First of Japan's 50 reactors restarts since nuclear crisis; Japan's energy policy still in turmoil

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26 Responses to “First of Japan's 50 reactors restarts since nuclear crisis; Japan's energy policy still in turmoil”

  1. Richard says:

    There is also a summary as usual by Greg Levine here today:

    Fukushima Nuclear Disaster “Man-Made” Reports Japanese Panel; Quake Damaged Plant Before Tsunami
    http://my.firedoglake.com/gregglevine/2012/07/05/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-man-made-reports-japanese-panel-quake-damaged-plant-before-tsunami/

    Covering why the Ohi restart is also quite problematic from a tectonic perspective.

  2. LennStar says:

    Ohi is not Ōi. (O-hi (2 time units) and O-o-i (3 time units)).In this case its the second, the Kanji meaning big. I’m a bit surprised that that the word is so openly “we screwed up big”.  It will be interesting what will be the result of that – both for energy production and consumption and culture.

    • Cynical says:

      Oh as a substitue for Ō, OO or OU to represent the long o-sound in Japanese seems to be a peculiarly American form of romanisation; I’ve only ever seen it on baseball players’ jerseys.

      Oh is only a problem when the letter that follows it is a vowel. When the phoneme comes before a consonant, which (given that all kana apart from the five vowels are consonant-vowel syllable clusters: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko etc) is most of the time, it works fine and is easier for non-Japanese speakers to know how to pronounce than the alternatives. Is the name “Satou” (which would be standard Hepburn romanisation) pronounced with a short o and a short u, an o as in “row”, an ou as is “bough”, ou as in “rough” or an ou as in “rouge”? Ō is best, but it’s non-standard in English and therefore also open to confusion.

      /linguistic pedantry

  3. Cowicide says:

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Uh, this…

    http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2012/01/23/big-tokyo-quake-forecast-by-2016/

    via article:

    Researchers at Tokyo University’s Earthquake Research Institute said there’s a 70% probability the long-feared “big one” will hit the southern Kanto region, which includes Tokyo’s neon-lit jungle, by 2016. …… The government agency studying seismic activity has long said the odds of a mag-7-plus quake hitting Tokyo were 70% over 30 years. But Tokyo University researchers now say that the tireless bursts of quakes in the months since March 11 are a mathematical omen signaling a strong quake will occur far sooner than later. University researchers now say the odds of Tokyo or outlying suburban areas getting hit with such a powerful quake in 30 years are now 98%. …

  4. R_Young says:

    I would welcome anyone decrying this development to start paying 4 or 5 times more for electricity.

    • Shashwath T.R. says:

      If it costs 4 to 5 times more to do it safely, then maybe we should look into ways of doing it with less waste?

      Japan’s energy use is _highly_ wasteful. For example, the famous automated toilets – the same effect can be had with a simple tap and pipe arrangement, which is becoming fairly common in other places. But the Japanese do it using an electrical system to control the flow rate.

      I know that example is probably only a drop in the ocean, but it’s demonstrative. Over the years, Japan’s culture – especially its corporate culture – has evolved towards a very wasteful attitude towards energy. Sure, many of the things we’ve admired about Japanese culture depends on this attitude, but maybe that means that those things aren’t really admirable after all?

      Could they get away with more efficiency and less unsafe nuclear power? Note: I said “unsafe nuclear power” not “no nuclear power”. It can be made safe…

      • R_Young says:

        “If it costs 4 to 5 times more to do it safely, then maybe we should look into ways of doing it with less waste?”I would say absolutely; from what specs I’ve seen of the newer plants, we should be renovating a lot more reactors.  My 2 minutes of perfunctory googling has not informed me as to the design of these reactors, but the oldest is from ’79 which IIRC is just past the edge of the really unsafe reactors (think Fukushima).The newest ones are bloody awesome.  

        • Shashwath T.R. says:

          The newest ones are bloody awesome.  

          Hence, dismantle some (most of) the older ones and build fewer new ones with higher safety margins? Or build lots and lots of new ones at a fast pace, probably eroding the margins?

          I know that Japan can’t really survive without nuclear power, with its current culture. But merely building more plants with little oversight would be like giving an addict access to a warehouse of crack…

          • R_Young says:

            Well, the former makes the most sense obviously.  Japan has plenty of plants built with inherently better safety specs that Fukushima that will probably be started, but I hope the public pressure focuses more on ensuring safety and eliminating/punishing corruption, instead of having all reactors shut down so Japan can pay for massive Russian oil/gas tankers to bring in energy to keep their entire economy running.

            If I could change one thing to the regulatory oversight system in Japan or even the world, I would create some sort of regulator-swapping system, where nuclear engineers from competing foreign nuclear plants take shifts monitoring and testing different plants.  Hopefully this would prevent the insular and corrupt system that was in place pre-Fukushima, since outside/competitor experts would have much less incentive to overlook issues.  

