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Fukushima: Amidst Radioactive Ruins, Renewable Energy Revolution Soars


Fukushima: Amidst Radioactive Ruins, Renewable Energy Revolution Soars

Harvey Wasserman

The catastrophe that began at Fukushima four years ago today is worse than ever.

But the good news can ultimately transcend the bad—if we make it so.

An angry grassroots movement has kept shut all 54 reactors that once operated in Japan. It’s the largest on-going nuke closure in history. Big industrial windmills installed off the Fukushima coast are now thriving.

Five U.S. reactors have shut since March 11, 2011. The operable fleet is under 100 for the first time in decades.


March 11 would not be complete without the usual Harvey Wasserman drivel about Fukushima.
Too bad that nothing he claims about the situation there has any resemblance to the truth.


Like a previous article read, now that green alternatives make nukes obsolete, nuke shills are ramping up their campaign of lies to stave off the demise of their industry.


The new “sans Disqus” site would not be complete without pro nuke power shills like you. Free speech, in contrast with corporately-funded speech should be labeled as such.


Sorry to say Siouxrose I have been retired for more than 2 decades and was never “corporate funded”.
None the less because I am critical of Wasserman you conclude I am a “shill”.
Such name-calling is not new for you.


This is an infograph for German wind power last year:

The red line at the top of the light blue area is the rated capacity. The dark blue is the actual generation profile. You couldn’t draw a picture of a more erratic and undependable generation profile if you tried. And that’s averaged over all of Germany. Adding more capacity doesn’t eliminate the low points, but it does increase the height of the spikes, making it even more erratic. The Germans are rich and they can afford to pay for compensating forms of power, as well import forests to burn as “green” on-demand energy, and they can use neighboring countries grids to smooth out their profile, but this is not going to be a workable global solution. Not unless we can come up with cheap bulk storage.


“Since your last appearance spouting pro-nuclear drivel, there has been much more coverage of the mass die-offs along the westcoast of starfish, sardines, seals, sea lions.”

May 2014: SF Chronicle: “Unbelievable hordes” of fish near California coast; Most birds, sea lions, dolphins, whales anywhere — Expert: ‘Off the charts’ pelican population “highly unusual…

“Is the sea floor littered with dead animals due to radiation? No.”

“Three Reasons Why Fukushima Radiation Has Nothing to Do with Starfish Wasting Syndrome”

“We detected cesium-134, a contaminant from Fukushima, off the northern California coast. The levels are only detectable by sophisticated equipment able to discern minute quantities of radioactivity,” said Ken Buesseler, a WHOI marine chemist, … The amount of cesium-134 reported in these new offshore data is less than 2 Becquerels per cubic meter. This Fukushima-derived cesium is far below where one might expect any measurable risk to human health or marine life, according to international health agencies. And it is more than 1000 times lower than acceptable limits in drinking water set by US EPA."


Old John D. might well get into green

Screwing workers and ratepayers to get even more of it.

Clean energy without clean hands is no Solartopia to me.


The usual lies repeated once again by someone paid for or fooled by the hundreds of millions of dollars spent so far by the Koch-Exxon-ALEC anti-renewables campaign. As always, it ignores the fact that the combination of efficiency, complementary wind and solar, along with smaller but locally important amounts of other renewables, evens out the peaks and supplies all the power any country or region needs. Iceland, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Portugal and other countries as well as regions all over the world are proving it. Combined with conservation and changed lives, giving all kinds of benefits to people and the rest of nature, it’s all we need.

The US, with more phenomenal and more varied clean renewable resources than any other country, lags behind the world leaders in making changes, even though wind and solar have both come down in price by 90% in the last 20 years, are about even in cost with dirty coal and are growing consistently at about 30% a year. We could be energy independent and largely free of democracy-destroying fossil fuels while drastically reducing the horrific ecological, health and economic harm done by fossil and nuclear fuels if it weren’t for that funding from the richest people and most psychopathic corporations in the world.

If we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% in about the next 15 years, we’re facing the very likely collapse of civilization and the extinction of millions of species due to massive climate cataclysm. Clean renewable energy can do the job, and is the only thing that can.


You can’t laugh at the illogical, cherry picking, easily debunked unscientific nonsense of climate change deniers when your preferred sources have the exact same modus operandi.



