Japan nuclear-free as last reactor switched off

Sep 16, 2013 by Shingo Ito
Units 3 and 4 of the Oi nulcear power plant in Japan, pictured on June 15, 2013.

Japan went nuclear-free on Monday as it switched off its last operating reactor for an inspection, with no date scheduled for a restart amid strong public hostility to atomic power.

Kansai Electric Power took offline the No. 4 reactor at its Oi in the western prefecture of Fukui at 1:33 am (1633 GMT Sunday) "without any problems," said a company official.

The move left the world's third largest economy without atomic energy for the second time since the Fukushima erupted in March 2011.

Nuclear power supplied about one-third of the resource-poor nation's electricity before a tsunami knocked out and sparked meltdowns at Fukushima, causing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly backed a return to the widespread use of , but the public remains divided over his support, with opponents concerned on safety grounds.

Japan previously was without any nuclear energy in May 2012, when all of the country's 50 commercial reactors stopped for checkups in the wake of the disaster.

Utilities were unable immediately to restart them due to .

It was the first time in more than four decades that Japan had been without nuclear power.

Graphic showing nuclear plants in Japan, including the site at Oi where the last working reactor was shut down Monday, leaving the country nuclear free for the second time since the Fukushima crisis in March 2011.

Government officials and utilities voiced concern at the time that Japan could face major blackouts without nuclear power, particularly in the western region that relied heavily on nuclear energy.

Their fears proved unfounded but the government last year gave Kansai Electric approval to restart No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant, arguing that nuclear energy was necessary to meet increased during the winter.

The reactors were reactivated in July 2012 and resumed full commercial operation the following month, but the No. 3 reactor was shut down earlier this month for a scheduled inspection. The nation's other reactors have remained idle.

Utilities this summer have submitted applications to restart their reactors with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which has significantly upgraded safety standards since the Fukushima crisis.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority members inspect a fault zone near the Oi Nuclear Power Plant on December 28, 2012.

The central government and utilities will seek the consent of local governments and communities hosting nuclear plants before any future restarts.

Radiation was spread over homes and farmland in a large area of northern Japan when the massive tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power pant on March 11, 2011 and caused meltdowns of its reactors.

No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the meltdowns, but tens of thousands were evacuated and many remain so. Some areas are expected to be uninhabitable for decades.

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triplehelix
2.2 / 5 (17) Sep 16, 2013
How many died due to nuclear radiation? None, and most doctors agree the future disease (cancer) increases will be almost invisible due to dataset noise.

How many died as a direct result of the physical damage the actual tsunami made? Thousands

Once again, people like to ban things from one incident.

Quite frankly it was stupid to build a Nuclear reactor on your coast which is a well known massive fault line with many earthquakes (ergo tsunamis) predicted in the near future. At least reinforce them somewhat, or even better, make a natural influx of water and build them further in from the coast so they don't take such a direct hit. We pump water across our entire countries, some stretching thousands of miles. The tsunami reached 6 miles inland, and by then it wouldn't be brunt force but trickling. Pumping water 6 miles isn't that difficult. Just build the reactors further in land, reinforce them, and pump the water to them using the excess energy they make.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (7) Sep 16, 2013
How many died due to nuclear radiation? None

So? Since when is 'causes death' the arbiter of whether a technology is sensible or not?
ekim
3 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2013
How much land has lost it's value due to this accident? Would you be willing to purchase affected land at prior market prices?
Anda
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2013
Hey @triplehelix: how many died of nuclear radiation in Chernobyl?
Also "Some areas are expected to be uninhabitable for decades"
And other global documented consequences...
triplehelix
1.9 / 5 (15) Sep 16, 2013
antialias,

You seem to be confused.

The people of Japan have declared they don't want Nuclear power because of the fukushima incident. However the people of Japan are obviously thinking emotionally, not logically.

The reason loved ones were lost was due to a tsunami. Those loved ones would still be gone if that nuclear pant ceased to exist. Ergo, the nuclear station amounted to 0% of the disaster, as it has had no statistically significant on life etc.

ekim, you're suggesting economical factors outweigh human life factors? How much land has lost it's value to having a god awful windfarm next to it? In UK I have seen lovely £750,000 residences go down to £100,000 due to windfarms. Also, yes, I wouldn't be bothered buying land with those levels of radiation, because it has been proven to be such low levels as to not cause health issues. The reason I wouldn't buy land there is because it is on a giant damn fault line, susceptible to tsunamis - Nuclear or not.
triplehelix
2.3 / 5 (15) Sep 16, 2013
Hey @triplehelix: how many died of nuclear radiation in Chernobyl?
Also "Some areas are expected to be uninhabitable for decades"
And other global documented consequences...


