Japanese businessman launches Japan Renewable Energy Foundation with mammoth goals

Sep 14, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Masayoshi Son

(PhysOrg.com) -- Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank, one of Japan’s largest Internet conglomerates, announced this week the establishment of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF) with the goal of moving Japan away from its dependence on nuclear energy towards more eco friendly and safer renewable sources. Son, reportedly the richest man in his country, said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun, that despite suspicions by other business people regarding his motives, his ambition regarding JREF is to safeguard the Asian nation’s energy supply in light of the problems encountered by the country in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster following the tsunami last March.

At the launch meeting Son noted that is prone to earthquakes and even tsunami’s which very clearly means that relying on in the future is too risky. Even now, six months after the tsunami that flattened large parts of the coast near Tokyo and knocked out the Fukushima plant, the country is still experiencing shortages and some energy rationing. His plan is for the country to embark on a massive buildup of renewable systems comprised, at least initially, of solar, geothermal and wind collection.

To kick-start this effort, Son has invested 1 billion yen of his own money (from a fortune estimated to be around 8 billion) and says that his company will invest between 10 and 20 billion yen over the next several years. He adds that the goal of JREF will be to move Japan from its current heavy reliance on nuclear power to an infrastructure that meets 60% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. To meet that goal, he says, investments of some 2 trillion yen per year will be needed. He is calling on both the government and other businesses to join him in his ambitious venture.

In the interview, Son says that nuclear power also poses the still unsolved problem of what to do with all the waste. In light of that, and the fact that over the next half-century oil and coal prices are likely to skyrocket, investing in renewable proven energy producers such as wind, geothermal and coal makes the most sense. To that end, he has hired Tomas Kľberger, former director-general of the Swedish Agency to run the JREF. Sweden he points out, is a country that has invested so heavily in renewable resources, that they now account for 30% of the countries needs, and has closed its nuclear plants to boot.

And finally, to address the concerns of those who feel Japan has too little land to devote to solar or wind collection, Son points out that 90% of the land used by industrial parks goes unused as does some 400,000 hectares of farmland that is no longer cultivated due to overstressed soil.

Son concludes by noting that past wars have been fought over scarce resources and those who fail to learn its lessons are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past. He hopes that others in his country will join him and that together they can all secure the future of their country.

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User comments : 19

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h20dr
5 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2011
If the bankers and corporations in the USA were as forward thinking right now we could do the same and put people to work making it happen.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
"In the interview, Son says that nuclear power also poses the still unsolved problem of what to do with all the waste."

There is only one option that wont leave our grandchildren with waste that is radioactive for millions of years, and that is to burn the so called waste in fast breeder reactors.

This option also results in the side effect of supplying all our energy needs, and far better than renewables. :) Of course pseudoenvironmentalists wont acknowledge that modern green nuclear solves both problems they use for their propaganda..

20 billion.. Imagine what 20 billion would do if invested in Gen IV molten salt fueled breeder reactors (LFTR, IFR..).
Someone educate this guy about thorium energy!
krundoloss
5 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
Here's why this stuff is taking forever to replace current systems: Its Expensive and there is little money to be made! Companies just dont want to change to renewables because they make less money! Just like this guy, calling for investors. But how will they make money? Drive energy costs even higher? Lets keep hoping, but Im sure it will be at least 30 more years before renewable is the majority.
ABSOLUTEKNOWLEDGE
3 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
GOOD PLAN

lets hope it dosent go up in fumes

with a few more harp srtikes
djr
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
"This option also results in the side effect of supplying all our energy needs, and far better than renewables. :)"

Who gets to decide which is better? Perhaps we can have a mix. Here is an article talking about the falling price of solar - http://blog.clean...ts-drop/ The numbers are hard to pin down - but solar is probably as cheap as nuclear now - especially if you factor in the cost of transmission lines (you can build solar closer to the demand). There is now the equivelant of 24 nuclear plants in the solar pipeline in the U.S. - I guess things are moving along.
LivaN
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
The numbers are hard to pin down - but solar is probably as cheap as nuclear now


Not possible, especially when factoring in the area requirements necessary for solar as well as the daytime limits.
djr
5 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
"Not possible"

Do you have any references for your assertion LivaN - or just wanting to spread disinformation. Here is a study from July 2010 showing that solar costs were basically at a crossover point with nuclear in 2010 http://theenergyc...nuclear. The cost of solar continues to fall - look at the curves in this article http://solarcellc...age.html as the cost of nuclear climbs. I am open to nuclear - and expect that thorium is a technology important to our future. I am tired of rehashed disinformation - provided without support.

David.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
There is only one option that wont leave our grandchildren with waste that is radioactive for millions of years, and that is to burn the so called waste in fast breeder reactors.

There's other means of getting rid of the stuff permanently
- if we ever find out how to get stuff into orbit and beyond at reasonable cost then we can blow it into deep space (or we could just build a big railgun on earth to do the trick)
- pushing the stuff into subduction zones might be a way

But basically the best alternative is: Don't use nuclear fission. If a process creates waste that you can't handle then go look for something else.

