Home | About | Donate

Japanese Nuke Restart Given Greenlight Despite Safety Concerns of Residents


Japanese Nuke Restart Given Greenlight Despite Safety Concerns of Residents

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Despite the health and safety concerns of local residents, Japan's Sendai nuclear power station on Wednesday was granted final regulatory approval to restart its operations, meaning it is now poised to be the first such facility to reopen since the industry was halted nation-wide following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011.


I don't recall that the Japanese people have "made it clear they do not want these reactors restarted."
Was there such a nationwide referendum? The cost of replacement fossil-fueled electric power has impacted the economy of Japan and of course the environment impact of that is also a factor that is part of the decision to restart the idled nuclear plants. Where is the evidence of a "failure of representative democracy" in Japan?


I tend to agree that there was no failure or subversion of representative democracy in this instance, because that would imply the existence of a genuine representative democracy to subvert. But Japanese papers have been polling on the issue of restarts for at least two years, and every poll result that I've seen put the opposition to restarts at more than 50% and support for restarts at less than 30%. Among Japanese women, opposition to restart is consistently above 60% while support rarely exceeds 20%. (Not a surprising result. I have never heard of any country where female opposition to nuclear power did not exceed male opposition.)

I think there is enormous untapped potential in nuclear power which we are going to need in the fight against fossil carbon, and I support the development of better ways of doing nuclear power. But I don't support nuclear recklessness (like running a large high-pressure gas line right next to Indian Point) and given the instability in Japan, the kind of reactors they have, their less-than-confidence-inspiring track record in running them and their population densities, it would not be the worst outcome, from my perspective, if they didn't restart. Global nuclear development took a big hit from Fukushima Daiichi which it is only now recovering from, and that was from a reactor which, luckily, was downwind from Japan. But we can't always depend on favorable luck, and another incident could be an even bigger setback, even for completely different kinds of reactors. I also don't think ramming through highly unpopular policies is an effective way to advance acceptance of nuclear power.

I do understand that national sentiments should not overrule global considerations, and Japan is now dumping more carbon on the rest of the planet, but I'd actually like to see Japan try to run the Solartopian experiment. If it can work anywhere, it ought to work in Japan. On the other hand, if it can't work in Japan, that would provide valuable information regarding its prospects for success in places which do not enjoy all the wind, solar, geothermal, ocean current, and hydro resources they have along with their wealth, a technologically advanced industrial base, low residential energy consumption, and poor fossil fuel resources (ie. pretty much the rest of the planet). Even if running the experiment meant dumping some extra carbon for a while, the information gained might more than make up for it in the long run.


I ingest some thorium every day. In all likelihood, so do you. But that's got nothing to do with the restart of Japanese reactors, all of which do not use thorium. On the other hand, thorium might one day play a role in shutting down those Japanese reactors.


Ye gods Finston! Why don't you return to that block of Pitchblende you live under, curl up with your little Plutonium cuddle toy and go back to sleep for a few thousand years. You will not be missed, I can assure you.


We really should fear governments more than tigers.


minitrue wrote (to rfinston):

'Ye gods Finston! Why don't you return to that block of Pitchblende you live under, curl up with your little Plutonium cuddle toy and go back to sleep for a few thousand years. You will not be missed, I can assure you.

I'm impressed! What a well-thought-out contribution to the discussion! After your ultimate sentence, don't you agree that "by me, and quite possibly only by me" should be added?


fake_french wrote (to rfinston):

'...I'd tell you to go to hell, but really, go to Fukushima Daiichi...'

preceded and followed by shamefully abusive language. If you would like to see the question again, I would be most happy (but not deriously so) to provide it.

"Where is the evidence of a "failure of representative democracy" in Japan?'


omniumgatherum wrote (to rfinston):

'Dr. Finkston, I second fake french....you are past your shelf life here on Common Dreams.'

(The ellipses represent shamefully abusive language.) May I humbly suggest that you use Common Dreams learn and possibly contribute, rather than to vent your spleen?


If you've read many of the other comments to FInston, mine is not so far out. I was of course, at least in part, tongue in cheek with my comment. I really don't know what kind of rock he lives under, but from the time of Fukushima, he has been an apologist and booster for anything nuclear and if anybody was harmed by it, it was their own fault, etc., etc., etc.
* He hasn't been around for quite a while, which was a nice relief. I guess we are back to square one again. Sorry I offended you.


Was anything learned at Fukushima? I was curious whether Sendai, the first nuclear reactor approved for restart, is in a geographically vulnerable location. So I looked it up and found out ...
(1) The reactor is located less than 1000 feet from the ocean, at the mouth of the Sendai River:
(2) Kagoshima Prefecture is a region with frequent earthquake activity (3 in the past week):
(3) Just this morning a volcano in Kagoshima is erupting, forcing evacuation of a small island:
(add www to the above) Was anything learned at Fukushima?


