Posts Tagged ‘Fukushima’

Japan plans over 13GW of new coal fired capacity till 2025

March 12, 2015

The Wall Street Journal reports on Japan’s return to coal fired power generation following the alarmist – and inaccurate – demonisation of nuclear power after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which caused the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns. And it is still worth remembering that while the earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 18,000 lives, the Fukushima plant incident has caused no direct fatalities.

The reality is that the cost of electricity production in a 2011 government estimate put the “cost of coal power in Japan at ¥7.5, or about 6 cents, per kilowatt-hour including construction and operation. The same report put the cost of nuclear power at ¥9 per kwh, gas power at ¥10 per kwh and oil power at ¥19 per kwh”Seven new large coal plants with a total capacity of 7,260 MW have already been announced and are planned to be commissioned until 2025. And a further 6,000 MW are being currently tendered for.

The same cost structure prevails in India or China or Indonesia or South Africa. Even in Europe without artificial (and pointless) skewing of the market place, meaningless carbon taxes and subsidies for renewable power which are not commercially viable, coal offers the lowest cost of electricity production. The same cost structure would apply also in Australia. In the US coal is only second to gas.

WSJ: Japan is continuing to re-embrace coal to make up for its lack of nuclear energy, with plans for another power station released Thursday bringing the number of new coal-fired plants announced this year to seven.

……….  Kansai Electric Power Co. and Marubeni Corp. informed Akita prefecture on Thursday of their plans to build a new, 1.3-gigawatt coal-fired power station in the northern prefecture of Japan, the two companies said.

If all seven projects including the plant in Akita materialize, they will increase the nation’s coal-power generation by up to 7.26 gigawatts by around 2025. That is equivalent to seven medium-size nuclear reactors.

……. Kansai Electric, based in Osaka, plans to use the Akita project to supply electricity to customers in Tokyo, the only place in Japan where major growth in power demand is expected, a company spokesman said.

The other projects include Chubu Electric Power Co.’s plan to replace an old oil-power station near Nagoya with a 1 gigawatt coal-power station, and a 1.2 gigawatt coal-power station planned byElectric Power Development Co., Osaka Gas Co. and Ube IndustriesLtd. in Yamaguchi prefecture in western Japan.

More projects are likely to be announced as the year goes on. Tokyo Electric Power Co. is holding a tender to build new power stations to replace 6 gigawatts of old oil-power capacity in Tokyo.  ……

The relative cheapness of coal was indicated in a 2011 government report that estimated the cost of coal power in Japan at ¥7.5, or about 6 cents, per kilowatt-hour including construction and operation. The same report put the cost of nuclear power at ¥9 per kwh, gas power at ¥10 per kwh and oil power at ¥19 per kwh.

……… All of Japan’s 48 reactors are offline over safety concerns following the Fukushima nuclear accident, though four of them are expected to come back online later this year.

 

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Landslides in Hiroshima kill 39, with 7 missing

August 21, 2014

Heavy rain has caused landslides in Hiroshima prefecture in Japan killing at least 39 people including some children with at least a further seven missing.

Hiroshima landslides August 20, 2014 – image Reuters/Japan Times

Japan Times:

The landslides and flooding triggered by torrential rain overnight Wednesday that engulfed residential areas in Hiroshima so far have left 39 people confirmed dead and seven remained missing, and more Self-Defense Forces personnel have been sent in to join the search and rescue effort.

The government boosted the number of SDF personnel deployed for rescue operations to 600 to continue operations through the night. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was taking his summer vacation, cut short a game of golf to return to his office in Tokyo to deal with the disaster.

In Asakita Ward, Hiroshima, one of the hardest-hit areas, a record 217.5 mm of rain fell in the three hours from 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. The city of Hiroshima started issuing evacuation advisories at 4:15 a.m., but an official admitted the action was late.

Japan is perhaps more susceptible to natural disasters than many other parts of the world. Thoughts turn immediately to the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. As of February this year the earthquake and tsunami had claimed 15,889 lives with another 2,609 people unaccounted for and presumed dead. A total of 18,498 deaths.