Extremely truthful article Harvey. I have personally verified everything in it.



today’s tactics relate to the mass media doing the truth (as is done in this article) so that the masses can get off their asses. the ultimate strategy is to get rid of the pesky nukes. AND why is no one reporting on the damage to the pacific ocean, and the orcas and the seals and the fish and of course the human babies. sail on sailor.


Re: Spikes on Wind Generation Chart

Nuke Plants are even worse. They trip offline for months and years for Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Mechanical FUBARs not to mention long periods during leaks and maintenance and refueling and MELTDOWNS which slowly kill everybody. They bankrupted whole nations. The Philippines just paid off their 1970’s Battan Nuke Plant which never generated a single kilowatt since it is the sister plant to Three Mile Island. It was the most expensive Project in the history of the country.

Wind Turbines, on the other hand, have never had a meltdown. During the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami and Triple Meltdown of Fukushima, the Japanese Wind Farm continued to function perfectly.

But you crazy nuke worshippers never warn anyone about all of that. All you care about is selling poison to the world in the way of bombs and water boiled by bombs.

Public Citizen says:

During heat waves, which are becoming more frequent and intense due to global warming, nuclear power plants are forced to reduce output or even shut down. At the same time, energy demand during heat waves increases due to greater use of air conditioning. The heat wave of 2007, 2006, and 2003 had this effect on reactors around the world. Just a few examples include:
:diamonds: On August 16, 2007, the Tennessee Valley Authority shut down Browns Ferry Unit 2 and reduced the output from the Units 1 and 3 reactors to 75%, because water in the Tennessee River was too hot due to a heat wave across the Southeast. TVA had to buy power from elsewhere to meet demand, which was at an all- time high.1
:diamonds: D.C. Cook 1, a nuclear reactor in Michigan, was shut down on July 30, 2006. The high summer temperature, along with warmer-than-usual Lake Michigan water, raised the containment air temperature above 120oF. After unsuccessful attempts to cool the plant for 8 hours, the plant was required to be shut down.2 The plant could only be returned to full power five days later, after the
heat wave had passed.3
:diamonds: On August 1, 2006, because of high water temperatures,
Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania had to cut back production by a little over 1%, the equivalent of power for 12,000 homes.4
:diamonds: During the 2006 heat wave, electricity production of the Quad Cities reactors 1 and 2 in Illinois was cut by about 19% due to the high temperature of the water in the Mississippi River. Three reactors in Minnesota and one in Illinois also had to reduce their power output.
:diamonds: On July 24, 2006, the nuclear reactor at Santa Maria de Garoña in Spain was shut down because of high temperatures in the river Ebro, used for cooling the plant. This power plant provides 20% of Spain’s electricity.5
:diamonds: During the European heat wave of 2003, 17 reactors in France had to reduce output or were shut down. In Germany, the Obrigheim nuclear power plant was shut down, and two other reactors were decreased to 80% capacity, due to high river temperatures.6
This combination of nuclear plant outages and increased electricity demand can result in higher energy prices, because other energy sources are used to meet demand. For example, the 2006 summer heat wave caused U.S. natural gas prices to increase by more than 14%.7 In France, during the 2003 heat wave, the French utility Électricité de France (EDF) had to buy power from other countries on the open market. The cost of electricity rose to $1,350 per megawatt hour (MWh), compared to $128/MWh in normal summer months. EDF was not allowed to pass along the cost to consumers, which cost the company $300 million.8
In order to avoid power shortages that could result from reduced energy production, countries sometimes waive environmental regulations and allow the water used to cool the reactors to return back to its source at a higher temperature. This can be harmful to river ecosystems, which cannot maintain healthy aquatic life above a certain temperature. Hot water discharges may also lead to high concentrations of ammoniac, which is toxic to aquatic plants. Some examples of such environmental waivers include:
:diamonds: During the 2006 heat wave in Germany, reactors Isar 1 and Neckarwestheim received waivers to discharge hotter water than allow by law into the nearby rivers.9
:diamonds: On July 19, 2006, France lifted restrictions on the water temperatures at three plants Bugey, de Tricastin, and Golfech.10 On July 24, France set aside its regulations for all reactors situated near rivers saying that the measure was intended “to guarantee the provision of electricity for the country.” Thirty-seven of France’s 58 reactors discharge water from their cooling systems into rivers.11
:diamonds: During the August 2003 heat wave, the French government granted a similar waiver for seven nuclear sites, consisting of 24 reactors. The waiver lasted until the end of September. For most reactors, the temperature limit was increased by 1 degree. At Tricastin and three other reactors, it was raised 3 degrees resulting in significant damage to the aquatic life in the rivers. As a result of waiving the temperature restriction, one reactor at Blayais legally dumped hot waste water 50 times.12 The heat wave was so intense that air temperatures at nuclear reactors came within two degrees of requiring emergency shutdown. In an attempt to cool the reactor, employees used garden hoses to spray cold water on the outside walls of the reactors.13
In addition to heat waves, droughts are also expected to become more frequent and intense with climate change and can also have a profound effect on nuclear power production.
:diamonds: In 2005, a drought brought the Vienne River in France to a trickle. The Civaux nuclear plant, which takes in 350,000 cubic meters of water from the river per day, should have been shut down under French law because of the lack of water, but was kept running.14
:diamonds: Drought in the summer of 1999 almost required the shutdown of two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio, Perry and Davis-Besse. Low water levels in Lake Erie and hot temperatures brought lake temperatures close to the limit considered safe for electricity generation. FirstEnergy Corp went so far as to request the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to raise the temperature cutoff at Davis-Besse. The heat wave ended before the NRC responded.15
:diamonds: During the 2003 drought, the Cernavoda nuclear plant in Romania, which supplies 10% of the country’s electricity, was closed for almost a month due to low water levels in the Danube. Demand was met by increasing output from coal plants.16
In addition to problems relating to hot coolant water, nuclear reactors have experienced other difficulties due to intense summer weather.
:diamonds: On July 31, 2006, fire alarms went off unexpectedly at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in Michigan. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, high humidity set off the alarms. As a result, carbon dioxide, a fire- suppression gas, was discharged into an auxiliary building, requiring the evacuation of 25 workers in that building.17
:diamonds: In August 2006, the lightning arrester, which is used to limit surge voltages, at the Zion reactor in Illinois was damaged by high temperatures. Zion was shut down in 1998, but power still goes to the plant.18
:diamonds: During 2003 heat wave in France, scheduled maintenance for reactors on the French coast was postponed and kept running at risk to the public in order to meet demand.19
Hot weather clearly presents numerous difficulties for nuclear power plants – another reason why nuclear power should not be seen as a safe and reliable source of alternative energy. When high temperatures heat up water from rivers or lakes that is used to cool down nuclear plants, either the plant has to decrease its energy output which can result in electricity outages or the plant must return hot water back to its source which is unsafe for aquatic flora and fauna. Furthermore, these compromises can sometimes lead to public safety risks. With the effects of climate change becoming more pronounced and heat waves becoming more common, nuclear energy is simply too unreliable to solve our nation’s energy problems.