            I got this idea watching a friend pentest a website for a customer, and essentially force them to revamp their entire security when it became obvious how poorly designed it’s security was.  Disclaimer:  IANANuclear Engineer.

          • Shashwath T.R. says:

            @R_Young:disqus 

            Well, the former makes the most sense obviously.  Japan has plenty of plants built with inherently better safety specs that Fukushima that will probably be started, but I hope the public pressure focuses more on ensuring safety and eliminating/punishing corruption, instead of having all reactors shut down so Japan can pay for massive Russian oil/gas tankers to bring in energy to keep their entire economy running.

            Heh, sorry for the slightly dubious dichotomy there… Like I said, I don’t think Japan can survive without at least some nuclear power. It’s just not possible, with the culture they’ve built up. But reducing some of their over-use does make sense to me. One of the problems they faced is that it’s ridiculously expensive to build a new plant, especially at the rate that demand has grown.

            If I could change one thing to the regulatory oversight system in Japan or even the world, I would create some sort of regulator-swapping system, where nuclear engineers from competing foreign nuclear plants take shifts monitoring and testing different plants.  Hopefully this would prevent the insular and corrupt system that was in place pre-Fukushima, since outside/competitor experts would have much less incentive to overlook issues.

            Even now, nuclear inspections are carried out everywhere by companies from everywhere else. But that wasn’t the problem with Fukushima. The problem was that a specific set of recommendations was made and ignored. If the sea wall had been raised enough, the whole thing would have been contained. And in that area, it was well known that a tsunami like the one that hit, would be possible. Not taking that precaution, and the regulators not going after them for it, was the problem.

            What it requires in my opinion is an informed public, and a regulatory environment that’s not a revolving door. I don’t know if international inspections will necessarily create that.

          • R_Young says:

            Hehe; “dubious dichotomy” is going to be my favorite phrase for a week now.  

            I pretty much agree, I suppose.

      • Cynical says:

        The nuclear plants can and should be made safe, but not switching them back on to cover peak consumption during the summer months is simply not a viable option. The damage that rolling blackouts would do to industry and manufacturing alone would be enough to put Japan back into full-blown recession.

        The problem with Fukushima was that it was an outdated design, managed by a corrupt and incompetent company, with oversight from an equally corrupt and incompetent government, and not that it was a nuclear plant and therefore somehow inherently evil. Speaking as someone living in Japan at the moment, I’d rather take the tiny risk of another meltdown than have the guaranteed pollution of using fossil fuels, which almost certainly won’t be able to meet demand anyway.

        The current anti-nuclear protesters are barking up the wrong tree; they should be trying to end corruption in the government and TEPCO, not using Fukushima as an excuse to try and push an unrealistic Green agenda.

        • Shashwath T.R. says:

          The nuclear plants can and should be made safe, but not switching them back on to cover peak consumption during the summer months is simply not a viable option. The damage that rolling blackouts would do to industry and manufacturing alone would be enough to put Japan back into full-blown recession.

          Hence the plant coming back online…

          The problem with Fukushima was that it was an outdated design, managed by a corrupt and incompetent company, with oversight from an equally corrupt and incompetent government, and not that it was a nuclear plant and therefore somehow inherently evil. Speaking as someone living in Japan at the moment, I’d rather take the tiny risk of another meltdown than have the guaranteed pollution of using fossil fuels, which almost certainly won’t be able to meet demand anyway.

          I’d personally rather a) minimize the risk as much as possible, and b) reduce as much wasteful consumption as possible. If it’s possible to supply a particular place completely through wind and solar, use that. But if not, use whatever makes sense without too much (fiscal, environmental, health, whatever) cost.

          The problem with Fukushima was that it happened. In one particular circumstance, we’ve seen that the technology isn’t completely safe. In others, it is. The questions should be, a) what does it cost to secure it completely (or say, to a high level of confidence that it won’t fail), b) is it worth it at that cost, c) can the supply be met or augmented from other sources and d) if not, should there be an effort to reduce the consumption to safely supplied?

      • benher says:

        Electric toilets? That is your evidence of Japan being a “highly wasteful country?” 
        Do you have any idea how little electricity this saps, how far adaption of solar and wind have penetrated in Japan, let alone the public abhorrence for  nuclear power? 

        All I’m saying is that if you’re going to flank _highly_ with underbars, perhaps you’d care to explain in more detail, and in comparison to whom? China, Korea, or the USA, champions of the ecology and minimal energy use?

        • Cynical says:

          Indeed, I’d also add that this is a country where warm-water washing machines are unheard of, and tumble dryers are an incredible luxury. Apart from air-conditioning (and when it’s 38 degrees with 90% humidity, that’s pretty much a necessity) the comparatively-high kw/h price of electricity over here means that people are incredibly energy conscious, to a level that is unheard of in my native England.

