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Japan's Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the less-power-to-the-people dept.

Japan 267

mdsolar sends this quote from an article at the NY Times: "All but two of Japan's 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted. With the last operating reactor scheduled to be idled as soon as next month, Japan — once one of the world's leaders in atomic energy — will have at least temporarily shut down an industry that once generated a third of its electricity. With few alternatives, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has called for restarting the plants as soon as possible, saying he supports a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over several decades. Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."

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Need login to read an article? (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299755)

Need login to read an article? Really??

Re:Need login to read an article? (4, Informative)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299813)

Re:Need login to read an article? (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299821)

Linking from google search always works.

Re:Need login to read an article? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299875)

It's O.K, it's just another pathetic anti-nuclear article submitted by mdsolar, a known kook and scaremonger. It's unlikely the NYTime article says anything remotely like mdsolars summary implies. In fact, just assume the complete opposite of anything mdsolar has written in the summary.

Re:Need login to read an article? (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299955)

At least he has a name.

Re:Need login to read an article? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300611)

It isn't a summary, it's a quote taken directly from the article. So yes the article does say exactly the same as the summary.

Re:Need login to read an article? (5, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300057)

It's the NYT paywall - you just need to change the '_r' parameter in the URL to 0 instead of 4.

Re:Need login to read an article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300591)

Hilarious! :D

Re:Need login to read an article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300907)

It's odd, I was able to find the article through their front page without ever seeing a paywall.

The url is http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/world/asia/japan-shutting-down-its-nuclear-power-industry.html
Clicking the article link brings me to a paywall.

I'm located in Europe, not sure if this has anything to do with it.

See? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299773)

And a year ago you were laughing at Germany going non-nuclear.

Now it is a competition between Germany and Japan to innovate the non-nuclear market with their new technologies.

Re:See? (-1, Flamebait)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299793)

We showed Japan the power of nuclear energy once and they apparently loved it. Maybe they need to see another demonstration?

Re:See? (1, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300401)

Maybe they need to see another demonstration?

Did that already with Nagasaki. You mean a third time?

Re:See? (3, Insightful)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299831)

And when (if) fusion becomes commercially viable what then? Japan was leading the world in fusion research and it was expected that they'd crack the break-even point first. I'd hate to see such an important development set back because a poorly maintained fusion reactor that was past its decommision date couldn't survive a simultaneous earthquake and tsunami...

Re:See? (1)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299997)

Mmh looks like you mixed fusion and fission at least once in your reply.

Re:See? (2)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300415)

Yeah - my bad.
"poorly maintained fission reactor" is what I should have typed.

Re:See? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299887)

Germany doesn't have the same environmental threats to a nuclear facility that Japan does (namely building foundation issues, geological activity, and the tsunamis that stem from that actiity). It makes sense for Japan to steer away from it - it doesn't make sense for Germany to - we are still laughing at Germany.

Re:See? (2)

Stizark (1962342) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299893)

It's a shame, really. I'd love to see Japan eventually replacing the old reactors with the newer, safer ones. Especially in the more stable areas. I realize there's still a lot of hysteria in that area, still, but reason and logic could quell their fear. I think most people at with at least a modicum understanding of tech-- and most that I know, I've gathered from this site and the links provided-- realize the benefits newer reactors offer over the old.

Even so, if there are two nations with a history and will capable of innovating new tech for energy, it's Japan and Germany. I wish them the best in the effort. Who knows, the whole world might benefit from the research. Can you imagine a world not handicapped by the need for fossil fuels? Many oppressive regimes would lose the foundation on which they stand.

Re:See? (5, Funny)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299965)

Wow, that sounds like JUST want we need -- Germany and Japan starving for energy.

Certainly that will end well!

Re:See? (4, Insightful)

El Torico (732160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300551)

It's already significantly affected Japan. For the first time since 1980, Japan has a negative balance of trade. This is from the Trading Economics [tradingeconomics.com] site page on Japan.

Last year Japan’s trade balance fell into an annual deficit for the first time since 1980, driven by subdued global demand and soaring fossil fuel imports in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power crisis.

I fully understand their desire to decrease dependence on nuclear power in light of the disaster, but quitting "cold turkey" obviously has had a strong negative impact.

Re:See? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299983)

There is nothing as secure than a nuclear reactor.

Except, when humans are working in it. I don't trust humans.

There should be something to keep them away from secure nuclear reactors... something like.. radiation..

Re:See? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300917)

I knew it! Aliens are spying on us!

Re:See? (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300593)

Yes, I can imagine imagine a world not handicapped by the need for fossil fuels, but that's not going to happen in my life unless there are some truly astounding breakthroughs in alternative energy. The earth's population is increasing too rapidly for that. The global population may be as high as 10.5 billion by 2050 and the global energy demand will be proportionally higher. Although the use of alternative energy sources will increase, so will the use of conventional sources. The mix between oil, natural gas, and coal will change, but they will all still be used.

Non-nuclear? Oh , you mean oil... (4, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300033)

... that they're currently shipping in in vast quantities? I'm sure thats doing wonders for their CO2 footprint.

