APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chubu Electric / Hamaoka details....

The Japanese Government request to Chubu Electric Power to shut down all reactors at the Hamaoka site results from studies showing that the plant sits above a focal point for what has apparently been a long-predicted earthquake which hasn't happened yet but could hit 8.0 magnitude and could occur within 30 years.

Chubu Electric Power has announced it will agree to the request and shut down the operating plants No. 5 and No. 6 at the site, and not restart No. 3 plant. The earliest two plants at the site are already in the midst of decommissioning.

There is the possibility that, after extensive studies and perhaps plant modifications if required that the three operable reactors at the site could restart. This seems probable, given the Japanese plants' known earthquake resistance. Keep in mind that the Fukushima plants survived an earthquake in excess of that for which they were designed, only to be inundated by the tsunami a short while later.

To our knowledge these are the first plants anywhere to be closed down after the Great East Japan Earthquake simply based on their proximity to known faults, or focal points for earthquake shock, or tsunami threat .. or really any natural disaster threat... without having actually experienced any casualty whatsoever.

3:55 PM Eastern Friday 5/6

UPDATE Saturday 5/7 5:45 AM: Now, NHK is running a story saying the opposite; in other words, that Chubu Electric's board of directors has not yet decided to acquiesce to Naoto Kan's request to shut down the plants. Clearly this situation is fluid (as is the relationship apparently between government, agencies of that government, and utilities) and we'll keep watching to see which way the axe falls.


  1. Very impressive example of Japan Inc. in action.
    This site represents a $10B investment at a minimum, transformed overnight from a major asset into a serious cash sink, well before any legally binding terms for compensation have been set. So if Japan can show similar initiative in developing and building safer new facilities, there may yet be a silver lining to this disaster.

  2. @netudiant: Perhaps... but a dangerous precedent if anyone outside Japan wishes to cite it as an example to close Plant X at Location Y for as-yet undetermined and non-specific reason Z.

  3. Unspicified reason ?

    it looks pretty specific to me

  4. @luca; I was making a point. Not about this situation exactly. But there are any number of old, tired trumped-up charges that environmentalists could unearth and level against any number of nuclear plants here. Meanwhile, they gripe about gasoline costing them over four dollars a gallon and think that the two things have nothing at all to do with each other.

  5. Trumped up charges? Hello - its on a fault with an 80% liklihood within 30 years. It has an 8 meter seawall...

    Survived the earthquake? Not really, (we don't really know) because it was immediately crashed by the tsunami which are caused by (wait for it) EARTHQUAKES.

    Griping about $4/gallon gas? This has virtually nothing to do with the cost of electricity, so "they" are correct. (The % of electricity generated from oil burning is close to zero)

  6. @david: Of course, I can count on you to bring up the most alarmist point of view possible. Thanks for not surprising me. Yes, as of now, "survived the earthquake." Until we get better data, that's the word from TEPCO.. who you of course won't believe anyway. And let's swing over to Buchanan, New York, where the alarmists have been talking about the epochal earthquake that was supposed to have destroyed and melted down Indian Point units 1, 2 and 3 for decades ... but never quite seems to happen.

    Other forms of energy have everything to do with nuclear when we start to knuckle to those environmental whackos that want all nuclear plants shut forever. In that case, we'd be held hostage to the alternate forms of energy - oil being primary - and four dollars a gallon isn't anything compared with what it would be if they had us by the throats. Think about it.

  7. My understanding of fossil fule consumption in the US as far as electricity gneration is concerned is that gas is largely used and shale gas in perspective seems to offer a viable economic alternative.

    So the relation wih gasoline prices still escapes me.

    however fussil consumption does increase greenhouse gases emission and that to me is a concern.

  8. @Will: It is not being "alarmist" to point out that the plants are on a known earthquake fault and have an inadequate seawall. Your kind of thinking resulted in Fukushima.

    Rational, not emotional thinking is required. Japan is an island nation so severe earthquakes are highly likely to result in tsunamis - they are part of the phenomenon, not some random unpredictable event.

    Until we have large numbers of electric cars on the road oil and electricity are unrelated. Most electricity is generated by coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and, increasingly, wind. (New battery peaking plants are allowing wind to be treated more like a base load resource).

    So if foreign oil was cut off nuclear plants would help us: not at all.

  9. @everyone: The point I was trying to make vis a vis oil prices is really simple. People are complaining far ahd wide about gas prices; gas prices can be controlled by entities outside the United States, namely OPEC. Sure, there's a lot of oil produced here... but OPEC reduction in output instantly raises prices. Now, think of applying that kind of reasoning to energy costs here. There is only so far you can transmit AC power.. from windmills, or from solar, or from hydro. Or anything. If we dump nuclear now, we're removing one option that keeps the cost of energy low. That's all I'm trying to point out... use the same reasoning for electricity as for petroleum fuel.

  10. Here for the technical discussion, but have to comment on this:

    "we're removing one option that keeps the cost of energy low"

    Yes, but that's because it is effectively heavily subsidised. Built with tax money, no private insurance, potential impact to population, cost of burnt fuel storage over decades, cost of decommission/demolition...

    These costs are enormous and mostly carried by the public.

  11. @ashen: And if the public doesn't carry the cost, ultimately, who does?

  12. I agree with AShen, nuclear is in fact pblicly subsidesized, manily in terms of unaccounted for risks, insufficient insurance, undelat with spent fuel issues, collateral guarantees requested for new plants, but non everybody recognises this

  13. The public always pays, one way or the other. It's a question of how, which makes this discussion so difficult.