Even though the nuclear plant at Fukushima actually survived the earthquake but could not cope with the tsunami, it is the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant which still gets all the headlines and lives on in the collective memory. The 18,498 deaths caused by the earthquake and tsunami are somehow pushed aside by the fears engendered by Fukushima. There was considerable radiation leakage but not a single person was killed at Fukushima. Fears outweigh reality.

The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident which followed the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, was about the worst accident that could have happened in a nuclear plant. Hydrogen explosions occurred in the outer containment casings of 2 of the 6 reactors and meltdown of 2 of the cores also took place. A nuclear plant is not a nuclear bomb and a chain reaction leading to an explosion is not a real possibility. It is meltdown of the cores which is the bottom line.

Yet there were no deaths. As the official report from May (2013) this year said:

 No radiation-related deaths or acute effects have been observed among nearly 25,000 workers (including TEPCO employees and contractors) involved at the accident site.

It was the earthquake and tsunami which did the damage, caused some 18,000 deaths  and which led to the nuclear accident. But radiation from the nuclear accident has caused no deaths. And the radiation will cause no deaths.

Why – in terms of media response, knee-jerk government responses and general hysteria – does the awful reality of the earthquake and tsunami get dwarfed and swamped by alarmist but unreal fears? It is as if the nuclear incident had caused the earthquake and tsunami rather than the other way around. It cannot just be due to a fatalistic acceptance of natural catastrophes.

Even with man-made – and therefore presumably avoidable – events, we seem able, after it  has happened, to put even genocide and brutality and several thousands killed to one side and move on. Unless there is a personal connection to the disaster we just file it in our minds in the “Disasters” folder and carry on. Perhaps it is human imagination at work. As long as a risk is unrealised the potential damage is unlimited and we are free to – and we do –  imagine the most unimaginable catastrophes. Once a risk materialises then – no matter how large the disaster – it is finite and capped.

The fear of even an infinitesimal probability of an infinite risk seems to weigh more heavily in the human consciousness than the most awful – but finite – disaster that has occurred. Which insurance companies are very thankful for.

Fear of nuclear radiation is much worse than the reality

October 27, 2013

The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident which followed the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, was about the worst accident that could have happened in a nuclear plant. Hydrogen explosions occurred in the outer containment casings of 2 of the 6 reactors and meltdown of 2 of the cores also took place. A nuclear plant is not a nuclear bomb and a chain reaction leading to an explosion is not a real possibility. It is meltdown of the cores which is the bottom line.

Yet there were no deaths. As the official report from May this year said:

 No radiation-related deaths or acute effects have been observed among nearly 25,000 workers (including TEPCO employees and contractors) involved at the accident site.

It was the earthquake and tsunami which did the damage, caused some 18,000 deaths  and which led to the nuclear accident. But radiation from the nuclear accident has caused no deaths. And the radiation will cause no deaths. The report goes on:

The additional exposures received by most Japanese people in the first year and subsequent years due to the radioactive releases from the accident are less than the doses received from natural background radiation (which is about 2.1 mSv per year). This is particularly the case for Japanese people living away from Fukushima, where annual doses of around 0.2 mSv from the accident are estimated, arising primarily through ingestion of radionuclides in food. …. 

Given the small number of highly exposed workers, it is unlikely that excess cases of thyroid cancer due to radiation exposure would be detectable. Special health examinations will be given to workers with exposures above 100 mSv including annual monitoring of the thyroid, stomach, large intestine and lung for cancer as a means to monitor for potential late radiation-related health effects at the individual level.

The assessment also concluded that although the rate of exposures may have exceeded the levels for the onset of effects on plants and animals several times in the first few months following the accident, any effects are expected to be transient in nature, given their short duration. In general, the exposures on both marine and terrestrial non-human biota were too low for observable acute effects.

The fears of radiation it would seem are completely out of proportion to the reality of damage actually done. The imagination gone wild of writers and movie scriptwriters, has fantasised about mutations and monsters but have had little basis in the history of both military and civil use of nuclear power. The psychological effects of the fears – apparently quite unfounded – have been orders of magnitude greater than the direct effects of any radiation. Japanese children in Fukushima have suffered more from obesity because they have been banned from playing outside than by any effects of radiation.