Time to invest... (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299803)

...in the candle industry.

Another example of cronyism (0, Flamebait)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299815)

When government and businesses are in bed with each other, people get hurt.

Re:Another example of cronyism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299951)

So business created the tsunami?

Re:Another example of cronyism (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300197)

So business created the tsunami?

Typically anonymous and cowardly comment. Business decided where to put the reactor, in a location they knew were unsafe, and government forced that decision through. So while business didn't create the tsunami, they deliberately created the situation in which a tsunami would cause a meltdown, and did so with government oversight.

Re:Another example of cronyism (4, Interesting)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300957)

So business created the tsunami?

Typically anonymous and cowardly comment. Business decided where to put the reactor, in a location they knew were unsafe, and government forced that decision through. So while business didn't create the tsunami, they deliberately created the situation in which a tsunami would cause a meltdown, and did so with government oversight.

Business doesn't decide anything in Japan. Japan has one of the most rigid centralized governments anywhere in the world. If you want to move a local street sign, you have to get permission from Tokyo. The government decides everything over there. I don't want to call Japan fascist... since they do have free elections there... but the Japanese government certainly does pick winners and losers in their corporate field in the way that classic fascist governments did, and the corporations in Japan take their marching orders from Tokyo. This is by design, and it's been the model since post WWII. This model is supposedly why Japan was going to rule the world via business (instead of by military force) by the mid-90's. Several books in the 80's touted the superiority of this model to the American market system, declaring the US system obsolete. It didn't quite work out that way. Japan is now in its' third decade of economic doldrums, yet the government clings to this top-down model. One of the things that Japanese companies found when they started building factories and plants in the US and abroad was that they had much more freedom to operate locally than back at home.

You seem to think that businesses tell the government what to do over there. Quite the opposite. The government bureaucracy completely rules that country. If the reactors were built in a bad place, then Tokyo was just fine with that.

Re:Another example of cronyism (4, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300961)

Actually, this is one of the rare cases where business is the force for "good", while public opinion is the force for "evil".

If public didn't hear associate "radiation" with "oh god, a HORRIBLE DEATH GLOWING GREEN!", reactor subsystems would have been upgraded to more modern ones quite a while ago. But they can't be upgraded, because "upgrades to nuclear power plants peripherals" will be spun as "upgrading nuclear power plants" which will be heard as "we are building more nuclear power, HORRIBLE DEATH GLOWING GREEN!".

So we end up having tech from 60s (when entire industry was born in 50s!) instead of modern reactors and modern peripherals that would have taken the punishment of that tsunami. Hell, we can't even research new tech because of public opinion, and are forced to use old tech. Fukushima was a great demonstration of how well plants were actually made - many forget that plants were built to withstand 7 magnitudes and reasonable tsunamis, and got hit by 9 magnitudes and biggest tsunami in a century and then some. And even so, the plant didn't cause a single death, even with tsunami wiping out essentially all infrastructure of the region and killing 30.000 people.

We really should make a name for "stupid, loud and opinionated people" as a concept. "Sheepism" maybe?

And... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299835)

With the shutdowns, costs for electricity, etc, will go up due to law of supply and demand. And the people won't like it, and blame the government...will be wonderous.

energy rations? (1, Insightful)

e3m4n (947977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299837)

I guess with 1/3rd of their power offline, they could mandate energy rations to everyone. If they get tired of that system they can, as a community, opt to re-instate their reactors and make a long term plan to switch to some other non-petroleum source for power. They have brilliant scientists, I'm sure they can figure this out. Greed seems like less of a hindrance there than here in the USA.

Re:energy rations? (5, Informative)

ommerson (1485487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300017)

The Japanese have been very successful in curbing demand. I was over in Japan for a week on a business trip last year, and it was interesting to see how they did it. This included absolutely all hand-driers in toilets being switched off, less air-conditioning (room temperature was set for 28C in the office), the business week of large corporations shifted to reduce peak-week-time demand and increase that on the weekend, and a move to more relaxed corporate dress-code - which included in many cases, a small towel attached to the waistband with which to mop off the sweat form the oppressive environment. There were no doubt more measures that I wasn't aware of, but life definitely carries on as normal without power cuts.

Our suspicion is that this state of affairs will become the norm.

Re:energy rations? (2)

mlush (620447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300355)

They certainly had enough room to make cuts, when I was last in Kyoto every hotel room had SuperKettles [superkettles.co.uk] running in every room and heated toilet seats ... ironic given the location

Re:energy rations? (3, Informative)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300391)

Yet if you look at they graphic in the article it looks like they've only managed to reduce demand by about 10%. Not a huge reduction when you take into account the changes in living standards. Just goes to show that conservation will only go so far and it's all the things in the background that a required on a day to day basis that is the big hitters.

Re:energy rations? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300471)

less air-conditioning (room temperature was set for 28C in the office),

Which, in my case, would reduce work productivity to such a significant degree that saving the money for air conditioning just wouldn't be efficient at all. I'd rather work in the evening at home if I had to do that.