          • Shashwath T.R. says:

            Bringing the indoor temperature down from 38 to 22, just so that you can wear suits is probably not critical…

            Or, as I saw it, bringing it down from 26 to 22…

            One of the weirdest and most successful campaigns in Japan was Cool Biz. Not using clothing created for Northern Europe in rather warm Japan in the summer, to save on the cooling bill? Imagine that!

            But I saw a rather schizophrenic response to it; people wear the suit anyway, until they reach the place where they need to have the meeting (that is, all through the streets, which are by definition un-airconditioned), and then remove it once they’re sure the place they’re going to follows Cool Biz… They need that attitude change…

        • Shashwath T.R. says:

          1. Example, not evidence. I don’t claim to have done a systematic study for a reply to a blog post… I found the society to be generally cavalier about where its energy came from and where it’s going. I just picked an example that I noticed.

          2. I’m not comparing with anyone – especially not the US! I’m saying that in absolute terms, they could be far better than they are.

      • jijitsu says:

        Not so sure your correct about this. The average Japanese house hold uses much much less energy compared with North America. The average person in Japan consumed 8,459 kWh in 2004 compared to 14,240 kWh for the average American. That number has since decreased even more in the last 8 years. Canadians use even more energy.

        Japan uses a 50hz 100 volt system. On top of that the appliances are wayyy more efficient. The biggest noticeable difference is in refrigerators. I owned a fridge for a number of years in Tokyo that was whisper quite and used like next to nothing for energy. After coming back to Canada I had a brand new fridge and it sounds like a mac truck compared.

        However the amount of energy used to power the neon and pachinko is outrageous among other things.

        • Shashwath T.R. says:

          That’s like saying that Saturn is larger than Jupiter. When did the US become the gold standard for energy consumption? Beating those levels isn’t really difficult!

          Here’s a plot I just made… Assuming that “Income level” equates to “quality of life” (I know I know), let’s plot that vs energy use.

          The US is obviously way to the top right, and Canada and Scandinavia are out there too. The reason for that should be obvious; it gets freakin’ cold there!

          Japan’s much better than that, but don’t let the wild outliers to the right skew the picture. Out on the left side, just below Japan in consumption, you’ve got the UK and Germany, using ~1000 to 2000 kWh less per person per year, which translates in real terms (if applied to the Japanese population) to about 100 GWh per year, give or take. That’s 25 Fukushimas right there!

          My question is, when equally advanced industrial societies can do with much less, why does Japan need to spend that much on it?

        • Ryan Lenethen says:

           I have heard that half of Japan is 50hz and the other half is 60hz and has been since the 1900′s. They are not compatible and have to be kept electrified separately.

          I would think that this would be the first thing you fix. Being dependent on cheap energy is one thing, but exacerbating it by having to keep base, and electrification on two separate grids seems a bigger issue than actually having a base load that is a bit bigger or smaller than another nation.

          I mean much of an electrical grid is a balance to keep it all stable and constant, solving that challenge I thing would do a lot towards solving the overall load issues. (that said nukes are wonderful at constant load, replacing a system dependent on that, is not something that happens overnight, or even over several years. Replacing that takes decades realistically).

    • To counterpoint…
       http://www.ne.anl.gov/jp/fukushima-facts-and-myths.shtml

      • WTF? That is the most blatantly dishonest and awful little video I’ve ever seen.

        In fact, you should be ashamed for posting it. Either that or you are living in deep delusion.

        Even as someone who generally distrusts anything the government publishes, I’m appalled. THAT is the ‘party line’ on the disaster?For one, it pretends that the disaster was an isolated, finished incident that only lasted for a couple days. Insult to intelligence.

        It totally ignores the issue of radionuclide contamination of the environment, instead using the oft trotted out milli-sivierts measurement which does not in any way take into account the true harm.

        Then, it says that *15* people died in Chernobyl. A Ukranian scientist spent years studying it and came out to about a million. Just a few nights ago I was talking with a Ukranian doctor, who said that the oncology wards throughout Ukraine and Belarus are full beyond capacity and have been for years. Either one party is wrong or the other is. The 15 number is outlandish.

        Then he blithes says that NOBODY will die from Fukushima! Nobody!

        LIES, LIES, LIES, DAMNED LIES – and, well, no statistics, because they just pulled random numbers out of their butt.

    • R_Young says:

      Are they using the effects of Chernobyl to predict those of Fukushima? That seems an apples and oranges comparison; the Soviet authorities didn’t inform the civilian populace surrounding the Chernobyl plant until days afterwards. The vast majority of negative effects from a limited leak of radioactive material are from ingestion or inhalation. The Japanese may not be good at preventing corruption, but they can manage an evacuation better than any.

  5. Preston Sturges says:

    “Everywhere I look, something reminds me of her.”

    http://youtu.be/S5OQMoSCrqw

  6. jijitsu says:

    Another thing many people don’t get is that Nuke plants produce Nuke waste. There are warehouses stock piled full of it. Currently in Japan they don’t know what to do with it.

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