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by environmental groups is due to their propensity to exaggerate quite legitimate – but manageable – concerns to become Alarmism. Once the Alarmist phase is reached, rational behaviour is no longer possible.  But they have been calling “Wolf” for 3 decades and for far too long now. As catastrophe scenarios and doomsday predictions keep being pushed into the future, alarmist scenarios are increasingly being discounted. There is a beginning of a welcome  return to rationality.

David Ropeik writes in the New York Times:

It has been more than two and a half years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began to unfold, and still the world watches events closely, fearfully. The drumbeat of danger seems never ending: Earlier this month, to take just one example, international news reports spread word that six workers at the plant had been accidentally doused with radioactive water.

Yet leading health scientists say the radiation from Fukushima has been relatively harmless, which is similar to results found after studying the health effects of Chernobyl. With all that evidence, why does our fear of all things nuclear persist? And what peril does that fear itself pose for society?

Our anxiety about nuclear radiation is rooted in our understandable fear of the terrible power of nuclear weapons. But in the 68 years since those weapons were first used in anger, we have learned, from the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves, that ionizing radiation — the type created by a nuclear reaction — is not nearly the powerful carcinogen or genetic mutagen that we thought it was.

Beginning shortly after World War II, epidemiologists and radiation biologists began tracking atomic bomb survivors. Researchers have followed roughly 112,600 Japanese: 86,611 who had been within 10 kilometers of the center of the explosions, and 26,000 who were not exposed.

The most current analysis estimates that, out of 10,929 people in the exposed population who have died of cancer, only 527 of those deaths were caused by radiation from the atomic bombs. For the entire population exposed, in many cases to extremely high levels of radiation, that’s an excess cancer mortality rate of about two-thirds of 1 percent.

These studies have also found that, more than two generations later, there have been no multigenerational genetic effects on humans, Godzilla and the mutant giant ants in the 1954 film “Them!” notwithstanding. Fetal exposure in utero produced horrible birth defects, but no permanent genetic damage.

Perhaps most importantly, research on the bomb survivors has found that at lower doses, below 100 millisieverts, radiation causes no detectable elevations in normal rates of illness and disease. (Among several measures of radiation exposure, sieverts reflect the biological effects of radiation.) The vast majority of the doses received by people living near Fukushima or Chernobyl were well below this 100 millisievert threshold.

The robust evidence that ionizing radiation is a relatively low health risk dramatically contradicts common fears.

….

The World Health Organization’s 20-year review of the Chernobyl disaster found that its psychological impacts did more health damage than radiation exposure did, and a principle cause of the population’s debilitating stress was “an exaggerated sense of the dangers to health of exposure to radiation.”

Epidemiologists are already seeing the same things in Fukushima, where radiation exposures were far lower than at Chernobyl. Radiation biologists say the increased cancer risk from Fukushima will be so low it won’t change general cancer rates for that area, or Japan generally. (The World Health Organization predicts minor increases in rates of some cancers, for some ages and genders, in small pockets of more highly contaminated areas near the plant.)

Nonetheless, thousands of people are refusing to return to their homes and businesses in evacuated areas, even where dose levels have fallen low enough to declare those areas safe. Levels of stress, anxiety and depression are significantly elevated. One survey found that stress among children in the Fukushima area is double the level of other children in Japan.

And the Japanese Education Ministry reports that the children in Fukushima Prefecture have become the most obese in Japan since the nuclear accident prompted schools to curtail outside exercise, in most cases in areas where the risk from radiation was infinitesimal.

Commonsense returns as Japan “reviews” its 2040 nuclear abandonment plan

December 27, 2012

In spite of the seriousness of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident, it was never sufficient to justify the hysteria which ensued and the knee-jerk anti-nuclear decisions taken not only in Japan but also in Germany and other countries. The alarmist, anti-nuclear hysteria often seems to forget that it was the great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which killed around 18,000 people (15,878 dead with 2,713 missing). The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant incident killed no-one directly. There may well be some indirect deaths which can and will eventually be attributed to the nuclear plant accident but there were no deaths caused directly.