If the generation profiles for wind and nuclear were reversed, you’d be crowing about wind’s rock-reliable 94% capacity factor and claiming the erratic destabilizing nuclear output alone was enough reason to phase it out.

Here’s another infographic, zooming in on the first third of December–which was the most productive month for wind power in Germany last year. This time, the other major grid energy sources are also included:


This segment also happens to capture a nuclear outage, which shows up as a slight but abrupt narrowing of the red stripe at Dec. 8, with output resuming on the 10th. Compare that to the variable thickness of the grey stripe for wind power towards the top of the stack. To say the nuclear variability is worse appears to be an inversion of reality.

Couple of other things to note from this graph: The other major source of baseload in Germany is lignite (light brown stripe). That line used to be much thinner and the red line used to be fatter, so Germany ramped up the dirtiest coal as the direct replacement for nuclear. You can also see Germany uses predominantly hard coal and gas for load following and wind leveling, and as the share of intermittent wind grows, so will the needed fossil fuel leveling–unless we figure out some way to do mass bulk energy storage cheap.

If you had wanted to venture a more plausible criticism of current nuclear power, saying it isn’t variable enough would have been closer to the mark, since present designs are not good at load following. But nuclear in Germany could easily be three times what it is now without interfering with load-following power. German “Greens”, however, would rather see Germany spew the worst pollutants from the dirtiest brown coal than see it get its energy from vastly cleaner and safer nuclear power. They would even prefer it over better forms of nuclear power which couldn’t melt down and which could do load following.


