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Committee Offers Scenarios for Japan's Energy Future

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the doomed-no-matter-what-you-do dept.

Earth 131

ananyo writes with a story about more concrete plans for a reduced or nuclear-free energy future for Japan. From the article: "It's official: nuclear power will have a much smaller role in Japan's energy future than was once thought. Since the meltdowns and gas explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in March 2011, all of Japan's remaining reactors have been shut down for inspections and maintenance. The government offered a glimpse of their future, and that of the country's nuclear power in general, when it published an outline of four ways to satisfy Japan's future energy demands. One scenario recommends using a market mechanism to determine the nuclear contribution. Under the other three, nuclear power would supply at most one-quarter of Japan's energy by 2030 — and in one case, none at all. The scenarios come from a 25-person advisory committee to the industry ministry. The sharp reductions in the nuclear power part of the country's energy mix mean that Japan will struggle to reach the 31% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that it had planned by 2030 (PDF)."

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131 comments

Pick one (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40231431)

1) Reduced nuclear
2) Reduced coal, oil, and natural gas

Any third option for the foreseeable future is a hippie pipe dream (unless you count regular, sustained blackouts as an option). And if anyone thinks that solar panels and wind turbines are going to supply Tokyo with even a fraction of its power needs, you've obviously never been there.

Re:Pick one (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40231537)

Yep, nuclear, coal, oil and natural gas are the only 4 cost-effective methods of large-scale power generation, especially in a crowded region such as Japan. Solar panels are not yet cheap enough and wind requires such a large area (so do solar panels but they could be mounted on roofs).

Re:Pick one (1, Flamebait)

sycodon (149926) | about 2 years ago | (#40231603)

Shhhhh! MDSolar might hear.

Re:Pick one (1)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | about 2 years ago | (#40231727)

We hear at slashdot like what MDSolar has to offer. Please stay ontopic.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40234003)

I'm curious, why does such a long-standing /. user have so few comments (and have most of them modded down to -1)?
P.S. Spelling and grammar pedants have to write impeccably or they just look silly.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40236305)

I'm curious, why does such a long-standing /. user have so few comments (and have most of them modded down to -1)?

Because it's clearly been invented as a troll account from the beginning.

Look closely at the name and user number in brackets, and you'll see it doesn't say

kdawson (3715)

as it would for the user named kdawson (i.e. user 3715), but

kdawson (3715) (1344097)

i.e. the user is "kdawson (3715)" (the number being part of the name) followed by their user number of 1344097.

Of course, it's clear that the intention was that people would just notice the "kdawson (3715)" bit and assume it was kdawson, so it's an obvious bad faith troll.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40236403)

Well-spotted. Thanks.

Re:Pick one (4, Informative)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | about 2 years ago | (#40231779)

Yep, nuclear, coal, oil and natural gas are the only 4 cost-effective methods of large-scale power generation, especially in a crowded region such as Japan. Solar panels are not yet cheap enough and wind requires such a large area (so do solar panels but they could be mounted on roofs).

Those of us who live in the northwest of the United States, or western Canada, might argue that hydro belongs on your list. There aren't many big hydro opportunities left to develop around here, but hydro plants we have seem be cost efficient.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40232041)

They may be cost efficient, but alot of enviromental harm exists from diverting natural water flow. In your region you have only to look at the issues regarding samon. However impacts to humans are fairly common as well, as the midwest US and India know.

Re:Pick one (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#40232343)

Hydro has a severely limited capacity based on local geography. In case of industrialized countries like Japan, pretty much anything that can be dammed has been dammed and no additional capacity is available.

Japan *may* have some luck with geothermal due to its favourable location, but I imagine they have quakes that are bad enough already, like one that killed over 30.000 people, displaced some hundreds of thousands and fucked up Fukushima etc with the tsunami it caused. So basically they're stuck with burning coal/oil/natural gas or nuclear. That or basically shutting down their society as it exists today as factories need steady power and financing their society is very dependent on production at those factories running smoothly and efficiently.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40234045)

"but I imagine they have quakes that are bad enough already"

You seem to be suggesting that geothermal power increases the force of earthquakes, I don't think that is possible with anything even approaching near term geothermal energy systems. If put right on a fault they could possibly increase the frequency of seismic events, but that would decrease the severity of the events which is likely an advantage. Remember that earthquakes happen because of energy built up in the crust because two continental plates have "snagged" on each other, they'll release that energy one way or another. Its quite arguable that it would be better that happened in a small earthquake every 10 years or so, instead of a massive earthquake every 100 years.