Re:energy rations? (1)

ommerson (1485487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300711)

I found it distinctly unpleasant to work in too. It is said that one can acclimatise to it though. Be warned though - the evenings are not necessarily cooler than Western room-temperature.

Re:energy rations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300851)

less air-conditioning (room temperature was set for 28C in the office),

Which, in my case, would reduce work productivity to such a significant degree that saving the money for air conditioning just wouldn't be efficient at all. I'd rather work in the evening at home if I had to do that.

It's not about saving money, it's about saving electricity. Did you even read the summary?

Re:energy rations? (2)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300381)

Freedom seems like less of a hindrance there than here in the USA.

FTFY.

Remember, this is the land of the mandatory home inspections by the police. Let's not hold them up as the model of a perfect society.

Re:energy rations? (5, Interesting)

El Torico (732160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300691)

I lived in northern Japan last year during the summer. The Japanese voluntarily cut back their electricity use so much that they didn't need to impose energy rationing. I don't know if that has changed since I left.

Reportage on Fukushima (5, Insightful)

olau (314197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299845)

Danish television had a reportage on the effect of the Fukushima incident on the people living nearby.

After seeing the reportage, I can understand why they are shutting down the other reactors for the time being. It's one thing reading that nuclear power plants statistically kills very few compared to other sources of energy, it's another thing when you have to leave your ancestors home for 12 generations, or be stuck with a house that nobody will buy because even if it's outside the immediate danger zone and the authorities say it's safe, noone wants to take the risk.

Whether fair or not, the incident violated the trust people had in the administrators of the nuclear tech, and it's going to take something to earn that trust back.

Re:Reportage on Fukushima (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300211)

people are being kept out of their homes by fear and stupid regulations, not by any real danger. There is no evidence of health risks for radiation levels 10 or 100 times above 'safety' regulations.

Re:Reportage on Fukushima (2)

RogueLeaderX (845092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300399)

[citation needed]

Re:Reportage on Fukushima (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300681)

Re:Reportage on Fukushima (1, Insightful)

Walterk (124748) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300305)

Actually, I'd happily buy a house that like at a steep discount.

Alternatives? (5, Insightful)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299847)

And what are Japan, Germany, etc. going to do for energy once they've phased out their big, scary nuclear power plants? Unless they find a way to quickly and effectively implement large-scale solar plants/farms, geothermal, etc. they're going to resort to burning fossil fuel. A big step backwards because, under extreme circumstances, nuclear can be dangerous.

You know what's even more dangerous than an accident at a nuclear plant? A world-wide war over the planet's dwindling fossil fuel supplies.

LOL, Bitter Nucleartard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299895)

Love it!

Re:LOL, Bitter Nucleartard (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300009)

It's a reasonable question. They are going to have to get their electricity from somewhere & generating capacity don't grow on trees.

They don't have a lot of fossil fuels, so they are going to be importing coal, oil or gas. Coal plants take time to build, although they are easier than nuclear. Gas turbines are relatively quick and cheap to commission but the cost of fuel is extortionate right now & unlikely to improve.

Germany are taking the route of pretending to get by with wind power by importing nuclear electricity from France. That doesn't work for Japan.

Re:LOL, Bitter Nucleartard (4, Funny)

joib (70841) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300173)

They are going to have to get their electricity from somewhere & generating capacity don't grow on trees.

Unless they burn, um, err, apples? Yes, APPLES!

  1. 1. Solve world energy crisis
  2. 2. Get Nobel peace price
  3. 3. Profit!!!

Man, I'm awesome!

Cherries instead of apples (1)

fritsd (924429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300367)

Apples?? I dunno.. their pulp looks too bland to be useful.
Sounds to me like the juice from Japanese Cherries [wikipedia.org] contains more anthocyanins to put into your el-cheapo Grätzel solar cell [wikipedia.org] . (Are Anthocyanins actually any good for that? Could you use blueberry juice instead?)

Re:LOL, Bitter Nucleartard (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300409)

Germany are taking the route of pretending to get by with wind power by importing nuclear electricity from France. That doesn't work for Japan.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/14/europe-power-supply-idUSL5E8DD87020120214

Re:LOL, Bitter Nucleartard (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300571)

France relies heavily on shitty heating equipment, France's homes are, generally, pretty shittily insulated against the elements (they lost more to a warm month than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan), and Germany fired up coal plants to meet demand.

Where's the news here?

Re:Alternatives? (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299919)

The difference between them is that Japan doesn't have fossil fuels either.

Re:Alternatives? (0)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300043)

They should engineer tsunami power plants. And there should be plenty of geothermal power.

Re:Alternatives? (4, Informative)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300747)

Japan was already the #2 nation in the world at burning oil for power; Saudi Arabia was #1, no surprise. #3? Good ol' USA - courtesy Hawaii. Japan is the #3 oil consumer in the world; Japan - Analysis - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) [eia.gov] . The estimate is for them to increase oil consumption ca. 238k barrels per day to make up for the shortfall from offline nukes; oil only provides 10% of their generating capacity. This will add a few % points to the overall price of crude but Iran sanctions and growing demand from developing countries will be larger factors.

