Japan appears headed down the same scrap-the-nukes trail on which Germany embarked two years ago. We also note that the Democratic Party of Japan has pressed for almost the decommissioning same time table as Germany. The German effort has fallen well behind its initial ambitions and it now seems clear that they will be unable to meet their plan. We will investigate the Japanese plan to see if it appears to make more sense than the German adventure. Japanese heavy industry requires increasing (not decreasing) amounts of electricity if they are to continue in business. Clearly the Japanese have serious issues with nuclear power, and they don't need another Fukushima. On the other hand, nuclear power is what they have, and they cannot simply turn it off and board up the buildings. It may well be that near term decommissioning of several plants is advisable, particularly the facility that was constructed on an active geologic fault. We suggest that the Japanese could learn much from the German experience, and that they might be well advised to proceed with care lest they cause greater self inflicted wounds than they have to date sustained.
And someone is going to have to pay for the transition. Government subsidies and tax advantages are always offset to other areas.
Who will get the bill?
Come on now....
From Japan Times: The group also said all operating nuclear plants should be eliminated by fiscal 2025, arguing that form of energy is "not ethical as it entails huge risks and leaves the problem of radioactive waste."
From Asahi Shibum: The lawmakers' group, which includes Shoichi Kondo of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, Taro Kono of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Tomoko Abe of the Social Democratic Party, plans to campaign for a staged scrapping of nuclear reactors according to the risks they pose, similar to the policy adopted by Germany.
Decomissioning most reactors would likely put Japanese power companies out of busioness. Where's the plan to settle that issue?
From Reuters: The FIT, which excludes large hydro-electric schemes, will require utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal heat at a premium for 20 years. Costs will be passed on to consumers through higher power bills.
From Power Engineering: Among the utilities, Tokyo Electric, which has 13 nuclear reactors excluding the four units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant which have already been decommissioned, would suffer the biggest loss of 1,149.5 billion yen, according to the estimates. Kansai Electric Power Co., which has 11 reactors, would see a loss of 631.8 billion yen, followed by Tohoku Electric Power Co. at 497 billion yen. Tokyo Electric, Tohoku Electric, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and the Japan Atomic Power Co. would fall into capital deficit, while the combined net assets of the 10 companies would fall 75 percent to 1,462.5 billion yen.
From Asahi Shibum: We have been calling for the phasing out of nuclear power generation as soon as possible, and various polls have shown that a majority of Japanese are in favor of reducing dependence on atomic energy. However, there is wide disagreement among people on issues like how fast and how far nuclear power generation should be reduced, and what should be the main alternative to atomic energy as a power source.
From In Depth News: The report notes that a hasty withdrawal from nuclear could be disastrous for Japan. "Decommissioning nuclear power plants is expensive and any rapid change would jeopardize Japan’s energy security and increase its dependence on fossil fuel imports. Equally, a major shift towards renewables would require a transition on a scale never seen before and necessitate vast amounts of financial investment," the in-depth study notes. Instead, it urges Japan to focus in the coming years on restoring a secure energy supply. The country should "rethink" its approach to nuclear energy, including looking to continue R&D in an effort to "build a stronger nuclear industry" as well as making "fundamental changes" to how its nuclear energy sector is run and regulated to ensure transparency and accountability, vital to secure the public acceptance it needs.
From oil Price: As a result, Japan’s fuel import bill has sky rocketed. Liquefied natural gas imports rose to a record in 2011 as utilities have been forced to rely on fossil fuel power plants to replace idled reactors. Japan imported 1.75 million kilolitres of oil, or about 369,000 barrels a day, for power generation in February, more than four times as much as a year ago, according to data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in a separate article, while imports for power generation were up 15 percent from January alone.
Can this transition be accomplished? Of course it can, but not through a government micro-managed politically entangled process. If the Japanese (both government and electorate) will allow at least a modicum of private enterprise and innovation, much good can come from the changes.