Re:Pick one (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#40235741)

I'm not "suggesting" it. It's a known problem, down to causing significant and noteworthy earthquakes in areas that had no earthquakes of such size in entire known history.

Sea wind (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#40232483)

wind requires such a large area

No land is needed for wind power. Japan is an island nation at a latitude that has plenty of trade winds. Wind turbines can be located at sea, where the wind is steadier and twice as strong as on land.

Re:Pick one (2, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40232997)

Japan has vast amounts of geothermal and plenty of off-shore wind. The former is cheaper than nuclear and coal, not sure about gas. The latter... Well, post Fukushima it is cheaper than nuclear, and possibly coal if you count the environmental and health costs of burning it.

There is another option too: reduce energy consumption by becoming more efficient.

Re:Pick one (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 2 years ago | (#40234743)

If we ignore countries with ridiculously large hydro dam resources (Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc) the only currently available economic way of storing sufficient amounts of energy is by storing methane, and the only currently available method of getting enough methane is by tapping natural gas out of the Earth. So natural gas is a given if we're going to use intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar on a large scale, which we are by the looks of things.

Maybe we'll come up with a better way to store energy eventually, but it looks like natural gas, which as you probably know is a fossil fuel, is going to play an important part for decades to come.

What all this adds up to is the simple fact that nuclear is still the cleanest alternative and that nuclear is going to continue to be the cleanest alternative for the foreseeable time. If only there was a way to build nuclear plants that didn't take 10 to 20 years and require extensive construction work and hyper-specialized labor on site!

Re:Pick one (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40235029)

If we ignore countries with ridiculously large hydro dam resources (Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc) the only currently available economic way of storing sufficient amounts of energy is by storing methane, and the only currently available method of getting enough methane is by tapping natural gas out of the Earth.

Or molten salt, or pumped hydro...

Re:Pick one (1)

mpe (36238) | about 2 years ago | (#40235121)

If only there was a way to build nuclear plants that didn't take 10 to 20 years and require extensive construction work and hyper-specialized labor on site!

Possibly the same techniques used to build Calder Hall. Took less that 4 years to build and operated for the best part of 50.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40234795)

until a tsunami comes along and moves down your offshore turbines like matchsticks...

Re:Pick one (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 2 years ago | (#40235217)

"Japan has vast amounts of geothermal and plenty of off-shore wind."

Yes, Japan has lots of off-shore wind, so much their word for this has been Nicolled [wikipedia.org] by the English language. "Taifu" or as we in the West spell it, "Typhoon". See the reports of the typhoon that hit Japan in September 2011 [wikipedia.org] for an example of how bad they can get (over 90 people dead and missing).

Imagine what will happen to a farm of wind turbines standing out in open ocean when it gets hit by even a mild typhoon. It doesn't help that the coastal shelf of Japan is very narrow or non-existent so offshore wind turbines will have to be positioned on floating rafts rather than on towers fixed to the seabed.

Re:Pick one (4, Informative)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about 2 years ago | (#40231551)

This is entirely accurate for Japans current situation. Even in areas like the US where land per capita is relatively abundant they can't possibly supply all of the countries power needs on wind, hydro, and solar alone. At least not any time soon, and by soon I mean within the next 30-40 years, which is our immediate concern.

Only a very few countries in the world have enough land to supply completely sustainable energy. Canada is one, Australia is another. There are maybe 3-4 other countries that could at least mostly get onto these energy sources.

Since as you can see this is a very small club to be in, Nuclear is unfortunately the way forward for the foreseeable future.

Re:Pick one (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#40231729)

Both the United States and Japan actually have considerable unexploited hydroelectric capacity, but construction of major new dams has been effectively discontinued for several decades now, because of a mixture of local opposition and environmental worries. It's renewable, but not sure it's really "green", since it requires a massive, permanent change to a river basin. Nuclear is probably greener, despite not being renewable.