Right, but we're not talking about chernobyl. Also, 31 direct deaths, not much either, to say, the thousands killed on oil rigs and gas plants, including ill health affects on all fossil fuel workers.

One nuclear incident gone wrong does not mean all nuclear is bad.

One of USA's rockets blew up, challenger I believe?

Right, that's it, it's obviously dangerous. Ban it, Ban all rockets and space flight tech.

No, what we do is we collectively gain our knowledge and experience and invent better technology to deal with the situations. The fukushima plant was a JOKE in terms of structural integrity and positioning. Instead of knee jerk reflex banning everything, how about using some common sense and realising that many things humans do are dangerous. If we banned everything that went wrong...well....
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2013
However the people of Japan are obviously thinking emotionally, not logically.

I dunno. It seems to me that NOT using a power source that one cannot clean up after if it goes haywire is very logical.
In every endeavour you should leave yourself outs. Nuclear doesn't allow that. Deploying a technology on the premise that "nothing must ever go wrong" is not logical.
No engineer will ever give you a guarantee on a 100% safe technology and its 100% safe deployment in all circumstances (the people hyping 'fifth generation nuclear powerplants' or somesuch buzzword aren't engineers - they are just fooling themselves)

Remember that the theory of a thing and the building/running of a thing are different issues. Theories can be 100% correct. Building, maintenance and running goes to the lowest bidder.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2013
One of USA's rockets blew up, challenger I believe?
Right, that's it, it's obviously dangerous. Ban it, Ban all rockets and space flight tech.

Apples and oranges. As I said: what causes death isn't necessarily a factor in determining whether the use of a technology is sensible.

Nuclear isn't economical (if you add all the costs of mining, storage/safekeeping of wastes and subtract all the hidden subsidies. In the first decade nuclear was subsidized at 70ct per kWh(!) Today's alternative energy sources are subsidized at less than 7ct per kWh already - and dropping)
Nuclear isn't controllable (see above: No plan B if something goes wrong)

So why use this utterly useless tech when better, cheaper and more sustainable tech is readily avalable? Just for the 'cool' factor?

It is useful off world where you have no contamination issues. But that's about it.
ShotmanMaslo
1.9 / 5 (13) Sep 16, 2013
In every endeavour you should leave yourself outs. Nuclear doesn't allow that. Deploying a technology on the premise that "nothing must ever go wrong" is not logical.


What a strawman. Nuclear does not need to be 100% safe, it only needs to be safe enough. And it is, even with Fukushima and Chernobyl accounted for. New reactors are even order of magnitude safer.

Nuclear isn't economical (if you add all the costs of mining, storage/safekeeping of wastes and subtract all the hidden subsidies. In the first decade nuclear was subsidized at 70ct per kWh(!) Today's alternative energy sources are subsidized at less than 7ct per kWh already - and dropping)


Nah, that is not true. Nuclear is the most economical power source after fossil fuels, and the most economical when accounted for hidden costs of fossil fuels. Subsidies in the first decade are hardly relevant today for any sensible comparison.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2013
And it is, even with Fukushima and Chernobyl accounted for. New reactors are even order of magnitude safer.

That doesn't mean anything when you can't afford the worst case scenario to happen even once. Playing Russian Roulette doesn't become sensible if you up the number of chambers from 6 to 600.

Subsidies in the first decade are hardly relevant today for any sensible comparison.

They are if you consider that a changeover is much sooner leading to a really cheap form of power than with the decade long slog that we had with nuclear power (and if you account for all the future waste management needed nuclear power comes out to 2$ per kWh by some estimates. It also assumes that future generations will take scrupulous care of the gunk we produce now. A wholly naive view. There is no nation in existence today that has been around as long as we need to keep this stuff under control)
Crucialitis
1 / 5 (7) Sep 16, 2013
I guess there won't be a "Japanese Miracle" in this time continuity.
triplehelix
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 17, 2013
Apples and oranges. As I said: what causes death isn't necessarily a factor in determining whether the use of a technology is sensible.

Nuclear isn't economical (if you add all the costs of mining, storage/safekeeping of wastes and subtract all the hidden subsidies. In the first decade nuclear was subsidized at 70ct per kWh(!) Today's alternative energy sources are subsidized at less than 7ct per kWh already - and dropping)
Nuclear isn't controllable (see above: No plan B if something goes wrong)

So why use this utterly useless tech when better, cheaper and more sustainable tech is readily avalable? Just for the 'cool' factor?

It is useful off world where you have no contamination issues. But that's about it.