This German Chart you put up is not about available capacity of nukes, as your wind chart was. So you are mixing Apples and Oranges to make a disingenuous comparison. Your German Chart is about nucear baseload, which means nuke plants are only reliable if they stay under 20 percent of the mix. If you put up a chart for France in 2005, you would see a complete failure of Nuke plants if they had not recklessly disregarded temp limits, since the heatwave tripped many of them off. Nuke plants, as you just admitted can’t be fired up fast or shut down without hazard. It’s a big deal to scram a nuke plant off-schedule.

You’re mistaken if you think most humans will sacrifice health for profit of the nuke industry. We don’t care what solar or wind costs, we want it to replace both coal and nuclear death traps. If the current consumption cannot be maintained, then tough! Survival trumps luxury.


The key point of the first chart (they are both German) was to show that actual wind output is erratic, even as wind capacity grows steadily. The fact the wind capacity factor is very modest is incidental, except to show that as capacity increases, so does the scale of the swings. Your contention was that nuclear was even more erratic, so the second chart directly compared actual wind output against actual nuclear output during a month when wind output was exceptionally good and when there was also a nuclear outage. So of course it is a different chart because it is making a different point. Comparing nuclear power to its capacity factor would not have been the relevant comparison if we want to know whether wind or nuclear has the more erratic output. Also, the nuclear output vs capacity graph would have been rather boring because nuclear in most countries usually averages over 80% capacity and can be up into the mid-90’s, which doesn’t leave a lot of headroom for wild swings.

Capacity factor matters, but wind would be far more attractive and successful than it is now, even at the same capacity factor that it has now, if its output was as steady and dependable as nuclear. And with ideal load following reactors, we would actually expect, and want, the capacity factor to be worse than it is for present reactors. So while capacity factor is a consideration, it is dwarfed by the importance of the generation profile.

As for nuclear power only being reliable if it remains under 20% of the mix, here’s a graph for the mix in France over time:



Your whole premise is absurd. Wind and Solar energy can be stored via underground brine. So the spikes you’re worried about are a strawman.

Besides, if you wanted an honest comparison, you would have compared wind generation vs. capacity in your first graphic to a nuke generation vs. capacity chart like this one:

As anyone can plainly see, nuke power plants can’t even get close to generating their advertised capacity, since they fry valves and pipes with traumatic unscheduled shutdowns, and have zero ability to start up quickly for peak demand. They are complicated and dangerous, so they must be confined to baseline power only. Solar and Wind ironed out with underground thermal storage can provide steady power for baseline or for peak.

And the cost is a fraction of the white Elephant nuke plants which cost billions. Solar is safe and can be added anywhere. It is now required in Lancaster California for all new homes.

Thank god SONGS with it’s unauthorized paper thin heat exchanger tubes made without NRC approval in California was shuttered! Gundersen saved us from that one. Chalk one up for the good guys. Now we just have to close the Devil’s Canyon Nuke Plant (Diablo Canyon).


As anyone can plainly see, this graph violates your own standard of what a fair comparison would be. Look at the units. For example, where the nuclear capacity line crosses 350 gigawatts, suppose all the worlds reactors were running flat out at 100% rated capacity. Where would that put the corresponding point on the orange line? It would put just barely above 3068 TWh, which would be well below the blue line–instead of exactly on the blue line which is what you’d expect for 100% capacity factor. The two lines are drawn on different scales. I could use the same trick to put the orange line above the blue line, but that wouldn’t prove that nuclear power plants always exceed 100% capacity factor.

Furthermore, to be a meaningful comparison to the German wind generation profile, you’d need a shorter timescale and a smaller sample size. At this gross scale, even highly erratic wind power would appear to have smooth energy output.

And as I said, capacity factor matters, but it isn’t the most important thing. Indeed, a well run system would not require all the nuclear power stations to run flat out at max all the time. You want capacity in reserve for contingencies. And when the first load-following nukes come online, they are going to have lower capacity factors than older nukes because load following will necessarily lower their capacity factor, but that generation profile would be even more valuable than baseload, and far more valuable than an erratic generation profile, even if it had a higher overall capacity factor.

As for this notion that the spikey output can be leveled out with underground brine, is there even one country, no matter how small, that has leveled out their erratics this way? What would it take to implement this approach on a global scale?