Japan also shed 423 kb/d in 2009, due to the recession, so they're simply backtracking to earlier consumption levels.

Re:Alternatives? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299977)

I'm not worried about Germany. Already in 2011 clean energies (wind/solar/biomass/hydro) surpassed nuclear in production 108TWh nuclear vs 117TWh. This out of a grand total of 612TWh. Most of the electricity comes from coal.

There are large programs under way to expand on that. The biggest challenge are the transmission lines who do not have the capacity to ferry large amounts of electricity from the new production areas (north) to where electricity is used and can be stored in hydro plants (south).

Re:Alternatives? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299995)

Most of their citizens will probably move to China to follow all the jobs that leave due to all the companies leaving for countries that can meet their power demand. After everyone has left, the existing fossil fuel generation plants will easily be able to provide electricity for the remaining population! Problem solved!

PROBLEM SOLVED I SAY!

Re:Alternatives? (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300583)

And then when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death!

Re:Alternatives? (5, Interesting)

olau (314197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300001)

I get the impression this is a temporary shutdown?

As for Germany, speaking as someone coming from a neighbour country, it seems they're really into getting more renewable energy sources up and running. If you were really interested in this, as opposed to just complaining, you could check out the Wikipedia page on renewable energy in Germany [wikipedia.org] .

To be honest, I think the tech is there, it's just a question of dumping some money into it, and the increasing oil prices are helping with that. The Danish engineering society had a plan for Denmark to get rid of (I think?) 90+% of the current dependence on fossil fuels in 2050. We have no nuclear power plants.

Re:Alternatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300875)

Yes, we all know that Europe has tons of money to dump into renewable energy sources; it's not like there's a debt crisis or anything. Oh wait, there is.
How may people live in Denmark? About 5.5 million. That's a large city nearly everywhere else (Miami, USA has about 5.6 million and Nanjing, China has about 5.4 million), so your country doesn't have nearly the challenge that China, India, the US, Japan, and Germany has in making the transition to alternative energy reliance. Good luck though, I honestly hope that you can do it.

Re:Alternatives? (2)

mws1066 (1057218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300013)

So maybe this is the chance for Japan to lead the way in serious and applicable alternative energy sources, particularly since they have no native access to fossil fuels.

Re:Alternatives? (4, Insightful)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300177)

Japan has a huge coast line, it's an ideal location for wind parks. Germany is investing heavily into that, but that means (among other things) to build HVDC transmission lines to reach the coast. Japan doesn't even need to do that. For reference, here is a report from the Royal Corps of Engineering about the costs of various power sources: Costs_Report [countryguardian.net] . Wind is actually quite affordable despite the standby costs (taken into consideration by the report). Electric cars and demand shaping (e.g. with smart metering) could help bringing that down further.

Extreme circumstances are normal in the pacific ring of fire, and just like Germany, Japan has no place to store the spent nuclear fuel. Neither country can afford to lose a chunk of land like the region around Fukushima - they are densely populated and the land is highly developed and valuable.

That doesn't mean that nuclear power doesn't make sense anywhere, but Japan is the wrong place for it.

Re:Alternatives? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300283)

"You know what's even more dangerous than an accident at a nuclear plant?"

cucumbers. ecoli in salad killed 40 people in europe last year.
(aids, cars, air pollution, war, tobacco, heart disease, natural disasters, etc also come come out quite high)

Re:Alternatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300615)

The Germns plan to buy electricity from France. And guess where the French get their power from? Yup mostly nuclear power stations of which many are situated along the border with Germany. So from a safety perspective Germany has achieved little and driven up the cost of electricity.

Re:Alternatives? (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300753)

Germany is getting gas from Russia, preferentially. During the cold-spell in february, Gazprom reduced gas deliveries to Germany for exactly one day, quite unlike deliveries to all the Eastern European countries that were much harder hit. Who cares about people freezing to dead, so long as it's not in Germany? Oh, of course, Germans refuse to get their own gas from fracking. Based on (justified) fears about the chemicals being used, they (unjustifiably) banned the whole industry, instead of merely banning the use of harmful chemicals.

Germany is also proudly wasting 2.3mio ha of agricultural land to make biogas, bioethanol and biodiesel. In 2010 Russia lost 10mio tons of wheat to the worst drought in 100 years. Supposedly, this caused price inflation on the world food markets. Well, Germany could have harvested 18mio tons of wheat on that land in 2010.

For all the talk about carbon neutral energy, Germany is turning towards burning more coal. Having mostly stopped to mine its own coal (except lignite), it is importing ever greater amounts of the stuff from abroad. Poland used to be the largest exporter of coal to Germany, but it too is phasing out coal mining in the coming years. Southern Africa and Australia are now focussing on the Asian market, leaving such trustworth partners as Russia and Columbia to take up the slack.