How is it apples and oranges? One is pure research (rocket) the other is supplying millions with needed power. Nuclear is more important than rockets. The renewable energy example is bogus. How much wildlife have windfarms killed compared to nuclear?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2013
How is it apples and oranges?

There is no alternatives to going into space than via rocket. There are many alternatives to producing energy than from nuclear.
Rockets are essential for space exploration. Nuclear power isn't essential for energy production.

How much wildlife have windfarms killed compared to nuclear?

The impact of windfarms on wildlife is minimal (very negligible for example compared to house cats - or even windows, automobiles, pesticides or power lines)
http://science.ho...irds.htm

Germany has already replaced the total energy production of all nuclear it ever had with alternative sources (and then some). This within a MUCH shorter timespan than it took nuclear to get up to speed.
ShotmanMaslo
1.7 / 5 (12) Sep 17, 2013

That doesn't mean anything when you can't afford the worst case scenario to happen even once. Playing Russian Roulette doesn't become sensible if you up the number of chambers from 6 to 600.


Oh yes, it means a lot, and the roulette does become a lot more sensible. Additionaly, worst case scenario (Chernobyl) is physically impossible with some of newer reactor designs, so this kind of argument does not work. And contrary to uninformed fear-mongering we certainly can afford many Fukushimas or Three Mile Islands. It is a mild one as far as "disasters" are concerned. So if that is a worst case scenario, then nuclear is very safe.
ShotmanMaslo
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 17, 2013
They are if you consider that a changeover is much sooner leading to a really cheap form of power than with the decade long slog that we had with nuclear power It also assumes that future generations will take scrupulous care of the gunk we produce now. A wholly naive view. There is no nation in existence today that has been around as long as we need to keep this stuff under control)


When I witness an industrial high energy use economy running on renewables, with good enough economics and very low carbon emmisions, then I will change my tune. No such thing exists yet, even Germany is far from it. Until then, we need to develop every non carbon and non fossil energy source there is, including nuclear. Betting on renewables only is a huge hazard for our energy future.

We can safely store the waste even for hundreds of years and through political transformations. And if it fails, such society will have bigger problems than nuclear waste anyway.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 18, 2013
Oh yes, it means a lot, and the roulette does become a lot more sensible. Additionaly, worst case scenario (Chernobyl) is physically impossible with some of newer reactor designs

You ma recall that the MTBF fo the Chernobl type of reactors was also billed at 'millions of years'. (And we had about 1 such incident every 10 years)
Don't buy the theoretical-technical hype. Theoretical specs mean nothing when confronted with real world scenarios (like earthquakes, terrorism, plane crashes, tsunamis, ... ).

In the end it boils down to this: You have a concentrated form of energy which is in an unstable position (otherwise it wouldn't be useful for energy production). And you can always contrive a way to release that energy in a much more dynamic way than via the 'engineered' one. Be that a tank of gas exploding or a nuclear plant melting down. And there is a LOT more concentrated energy in nuclear fuel than in a tank of gas.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2013
we certainly can afford many Fukushimas or Three Mile Islands.

Not every country is as big as the US or Russia or China that can simply write off part of their precious land when something like this happens. Japan is tiny. So are most other countries. And after Chernobyl many other countries were affected besides Russia. The cost of that FAR outweighed any benefit the reactors ever had.

No such thing exists yet, even Germany is far from it.

I guess you're due for your once-a-century update in news then.

Betting on renewables only is a huge hazard for our energy future.

Quite the contrary. It eliminates a lot of hazards (dependence on foreign fuel suppliers; risk of centralized energy production facilities being destroyed through natural disaster or terrorism; monopolization and subsequent high energy prices, fallout ue to waste managment issues, ... )

Renewables are the BEST way to a safe energy future.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (15) Sep 18, 2013
Renewables can't yet supply all the energy our civilization needs. Relying on them will restrict growth. Without major advances in unproven tech we are resigned to using fossil fuels.

Luckily natural gas promises to replace coal and oil as a cleaner option.
antialias_physorg
2.5 / 5 (4) Sep 18, 2013
Renewables can't yet supply all the energy our civilization needs.

And the reason for this statement is... ?

Without major advances in unproven tech

Unproven tech, like...?

Hydro, wind, biogas, solar thermal, and solar PV seem pretty proven to me.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (15) Sep 18, 2013
The reason is that renewables have no hope as yet of supplying all our vehicles including ships, trains, and planes; all our power plants, raw materials extraction and processing, factories, foundries, construction, farming, military operations, etc. Not even close.