(And no: breeder reactors don't eliminate all nuclear waste and they are also more damage prone because you don't use water to cool them. Just ask the Russians for their experiences with sodium cooled reactors)
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
But why blow valuable resource containing gigawatts of energy into space (which is simply not realistic if you take the amount of nuclear waste into consideration, and the fact that one launch system failure would disperse the radioactive waste into the atmosphere), when you can turn this liability into a great asset?

Yes, breeder reactors wont eliminate all waste, only long term waste. Waste from breeders reaches safe radiation levels in less than 400 years compared to millions. Storing resulting waste securely for 400 years is perfectly possible with current technology. Not to mention that the amount of actual waste per unit of energy is many times smaller with breeders.

You can use molten salt as coolant (and fuel) instead of molten metal, which eliminates problems with molten metal reactors, and also ensures passive safety.

http://en.wikiped..._reactor
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
Waste from breeders reaches safe radiation levels in less than 400 years compared to millions.

And which nation on this planet has lasted 400 years with its current form of governement on this planet? Not one. (And only China and Russia haven't been conquered entirely in that timeframe by some other power)
Do you really think we can safeguard this stuff for 400 years? You're kidding yourself.

[q9You can use molten salt as coolant (and fuel) instead of molten metal, which eliminates problems with molten metal reactors, and also ensures passive safety.
Not quite safety would mean that you have outs once the coolant flow breaks down (like floding everything with water). With breeder reactors you don't have that. Passive safety would mean that the thing is harmless when everything breaks down. Only wind/solar/hydro except for dams)/(and coal) have that.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
Why do you think revolution or war would result in release of the waste? We can make the underground storage sufficiently strong to whistand even nuclear strikes.
Some cathedrals are more than 700 years old, pyramids are thousands of years old. I am sure we have the ability to build passive underground structures that will last more than 10 000 years with current technology, much more than 400 needed.

Besides, your argument is self-defeating, since without burning the waste in breeders, we would have to deal with far more waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, so it applies to your solution much more.

I dare to say that even if renewables proved to be successfull beyond all predictions, we simply have to build breeder reactors anyway, just for the purpose of transmutationg current large amounts of long-lived waste to small amounts of short-lived waste.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
"Not quite safety would mean that you have outs once the coolant flow breaks down (like floding everything with water). With breeder reactors you don't have that. Passive safety would mean that the thing is harmless when everything breaks down."

Passive safety means that reactor does not require any outside action or power to safely shut down, instead, it requires constant action to keep the reaction going. Molten salt reactors are passively safe.

http://en.wikiped...vantages

Read the "Advantages - Safety" section.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
Why do you think revolution or war would result in release of the waste?

I simply think it would lead to people not taking care of the waste sites (they need to be guarded, monitored, occasionally drained, refitted, ... ). Current storage sites are already leaking. The stuff is just dumped in there (not even carefully stacked). Metal barrels don't survive 400 years - even under pretty optimal conditions. And the stuff they contain doesn't even come close to 'optimal conditions'...

the problems are pretty endless - and we are *already* ignoring them. War/revolution won't make that any better.

ar more waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, so it applies to your solution much more

'My' solution doesn`t produce any waste at all: Don't use nuclear power.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
"'My' solution doesn`t produce any waste at all: Don't use nuclear power."

The problem is we already have a lot of long-lived waste. What do you propose we do about it? And no, storage sites or shooting it into space is simply not realistic.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 16, 2011
As I said: Mabye subduction zones are a place where we can 'safely' get rid of this stuff.

First and foremost is that we don't produce any more. Going for breeder reactors is going to produce the opposite effect - because we then certainly would want to continue using them, and maybe even use them on a much larger scale than current nuclear reactors. So the waste problem (by volume) would increase - not decrease.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Sep 17, 2011
But short-lived waste (400 years) is not a problem at all. Only long-lived waste (millions of years).
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 17, 2011
But short-lived waste (400 years) is not a problem at all.

And 400 years of waste is not a problem because ...?

Waste costs money - continually. You have to keep the storage places up and running. So the cost will mount up over those 400 years (and 400 years is rather optimistic) for stuff that you only use for a year or so.

When you figure this into the total cost it makes the entire scheme uneconomical when compared to any other power source - unless you are going with the "let future gereations pay for my waste"-angle which has been so popular for the past century.
LivaN
5 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2011
djr
http://theenergyc...-nuclear

I'm guessing you didn't read the study, luckily I'm hear to do that for you.
At the bottom of Appendix A it states, "A 30% Federal tax credit and a 35% North Carolina tax credit were applied to the capital cost to reach a net cost per kWh". This dropped the cost of solar from 35c/kWh to 16c/kWh. Next, they estimate the construction cost of a new reactor at around $8000/kWh, while Chinese are building 4 reactors for an estimated $1733/kWh. They are anticipating, with the aid of mass construction, to produce reactors for as low as $1000/kWh.
Heres an interesting comment on the very page you linked, "While the study includes subsidies for both solar and nuclear power, it estimates that if subsidies were removed from solar power, the crossover point would be delayed by a maximum of nine years". So crossover will be 2019, and that's with reactors costing a staggering $8000/kWh.