Meanwhile the Green party is proposing schemes to provide electricity to Germany with renewables leaving reserves of less than 2 weeks before lights go out (if storage is filled to the top!). Using efficiency values based on lower heating values (instead of higher heating values that they use everywhere else), ignoring energy cost of storage, assuming methane-storage round-trip efficiencies of 50% (current technology barely allows for 30%) and obfuscating the monetary cost has always been par for the course, so I won't complain about that anymore. Did I mention they oppose vital high voltage power lines for their damage in the environment and unsightliness, while demanding tens of thousands wind turbines to be build as soon as possible?

Low Power (5, Informative)

Eggbloke (1698408) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299851)

My dad was saying that Tokyo is depressing, apparently there are power shortages so most of the signs and escalators are turned off and the city is dark. How are they supposed to make up their energy requirements if they stop using nuclear?

Re:Low Power (1)

gtvr (1702650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299881)

Coal? Hamsters on spinning exercise wheels?

Re:Low Power (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300429)

Tentacle porn?

Re:Low Power (5, Informative)

Tsian (70839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299917)

That is not really true. There was a period of (planned) rolling blackouts, but in the end energy conservation (and increased generation) meant that, except for immediately after the quake, the lights didn't go off.

However, many buildings (and stations) reduced lighting and took some escalators out of service. However, even those measures have mostly been abandoned, with escalators and the like operating as before (partly due to the fact that it wasn't practical to block off escalators in many of the busier stations). Many stores and offices, however, continue to turn off some of their lights.

That said, even at "reduced" lighting, most Japanese stations are still incredibly well lit. We aren't talking about platforms half shrouded in shadow so much as a slight reduction in the overall brightness level.

It will be interesting to see, however, what happens as we once again approach summer (and the increased energy demands due to A/C) combined with the current shut-down of nuclear power plants.

Re:Low Power (1)

LittleImp (1020687) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300397)

They burn through a shitton of oil.

Re:Low Power (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299993)

This hasn't been the case for months. I was in Tokyo a few years back and again in september 2011, a few months after Fukushima. The difference was negligible. Signs and escalators were on as usual. There were no rolling blackouts. They had just switched back the airport express trains to the regular schedule too after running them on reduced traffic for a while. I did a fair bit of travelling around central and western Japan and there were no signs of power shortages anywhere (granted I didn't go anywhere very near to Fukushima). The only thing that reminded me that there had been any kind of nuclear power-related incident was that I found one grocery advertising guaranteed radiation-free food.

I strongly believe the scale and impact of the Fukushima incident was vastly exaggerated by western media for the sake of sensationalism. The consequences for those living nearby were severe. For everyone else life returned to normal after a few months.

Re:Low Power (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300695)

They've shut down many reactors since your time there. They didn't shut down 52 power plants in a month. They probably phased out several per month.

Your point is still interesting.

Shutting down is the right thing to do (-1, Troll)

dtjohnson (102237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299863)

Nuclear power is very expensive, generates toxic dangerous waste that requires long-term storage, and has the sizable potential to contaminate large areas of land making them uninhabitable for decades. Other power generation methods are much better.

Re:Shutting down is the right thing to do (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39299935)

Except in one important area: Meeting demand.

Re:Shutting down is the right thing to do (0)

digitalsolo (1175321) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299943)

Can you give an example that has equivalent output/density and is not fossil fuel powered?

Re:Shutting down is the right thing to do (1, Insightful)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300015)

Fossil fuel power is even more expensive, generates toxic gasses and residue, and does contaminate large areas of land. It also has the problem that the fuel is running out.

Sometimes you have to pick an option that is not perfect, and nuclear was a perfectly good slice in the energy mix. Shutting it down suddenly just causes supply shortages.

I know a bit of what's going on... (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299941)

... but probably not much more than some of the more +1 Insightful commenters here.

The core of their problem is arrogance and the influence business has over government regulators. The days of shoguns and daimyos are long behind Japan but somehow the mindset still lives on. There are a few very large companies in Japan with a rich and tight lineage that dates back to before the Meiji restoration. Their influence over government and their "job-for-life" filial piety along with their reluctance to challenge the people "in charge" of things has led to a poorly regulated nuclear industry which allowed the Fukushima disaster to occur.

But Japan is not "unique" in this. It just so happens that they were the first to get tripped up with a natural disaster. But that said, they did a lot of things in the handling that simply made it worse and worse. (Still, they came in 2nd when you compare Fukushima to the BP oil spill and BP's handling of that.) In the US, the nuclear industry and been playing a pushing game where the NRC pushes the nuclear energy companies and the nuclear energy companies push back through various means not the least of which are lobbying and other forms of politics. One difference between the US and Japan is found in the success of independent watchdog groups who take personal interest in the environment and the safety of nuclear energy. Greenpeace is a huge annoyance, but they also serve an important purpose in that they can and do bring light to problems that would otherwise be swept under the rug. This exists less in Japan and problems that some people have knowledge of are often unheard and cannot speak. Their lack of openness is a critical problem.

My initial reaction to this turn is that Japan is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They are an emotional and over-reaction group of people. But the US made them that way.... the US did it to Germany as well. When we 'pacified' them over the decades, we shifted their thinking and their sense of reason. So instead of saying "okay, here are the causes of the problem, let's fix them!" they are more concerned about who is to blame and are focusing on the fact that nuclear energy is an awesome and powerful source of energy which is also very dangerous. Well, yes... yes it is. But they forget that it's also controllable and containable with vigilant regulation and oversight.