Re:Pick one (2)

dj245 (732906) | about 2 years ago | (#40233417)

Both the United States and Japan actually have considerable unexploited hydroelectric capacity, but construction of major new dams has been effectively discontinued for several decades now, because of a mixture of local opposition and environmental worries. It's renewable, but not sure it's really "green", since it requires a massive, permanent change to a river basin. Nuclear is probably greener, despite not being renewable.

Not only that, but until last year, Japan had been decommissioning a lot of their hydro units since they were fish choppers. Some of them had to be brought out of mothball status because of the power crunch.

Anyone who proposes hydro as a solution to Japan hasn't been there. Pretty much any piece of land which is even slightly flat has buildings or rice paddies on it. They don't have enough space as it is. in the US, we call them "not in my backyard" (NIMBY) people who just want to oppose anything. The local opposition in Japan to such large projects is more like "don't displace me, bro". I'll exclude nuclear from those people though, as the current nuclear opposition in Japan is about as fanatical and misinformed as the US antinuclear movement was in the 1970's.

Re:Pick one (0)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#40233987)

Yeah, those silly japanese and their fear of radiation. Its totally unfounded. No Fat Man or Little Boy could possibly understand why the Japanese have an extraordinary fear of nuclear energy.

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40231791)

"3-4" others like Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan, Greenland, Russia and Argentina?

Re:Pick one (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#40232383)

Afaik even Canada and Australia can't really do that. About the only country in the world that can is Iceland, because of its volcanic composition, small populace and general lack of heavy industry.

Even if you have a lot of rivers to dam up, you still need to move the electricity, meaning countries with large distances between potential dams and city centres that need lots of power are no likely going to be feasible. We simply do not have material technology that is good enough for this yet.

Re:Pick one (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40233091)

0.3% of the Sahara could supply all of western Europe. There is more than enough solar available in southern US states for the whole country. Try googling solar thermal collectors. They work 24/7, BTW.

Re:Pick one (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#40233201)

The problem is distance. Until you have superconductors for the distribution grid the losses are just to great. While Texas can sell some power to California. NY or Florida can't

Re:Pick one (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40234681)

Solved problem, just use DC. The EU is planning to run long distance DC from north Africa back to western Europe for solar thermal.

Re:Pick one (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#40235717)

Wrong. Resistivity of materials is not solved by switching to DC. It does have some advantages over AC but it most certainly does not eliminate the problem.

Re:Pick one (1)

mpe (36238) | about 2 years ago | (#40235007)

Even in areas like the US where land per capita is relatively abundant they can't possibly supply all of the countries power needs on wind, hydro, and solar alone. At least not any time soon, and by soon I mean within the next 30-40 years, which is our immediate concern.

The major problem with wind (along with solar) is that supply and demand rarely match. It's rather optimistic to expect that a problem which has been around for thousands of years will suddenly be solved within a few decades.

Re:Pick one (4, Interesting)

pellik (193063) | about 2 years ago | (#40231607)

Nuclear power will only do serious damage to the environment if mistakes are made. Fossil fuels will damage the environment no matter what. I wonder if there is any logic behind Japan's decision or if this is just some politicians cashing in on public fear.

Re:Pick one (4, Insightful)

Urban Garlic (447282) | about 2 years ago | (#40231851)

One thing we have learned is that, in nuclear power, "not making mistakes" can cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. One of the mistakes we heard about when the Fukushima Daiichi event happened was continuing to operate these poorly-designed older-generation reactors for so long.

From the sounds of it, this new report has come out strongly in favor of not repeating that mistake, which sounds pretty logical to me.

Re:Pick one (2)

Kokuyo (549451) | about 2 years ago | (#40232055)

So the problem is operating old tech for too long? Well, not using that tech at all is one thing they could do... or they could upgrade in security conscious intervals. They could try other products. I mean, the iPhone isn't the only smartphone out there and neither are reactors like Daiichi the only types available.

The only problem with this discussion is that a viable alternative is not considered due to fear and bad publicity.

Re:Pick one (3, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#40232479)

This is the devastating irony of modern nuclear power. The more we invest in it, the safer it becomes. Yet investments in nuclear power are often viewed as something that increases risk of accidents due to "more power plants".

