing, in a way that is certainly conducive to any good discussion.

  3. Japan is a great example of what happens when you let big business (which has NO imagination beyond the next quaterly result) take control of your critical infrastructures.

    (Hint : Japan would be the perfect place to have geothermal power as the main energy source)

  4. Geothermal energy is overrated. Geothermal heatflux in Japan is on the order of 100mW per square meter – some places, especially in the north, get up to 200mW/m^2 (which is a high value for geothermal heat flux).

    Japan has an area of less than 400bn square meters, so you can expect to get an absolute maximum of about 40GW of raw, sustainable, heat out of the earth. You can convert these with an efficiency of 10-20% into 4-8 GW of electricity.Sorry, but the enthusiasm around geothermal energy is largely unfounded. It’s great for heating, but not for power.

  5. Hey, they have no credibility left. The independent observers are finding much higher counts. Until the industry starts speaking the truth they won’t be trusted.

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