Vigilance of regulation and oversight are expensive... and annoying... and definitely slow things down and make things cost more. But without it...?

Re:I know a bit of what's going on... (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300165)

One difference between the US and Japan is found in the success of independent watchdog groups who take personal interest in the environment and the safety of nuclear energy.

Too bad they are totally fucking pointless. Not only do we have reactors of the same exact type as what went kablooey at Fukushima Daiichi, but we also have reactors which are copies of it. And we have even more spent fuel lying around in pools waiting to be redistributed across our landscape.

My initial reaction to this turn is that Japan is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They are an emotional and over-reaction group of people. But the US made them that way...

...When GE decided that Fukushima Daiichi #1 should be built on ground known to be unsafe, in spite of there being other, superior locations available, and when the US government forced the Japanese government to put the reactor where GE wanted it.

Oh, is that not what you were talking about?

Vigilance of regulation and oversight are expensive... and annoying... and definitely slow things down and make things cost more. But without it...?

Regulation and oversight did nothing to prevent the wholly preventable disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. In fact, they created the situation.

The simple truth is that humans are not mature enough to handle the awesome responsibility of nuclear power. We have demonstrated this time and again. We The People are not responsible enough to stop The Powers That Be from fucking up and poisoning us all. Until we are, Nuclear power is a Bad Idea. OK, so in theory you could make a safe reactor. Get back to me when that happens, and when we decommission all the old plants that aren't safe because it's the proper thing to do. Until then, my point stands, and you are a nuclear playboy.

Re:I know a bit of what's going on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300941)

Solutions for all of your problems are available. You won't let us implement them. It's like complaining that the papers strewn across a house are a fire hazard, but heaven forbid they go to the recycling plant, that'd put us in danger on the roads!

Here's the real truth, more people are going to die this year as a result of fossil fuel usage than nuclear power, and far more damage is going to be done to the environment. And if you want to go without the energy generated, you're going to kill even more people.

You're a nuclear Chicken Little, worried about the sky falling to the point where you let the fox eat you up.

Re:I know a bit of what's going on... (3, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300289)

They are an emotional and over-reaction group of people. But the US made them that way.... the US did it to Germany as well. When we 'pacified' them over the decades, we shifted their thinking and their sense of reason. So instead of saying "okay, here are the causes of the problem, let's fix them!" they are more concerned about who is to blame and are focusing on the fact that nuclear energy is an awesome and powerful source of energy which is also very dangerous. Well, yes... yes it is. But they forget that it's also controllable and containable with vigilant regulation and oversight.

Vigilance of regulation and oversight are expensive... and annoying... and definitely slow things down and make things cost more. But without it...?

Not commenting on how reeking of paternalism and colonialism this is, you are just here contradicting what you asserted at the beginning of your post, that the cause of this is corporations dictating their own regulations to the government, except that you then try to localize the problem by linking it to Shoguns and Daimios and cultural traits.

From TFA:

“March 11 has shaken Japan to the root of its postwar identity,” said Takeo Kikkawa, an economist who specializes in energy issues at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. “We were the country that suffered Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but then we showed we had the superior technology and technocratic expertise to safely tame this awesome power for peaceful economic progress. Nuclear accidents were things that happened in other countries.”

Is that what you call an emotional statement? From TFA again:

In many respects, Japan is already on the road to recovery from the huge earthquake and tsunami, which killed as many as 19,000 people, and to a lesser degree from the nuclear accident. The northeastern coastal towns that were flattened by the waves have cleaned up millions of tons of debris and are beginning to rebuild.
But it is the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi that looks likely to have a more lasting impact, even though it has yet to claim a single life. Japan is just beginning what promises to be a radiation cleanup that will last decades of the evacuated areas around the plant, where nearly 90,000 residents lost their homes. The nation is also groping to find effective ways to monitor health and protect its food supply from contamination by the accident.

...
From TFA still:

Japan has so far succeeded in avoiding shortages, thanks in part to a drastic conservation program that has involved turning off air-conditioning in the summer and office lights during the day.

With a third of their electricity cut off, they manage! That is remarkable and unexpected. The Japanese are showing great courage in keeping shut plants that cannot demonstrate that they are safe. The Japanese population is disciplined enough to follow drastic measures to save electricity, and it is working!

A great lesson to us all. I raise my hat to them.

Re:I know a bit of what's going on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300595)

With a third of their electricity cut off, they manage! That is remarkable and unexpected.

This is like saying of the USA: "With a third of their cars taken off the streets, they manage!"

Which would be neither remarkable nor unexpected, given just how many cars there are to go around.

Japanese waste electricity like Americans waste automobiles.

A great lesson to us all. I raise my hat to them.

You've obviously never spent any meaningful fraction of your life in Japan.

