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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Japan should consider restarting nuclear plants.

Thanks to Dan Yurman and Margaret Harding for the tip on this developing story.

As of today, there are increasing reports out of Japan that various industries and private companies are feeling a serious pinch due to the shortage of electric power - a shortage that is going largely unreported in the West.

Click here to see a great roundup by Bloomberg of the plants now shut down.

Click here for an interesting pre-paywall story tease at Petroleum Economist.

Daily Yomiuri has a good piece on the struggle and issues as well.

It is this author's opinion that the anti-nuclear sway in Japan has become seriously and irresponsibly overwhelming. The plain fact of the matter is that none of these IAEA or otherwise developed "stress tests" are going to do anything to reassure the public, overall, about nuclear safety. What will do something is to successfully get plants back on line generating electricity without incident.

It my opinion that the best course of action that Japan could take would be to develop a two-tiered recovery plan regarding nuclear safety. Those nuclear stations which are considered in very high tsunami risk areas are the only ones that should remain shut down for an extended period until tsunami protection is in place. Japan's nuclear plants have sustained serious earthquakes for decades with no troubles until now of any note; thus, the plants that are not in tsunami threatened areas should be given a thorough but brief inspection by the Japanese authorities - without waiting for the development of the new agency - and restarted before Japan's economy worsens seriously due to lack of industrial production.

At what point in the past would Japanese manufacturers have considered outsourcing production, or moving their manufacturing offshore? The answer is that they would never have - it is an essential part of Japan's economy that the vast majority of its products are manufactured in Japan. Only now, with a serious energy shortage, is this considered. The effect on Japan's economic health is shown all too well in the articles I've linked above.

The time to hide behind fear and uncertainty is over. The Japanese should stand on the previous forty years of safe nuclear operation and restart those plants which can meet immediate safety standards as soon as it is possible to do so. To do otherwise is to threaten the nation's economic foundation.

9:55 AM Eastern Wednesday February 22, 2012

ADDED NOTE: Perhaps Japan should look at the example India is setting; India plans to have roughly 63,000 MW of nuclear generating capacity installed in twenty years' time. This would be a good place for Japanese companies to move their factories in order to take advantage of more reliable energy and (probably) less expensive labor. Other nations are not standing still waiting for stress tests. Click here for a full story on India's nuclear build program.


  1. The time to "consider restarting", as per your headline, is long past. Your article clearly spells this out. I would say Japan must restart nuclear plants right now and definitely before April.

    Restarting nuclear plants is now almost a matter of economic survival. The catastrophists are likely to bring about exactly that which they claim to be afraid of. The price of irrationality is high indeed.

  2. I'd very much like to know who are (very view) non-corporate pro-nuclear groups there are in Japan to give them some air support and chins-up. It's kooky that the western media more labels and regards Fukushima as a "disaster" and "catastrophe" than the tsunami itself! Talk about a failure of perspective - objective reporting (as though they ever were!) I lived near JFK when we had a jet crash in the '70s and remember driving on the parkway past the marsh of sheet-shrouded body parts still being hunted for days after. THAT was a "disaster" and "catastrophe" -- people being KILLED by an industrial accident. Like you said, the people of Japan should be slapped back to reality that after 40 years of benign nuclear service no one has been killed -- even after THE "doomsday" accident (4x!) that anti-nukers had bated breath for (even if a hundred were killed over 40 years nuclear would still be a safe bargain!). Yet I still see photos of the oil fires and ink-filled skies from the quake and the pollution they caused which actually impacted breathing and health and cleanliness far FAR beyond anything Fukushima's done, yet hardly a wilt of press concern -- and they want lots more of that to replace clean-even-during-accidents nukes?? Knuckleheads! Japan should feel sheepish as hell by their chicken-little knee-jerk shutting down all reactors -- even those not prone to tsunamis! Ridiculous throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Japan's already lost out to China launching its own astronauts and if they want be third-rate in advanced nuclear power too they could blame it on their fear-fanned bogeymen.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  3. http://www.egu.eu/home/fukushima-at-increased-earthquake-risk.html

    "The research now published in EGU’s Solid Earth shows that the Iwaki earthquake was triggered by fluids moving upwards from the subducting Pacific plate to the crust. The Pacific plate is moving beneath northeast Japan, which increases the temperature and pressure of the minerals in it. This leads to the removal of water from minerals, generating fluids that are less dense than the surrounding rock. These fluids move up to the upper crust and may alter seismic faults.

    “Ascending fluids can reduce the friction of part of an active fault and so trigger it to cause a large earthquake. This, together with the stress variations caused by the 11 March event, is what set off the Iwaki tremor,” says Ping Tong, lead author of the paper.

    The number of earthquakes in Iwaki increased greatly after the March earthquake. The movements in the Earth’s crust induced by the event caused variations in the seismic pressure or stress of nearby faults. Around Iwaki, Japan’s seismic network recorded over 24,000 tremors from 11 March 2011 to 27 October 2011, up from under 1,300 detected quakes in the nine years before, the scientists report.

    The 6,000 of these earthquakes selected for the study were recorded by 132 seismographic stations in Japan from June 2002 to October 2011. The researchers analysed these data to take pictures of the Earth’s interior, using a technique called seismic tomography.

    “The method is a powerful tool to map out structural anomalies, such as ascending fluids, in the Earth’s crust and upper mantle using seismic waves. It can be compared to a CT or CAT scan, which relies on X-rays to detect tumours or fractures inside the human body,” explains Zhao.

    While the scientists can’t predict when an earthquake in Fukushima Daiichi will occur, they state that the ascending fluids observed in the area indicate that such an event is likely to occur in the near future. They warn that more attention should be paid to the site’s ability to withstand strong earthquakes, and reduce the risk of another nuclear disaster.

    The scientists also note that the results may be useful for reviewing seismic safety in other nuclear facilities in Japan, such as nearby Fukushima Daini, Onagawa to the north of Fukushima, and Tōkai to the south...."

    More at the link.
    First time I've seen this kind of prediction made. This science is changing fast.