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Ah, Lymphoma (aka JohnIannetta) and R F'n Inston in one nuke thread.

And accusations of shillery flying about.

It's almost like the Disqus days!!!!

I'm feeling nostalgic. smile


Come on, he might not live under a rock at all.

Most texts have them living under bridges.


Good point!


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Earthquake measuring 8.5 magnitude shakes most of Japan 5/30/2105


I'm pretty sure nobody does that for wind. Even in Texas, with cheap plentiful gas, I don't think they back at even 30%. If you look at a grid-wide generation profile over the course of a year, it's easy to see why you don't need 100% backup. Take Germany, for example:

The flipside of the adage that the wind is always blowing somewhere is that it is always calm somewhere. Grid-wide, you never get full nameplate capacity. In a productive country, you might reach 70% capacity for a few hours out of the year. It's cheaper to just throw away the anomalous peaks and concentrate on smoothing out the variability in wind that takes place in the bottom third of its overall capacity. Or in China, they can get by with about 15% backup, because their wind capacity factors only average around 23%.

if that $trillion+ had been spent on nukes the world would now be coal free

Current coal global capacity is running around 1.6 terawatts. Meeting that with the kinds of reactors we have now would have cost more like $4 trillion. I think much cheaper nuclear technology should be possible, but we aren't there yet.


"You are missing the point, currently with relatively low percentages of wind power, new fossil plant doesn't have to be installed, it just has to be running on standby matching expected wind output - up to 100% name plate."

When you say "it just has to be running on standby" does the "it" refer to the new fossil plant which doesn't have to be installed? Because I'm not clear on how it could be running on standby if it was not installed.

If you are saying that existing fossil plants can make up for any shortfall between wind production and demand, without the need to build new plants expressly for backing up the wind, then yes, in many places which have low wind penetration, that is true. But just because many places were already equipped to handle demand before any wind was added, and thus can deliver 100% of wind nameplate while penetration is low, that doesn't mean that wind units must be backed to 100% nameplate. With higher penetration, nameplate capacity could greatly exceed demand, and there is no need to back up beyond what demand is likely to be. Backup generation would only be needed to smooth out the low end of the generation profile.

"However in the current low to no electricity market growth situation, subsidized wind makes older fossil plant too expensive to run, forcing retirements, and the installation of new inefficient peaker plants to carry wind backups and replace the old fossil plant when the wind isn't blowing GHG and air pollution saving- none."

By some ways of accounting, the carbon savings from Texas wind power has been less than none. That can also happen where wind starts displacing existing nuclear power. Norway, on the other hand, was able to directly displace fossil with wind, because fossil was only used to reduce hydro drawdown in drier years, and wind can perform that function just as well. But in general, wind isn't going to be of much help wherever it is paired up with fossil fuel plants.

"Actually coal capacity factor is less than 50% so effectively it could be replaced with 800 GWatts of nukes,"

More like 950 after you compensate for global average nuclear capacity factor. Except there's another problem. Part of the reason that coal has a lower capacity factor is that some of that coal generation is doing load following. See, for example, this month of German production:

The brown coal (lignite) generators are baseload, but the hard coal generators and gas are what the Germans are using to buffer the very challenging zone between baseload and the combined variability of fluctuating demand and erratic forms of generation. The capacity factors of their hard coal plants are worse than for their lignite plants, but that's because they are providing a much more valuable generation profile. You can't just replace that with inferior baseload. There are kinds of nuclear under development which should be much better at load following, but those too will have lower capacity factors, so they'll still replace coal at closer to 1:1 capacity.

Ultimately, however, even 1.6 terawatts of low carbon energy is way short of what we are actually going to need to replace all fossil fuels. Even 10 terawatts would have been skimpy just to displace current fossil fuel consumption, and demand is only expected to grow from here.

"With factory mass production, with such large orders, both AECL and Westinghouse forecast $1B/GW pricing compared to the $2B/GW achieved in France, and Canada under the today's old one or two a year scenario."

Horse and cart problem. You have to spend money to save money. Some widgets can piggyback onto an existing production infrastructure, but nuclear power is not one of them. It's going to take many billions of dollars just to build the manufacturing system, and there are basically three sources for that kind of dough. One is through ongoing sales--where you have demand for an expensive product, and the income from that product finances better and cheaper ways of making it. Two is government support. And three is through private equity--either the manufacturer eats the up-front costs themselves, or they bring investors on board in exchange for future payback. For existing nuclear power, all three of those are non-starters. There isn't a clamoring demand for them (and what little demand there is is split between multiple providers), and very few governments, companies, or investors want to take a chance on them because payback is slow, and because there are a number of new-tech development projects underway, any one of which could wind up making current-tech reactors obsolete long before they have a chance to reach payback. With all the competing investments which have good prospects for payback, hardly anyone wants to sink a bundle into building a factory for a technology which is widely seen as doomed and just waiting to die.