Re:I know a bit of what's going on... (4, Insightful)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300311)

Ah the possibilities of starting a pro-/anti-nuke, liberal vs tighter regulations and many more...
But let's stay nice today and just state a few simple facts:
  • Nuclear is about as dangerous as possible, if not properly built, maintained and inspected by an independent(!) group
  • The benefits of having nuclear power are big and the risk of something going wrong is rather low, but
  • If the shit hits the fan, it does so big time.
  • There are newer and safer designs available, but most reactors in the wild are older versions
  • Nuclear isn't actually that cheap if factoring in ALL external costs. (Waste storage for a few thousand years, insurance that would completely cover the costs in case of meltdown, etc.)
  • Other energy sources have other drawbacks (pollution, price, radioactive fallout-yes I'm looking at you coal-, having to hand over money to dictators and many more)

My opinion on this? Nuclear is fine because it produces a lot of energy with a comparatively low environmental impact. It is quickly adjustable to current needs and is independent of wind or weather. But if there ever was one industry that needs tight oversight and jail time for any manager that fucks up security it is nuclear. The oil spill was bad, but it is over. Though it will take many years for the ocean to regenerate it will. But if a reactor blows up for good, the damage stays with you for several hundred years. So you have to make damn sure it never happens.

Re:I know a bit of what's going on... (2)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300461)

They are an emotional and over-reaction group of people. But the US made them that way.... the US did it to Germany as well. When we 'pacified' them over the decades, we shifted their thinking and their sense of reason. So instead of saying "okay, here are the causes of the problem, let's fix them!" they are more concerned about who is to blame and are focusing on the fact that nuclear energy is an awesome and powerful source of energy which is also very dangerous.

Because we didn't let them have an army, they lost the ability to make decisions and solve problems? Seriously? What else are we going to blame the US for now?

They should shut down some of them (4, Informative)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299947)

Many of the Japanese nuclear plants are old unsecure BWRs, they should start working on safer ones so they can shut them down in 10 years.

Re:They should shut down some of them (2, Insightful)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300633)

Go back in time 30 years and say that, and we MIGHT have one or two newer plants today.

The fact that a new nuclear plant is orders of magnitude safer than any old design doesn't matter. This is an EMOTIONAL issue. Nuclear = bad! All nuclear plants are the same as the worst nuclear plants! Rabble rabble!

Opposition? (2, Insightful)

Bensam123 (1340765) | more than 2 years ago | (#39299973)

I'm not Japanese, but I'm pretty sure the only people opposing nuclear power in Japan are in politics and fearmongers from other countries. Sounds like a global politics issue, which is stupid.

I'm sure the citizens will be thrilled when they drop coal burning plants down right next to the nuclear plants that didn't emit any sort of noticeable byproducts.

Damn hippies (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300039)

Nuclear power is dangerous, coal/oil power is dirty, wind power ruins the scenery, solarpower too expensive/inefficient and waterpower is bad for the fish population. Seriously if we are the dominant species on Earth why are we being held back by these counter-evolutionary thoughts. Stagnation is death!

Re:Damn hippies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300443)

I guess we're stuck with geothermal/hydro if they continue to screw with things. I vote to use horses and oxen just so they can smell what they're stirring up.

Re:Damn hippies (1)

neonKow (1239288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300523)

Recognizing and acknowledging drawbacks is country-evolutionary?

over reaction my ass !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300041)

Entire towns are fucking uninhabitable, yet some of you fuckers are talking about this being an over reaction ??????!!!!!!! When you live in Japan its a completely different story, easy to talk that pro nuclear talk when you're thousands of miles away. Melt down and radiation contamination happens in your fucking backyard and you will change your tune, you fucking nuclear industry shills !!!

Re:over reaction my ass !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300981)

Preach it brother. These fat faggots have nothing invested in what happens here. I hope they never have to make the call of putting a pregnant wife on a plane ride out because they don't know if the government is lying to you, simply inept or just as clueless as the avergae bastard on the street about the situation. But they'll post their bullshit here none the less about science being their god and how everything is just awesome and anyone who disagrees must be a luddite jesus horse young earther.

Nevermind the fact that the areas that were hit hardest by the tsunami are still completely fucked and they are now being asked to store radioactive waste because the faggot pussy ass government wants to spread that shit around instead of just keeping it all on site near the already uninhabitable areas surrounding the reactor. Or the buildings built with concrete and aggregate that was left radioactive after the tsunami but thanks to yakuza fucks and faggot ass TEPCO niggers ended up being sold and used to build new buildings that now must be torn down and the areas decontaminated.

Fuck these faggots. Go shove your microdicks in some uranium you stupid fucking pieces of shit!

Japan: Did CORRUPTION Cause This Problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300123)

http://FORA.TV has an hour-long, in-depth talk on gov't / industry corruption in Japan by Mafia-like gangs:

+ Tokyo Underworld 2012: An Evening with Robert Whiting

The talk - summarising the speaker's book - covers origins going way back (eg, WW 2) through current involvement in gov't, CONSTRUCTION industry, etc.