You may respond that many of these sectors could be reduced or eliminated but you would be wrong. They are all expected to grow as civilization grows.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (15) Sep 18, 2013
AA is from planet eurodisney. Our energy requirements will increase even more as we begin to cope with global warming and/or cooling, rising oceans, desertification, accelerating overpopulation, scarcity of raw materials, general entropy, and the resulting conflict that all these things will cause.
holoman
1.6 / 5 (8) Sep 18, 2013
Germany has proved you don't need nuclear power.
triplehelix
1 / 5 (10) Sep 20, 2013
Theoretical specs mean nothing when confronted with real world scenarios


Agreed Antialias.

It's a shame you ignore this advice on climate models, when theoretical predictions are obliterated by actual observations and data scenarios.

Still, we all knew you was a hypocrite anyway.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Sep 20, 2013
Our energy requirements will increase even more as we begin to cope with global warming and/or cooling

Funnily, energy usage has DECREASED since we started switching over to renwables (despite economic growth) because we instituted measures to further energy conservation (e.g. by giving incentives to insualte homes) and mandating that carmakers have to have a certain mpg fleet-average.

There's still a lot of energy being wasted (since it's cheap and no one needs to pay for environmental damages...yet), and the potential for further efficincy increases is huge.

But why am I even talking to you?..oh well..drone on.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 20, 2013
Funnily energy usage has decreased
No, funnily is how you seem to prefer making stuff up rather than looking it up.

"According to IEA data from 1990 to 2008, the average energy use per person increased 10% while world population increased 27%. Regional energy use also grew from 1990 to 2008: the Middle East increased by 170%, China by 146%, India by 91%, Africa by 70%, Latin America by 66%, the USA by 20%, the EU-27 block by 7%, and world overall grew by 39%."

-Is this the only way you can get your perception to match your bizarre Weltanschuung? Perhaps.

This penchant is even extended to making up words now. I suppose it's ok. It's not YOUR language is it?
Why am I even talking to you
Sometimes you feel ashamed for your cavalier posting style and subconsciously seek to make amends. Youre welcome for the free psychoanalysis.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (12) Sep 20, 2013
And contrary to what many ostriches and overpopulation-deniers like yourself are saying, energy production per capita will necessarily accelerate as we deal with increasing overpopulation, ecological ruin, and scarcity of basic commodities such as fresh water and clean air.

Trash mountains will have to be mined. Rivers and lakes will have to be scoured. Ecologies will have to be rebuilt and managed. Pandemics will have to be resisted. Fossil aquifers will have to be replenished.

Climatic and geologic megadisasters will have to be mitigated or averted. And we will need to establish independent colonies on other worlds. These programs alone will require us to expend as yet unprecedented amounts of energy off-planet as wel as here on earth.

In order to save it the planet will need to be managed like a park. We can do this robotically but it can only be accomplished with an exponential increase in the amount of energy produced per capita.
wwqq
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 20, 2013
Germany has proved you don't need nuclear power.


As long as you can suck on Putin's gas pipe and can accept a coal-chernobyl every few weeks for the indefinite future.
wwqq
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 20, 2013

And the reason for this statement is... ?


Failure to provide energy when and where it is needed. Hence they are a minor fuel saving device coupled to fossil fuels and nothing more.


Unproven tech, like...?


Continent spanning hvdc grids at a tiny fraction of current costs, grid energy storage on a daily, weekly and seasonal time scale, demand management.

There is no more hydro, we used the good locations. Biogas doesn't scale; waste streams can power a tiny fraction of the energy needed to make said waste streams in the first place. People need heat and hot water even shen the sun is not shining, in fact they need it most in sinter when solar thermal is near useless.
kochevnik
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 21, 2013
@wwqq As long as you can suck on Putin's gas pipe and can accept a coal-chernobyl every few weeks for the indefinite future.
No doubt you prefer Saudi Arabia for your Israeli piped gas and terrorism needs
ShotmanMaslo
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 21, 2013

Not every country is as big as the US or Russia or China that can simply write off part of their precious land when something like this happens. Japan is tiny. So are most other countries. And after Chernobyl many other countries were affected besides Russia. The cost of that FAR outweighed any benefit the reactors ever had.


That is patently false. Nuclear reactors in Japan produced and will produce (unless shut down for no reason) electricity worth trillions. The cost of Fukushima is far below this, even with pessimistic estimates.

I guess you're due for your once-a-century update in news then.


Germany renewable energy share is just around ten percent. It is far from a clean economy. And first ten percent are easy, but increasing its share will run into serious issues with intermittency and fossil fuel replacement. It will take decades, if it is even possible at all, until a major economy runs on renewables.

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