Nevertheless Japan and Germany announced hasty, panic-ridden plans to abandon nuclear power. Greens began to rejoice and then started to realise that there is no practical alternative to nuclear power other than large-scale hydro-power and fossil fuels. The pipe-dream of thinking that base-load nuclear power could ever be replaced by unreliable and intermittent wind or solar power began to be seen for the mirage it was.  The high electricity price which has resulted has also seriously disdvantaged industry and hit households hard. Reality has begun to sink in.

Now Japan has a new government and a new Prime Minister. The task of reversing the fear-driven decisions (invariably bad decisions) of the past has begun. A “review” has been ordered and the results are inevitable …..

BBC: The new government in Japan has announced it will review the planned nuclear power phase-out proposed by the previous administration.

Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that reactors would be restarted if considered safe by the nuclear authority. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised bold measures to revive the economy. The stoppage of nuclear power use by 2040 was ordered following last year’s Fukushima disaster.

….. Veteran trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who is also in charge of energy policy, made it clear that the government would not allow its plans to be hampered by higher energy costs.

“We need to reconsider the previous administration’s policy that aimed to make zero nuclear power operation possible during the 2030s,” he told a news conference. ….. 

…… “A strong economy is the source of energy for Japan. Without regaining a strong economy, there is no future for Japan,” Mr Abe said after taking office.

The prime minister had also said that he would allow nuclear energy a bigger role, despite last year’s disaster. Japan, which relied on nuclear power for almost one-third of its energy supplies before the incident, shut all its 50 nuclear reactors after the leaks, but recently restarted two of them. The move has resulted in higher energy costs, and many big businesses want Japan to return to using nuclear power.

Another dent in anti-nuclear paranoia as wildlife thrives after Chernobyl

April 13, 2012

Even with the advent of shale gas, the capital cost of nuclear power plants means that they remain the most economic, viable and safe option for large-scale, base-load power generation for the foreseeable future. And part of the unnecessary time (and cost) associated with building nuclear power plants is primarily due to the obstructionist and delaying tactics of the alarmist lobbies.

A new research paper finds that some of the alarmist scenarios after the Chernobyl accident have been grossly exaggerated. In all likelihood the same strident alarmism evident after Fukushima is also highly exaggerated.

J. T. Smith, N. J. Willey, J. T. Hancock. Low dose ionizing radiation produces too few reactive oxygen species to directly affect antioxidant concentrations in cellsBiology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0150

(more…)

Does France have special information about Fukushima?

March 15, 2011

o600 CET : Wednesday 16th: France is now urging its nationals in Tokyo to leave Japan or head to the south of the country, Reuters reports. It says Paris has asked the Air France carrier to provide planes for the evacuation. The BBC’s Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the evacuation will begin on Thursday. Two French planes are already on their way to Japan.

It could be that France has access to some special information that the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants are much worse than anything being reported in Japan or by the IAEA, but the almost orchestrated negativity from French Agencies is noteworthy.

Politicians and agencies are positive about support for Japan regarding the earthquake and the tsunami, but the negativity  is focused around the Fukushima nuclear plant and is particularly noticeable from Agence France Presse, the French Nuclear Agency and French Radio.

I tend to be extremely suspicious of  French nuclear politics and cannot help feeling that there is an agenda here which involves being as negative as possible about the Japanese nuclear industry to later show up how the French nuclear industry is so much better.

  1. France’s nuclear safety authority says it classifies the Fukushima plant accident as level six. The maximum is level seven, used only once for the 1986 Chernobyl accident, Reuters reports. The Japanese Nuclear Agency has classified the event as Level 4.
  2. Europe’s Energy Commissioner says Japan’s nuclear disaster is an “apocalypse”, adding that Tokyo has almost lost control of events at the Fukushima power plant, AFP report.
  3. AFP reports that several countries are screening passengers on flights arriving from Japan.
  4. Radio France to withdraw staff in Japan after nuclear accidents: Dow Jones

But at the same time France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said: “We expressed our admiration for the dignity and the courage shown by the Japanese during this unprecedented ordeal. We expressed our confidence in the way the Japanese authorities have faced the aftermath of the disaster with such efficiency, which the whole world has recognised.”


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