With so MUCH money going into private pockets, ie, instead of buying what was needed for safer designs and/or better built nuclear power plants, you gotta ask: How much of Japan's current nuclear energy shutdown/crisis is due to [eg, Yakusa] corruption?

According to the author, here's a political side to all of this, some of which involves the US's (then) fight against Communism, etc.

I don't recall the author trying to link the corruption to construction issues with Japan's nuclear power plants, but it might be looked into.

You could even wonder how much devastation corruption may have caused to Japan's larger economy both before & since the power plants disasters.

(I don't like this author's chances of surviving the publication of his book, but... as a Disclaimer: I have -nil- to do with any Mafia-like undergrounds. :-)

Re:Japan: Did CORRUPTION Cause This Problem? (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300199)

I've seen that talk, and - from the Fora web site:

"Summary [of talk]
        Robert Whiting has written a number of books on Japan, including You Gotta Have Wa, The Meaning of Ichiro and Tokyo Underworld, which is being developed as a series for HBO. In this lecture, Whiting addresses the intractable role of yakuza in virtually all areas of modern day society in Japan. He discusses the sequel to Tokyo Underworld that he is writing, shares insights into the genesis of the HBO project and talks about the recent National Geographic documentary Crime Lords of Tokyo, in which he appeared."

"Robert Whiting
        Robert Whiting is an author and journalist who has written several successful books on contemporary Japanese culture - which include topics such as baseball and American gangsters operating in Japan. He was born in New Jersey, grew up in California and graduated from Sophia University in Tokyo. He has lived in Japan for a total of more than three decades since he first arrived there in the early 1960s. He currently divides his time between homes in Tokyo and California."

PS Fora.tv is a subscription site (US$ 50.00 / year opens some content (including this talk); the rest is Pay to View)

We want more electrical power! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300137)

"Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."

Local leaders: "No."

Then what? It's not like Japan has loads of alternatives, especially given it has almost zero domestic fossil fuel supply.

Re:We want more electrical power! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300539)

Local communities capable of running nuclear power plants but unwilling to do so will simply get little electricity from the grid. Their choice. An easy, democratic, just solution.

Why politics should not dictate to science (3, Interesting)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300315)

Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."

Great... we have politics trumping both science and democracy.

Re:Why politics should not dictate to science (4, Insightful)

dominious (1077089) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300475)

Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."

This is Slashdot:

In one thread, people go paranoid about governments not thinking of their people.
In another thread, governments are stupid because they ask their people of what to do.

Corporate America Wins (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300557)

I love that Japan decided to move over 1/3 of their energy production away from the safest, most cost-efficient form of heat-power generation, and revert to something colossally terrible for the environment, with really no plan to do so in place. Clearly the best possible outcome, with the best results for everyone involved. /s

Anybody in Japan please comment on TEPCO (4, Informative)

fritsd (924429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300601)

From what I read in the western media, TEPCO is losing incredible amounts of money cleaning up the Fukushima mess.
The Japanese also seem less than happy ("Private panel blames TEPCO's 'systematic negligence'") [asahi.com] [note to Slashdot readers: that Asahi Shimbun newspaper doesn't seem to have a paywall].

However, I also read that TEPCO was strongly involved in developing Sodium-Sulfur batteries [wikipedia.org] to help solve the storage problem associated with large rollout of intermittent electricity generators (i.e. solar only when it's sunny and wind turbines only when it's windy). Anything else than Sodium-Sulfur or other cheap redox couples, is probably too expensive for real large-scale use.

So, I really hope that the battery division of TEPCO survives any lawsuits/bankruptcy procedures/government sanctions because they seem to be working on transitioning Japan away from the nuclear addiction and towards a very clean (but slightly explosive) technology that the rest of the world is probably eager to share.
Anybody in Japan please comment if this makes sense. I don't read Japanese and have never been there.

Redundancy. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39300785)

Japan must have a ton of redundancy to be able to handle having so many reactors offline and still have enough power for everyone. I doubt the US is so well prepared.

go fuck yourselves you self righteous fucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39300869)

How about all of you pro-nuclear faggots stop jacking off about how you would love to see more reactors built on a massive geologically active area with a government too inept to adequately ensure the long term safety of these reactors when all of you are sitting pretty far and well away from any possible fallout from something going wrong. For those of us with boots on the ground and families and lives at stake, I would not so kindly ask you fat fucking sloths to shut the fuck up and let those of us who have an actual say in how we would like to live our own lives here in Japan have a crack at it without every fat nerd with a hard on for nukes as long as his NIMBY ass doesn't have to raise kids near one (as if any of you will ever even touch a woman) spouting his aspergian "knowledge" about the safety of reactors and how everything is keen and peachy with nuclear.

I sit 200km from Fukushima and have to deal with the every day effects of what happened in human terms. There are kids here now living as refugees that have had their lives torn out from under them. Watched their friends die in front of their eyes. You want nukes so bad and think they are so awesome go shove some uranium up your fucking ass and go critical. Last time I checked we (Japanese citizens) still had a say without every neckbearded sperg berger from the IT department thinking they know better as to how we should run our lives.

So go fuck yourselves you self righteous fucks.

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