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy as a result of it we're still running many plants built in sixties when nuclear energy generation was not even a decade old.

Re:Pick one (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40234151)

I agree, and the question now is what does Japan do next? Develop new and hopefully safer nuclear power or something else. Since many of the problems with nuclear power that Japan has had so far (not just thinking about Fukushima) have been due to thinks like cost cutting and poor regulation people are sceptical that those problems can be overcome. Plus the cost of developing this new technology will be pretty high, and its not like there is a growing global market you can sell to in order to recover some of the costs.

On the other hand green power generation and energy saving technology is very much in demand and there are no export restrictions to worry about. In fact you would doing the world a favour.

So in the short term more fossil fuel is unfortunately necessary, but in the medium to long term the government can choose to poor more money into nuclear, making itself unpopular in the process. Or it can invest in renewables and efficiency, which is already being heavily invested in by private companies too, and ensure that Japan is a major player in a growing global market.

It should be a no-brainer but the nuclear lobby is powerful and there is some vested interest in propping up an industry that could then pay back a bit more of the cost of dealing with Fukushima.

Re:Pick one (1, Interesting)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 2 years ago | (#40232239)

Ironically, part of the fossil fuel damage is also radioactive. Coal contains trace amounts of thorium, uranium, radium, etc., which are simply released into the atmosphere -- far more radiation than any nuclear facility would be allowed to release in normal operations. Advocates of some Gen-IV reactor designs claim that there's more nuclear energy potential in these waste particles than is produced by the coal-fired plants that release them.

Re:Pick one (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 2 years ago | (#40232811)

I'm beginning to think that, realistically, just like we put up with (US) 50,000 highway deaths per year because we like our cars, or an airline crash every so often because we like flying, we are going to have to sacrifice a 3 Mile Island or Chernobyl every once in a while for our love of electrical power. It's not a perfect world and never will be, stuff happens, and all you can do is be able to respond to contain and minimize the damage when it does. Like the town in PA that was moved due to an underground fire, towns near nukes that failed will just be closed off and make no man's land for a few hundred million years.

Re:Pick one (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 2 years ago | (#40233017)

How many lives are lost due to not generating enough power? What is the cost in infrastructure loss? There is such a thing as acceptable loss in any rational equation.

Re:Pick one (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#40233653)

How many lives are lost due to not generating enough power?

It can be quite a few. Heat waves and such have killed hundreds to thousands at a time before. If a heavily urbanized area (let's say Tokyo) experiences extremely hot weather (for the region) and the power fails at the same time, that could lead IMHO to more deaths than could come from a poorly handled nuclear reactor meltdown.

What is the cost in infrastructure loss?

What's the cost of someone not working because the power is out? What's the cost of a huge traffic jam because signal lights are out? Or the strategic cost of being more vulnerable to embargoes or fluctuations in fossil fuel prices?

Re:Pick one (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 2 years ago | (#40234105)

For generations, first world citizens have been coddled and believe there is a Utopian solution to every societal problem that arises. The very best solutions always have downsides...Public panic and knee jerk reactionism are not qualified moderators.

Re:Pick one (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40231705)

Like most people commenting on Japan's energy situation, you have totally ignored Geothermal.
There is 20-25GW of known Geothermal capacity in Japan, and probably a lot more if they were
prepared to really go for it. The country is practically one big volcano. The reasons Geothermal
is not widely used in Japan are all political, not technical. The engineering involved is well established,
the capital is available, they have the companies that can do it. They just need the will. The good
sites are in general, either in or near national parks, or close to established Onsen resorts. Deal
with those issues, and most of the nuclear power plants could be replaced with 10-15 years. Geothermal
is reliable and stable (unlike nuclear plants which need to regularly go offline for maintenance for
long periods). It is not 100% emission free, or a technology suitable for every country. But in Japan, it
is a missing piece of the puzzle. Nuclear power in Japan is sheer lunacy. I live in Tokyo and we have
earthquakes all the time. Use that geological power for electricity directly, dont wait for it to destroy a
nuke and contaminate us all.

Re:Pick one (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 2 years ago | (#40231783)

San Francisco/CA have pretty much put the kibosh on Geothermal because "it causes earth quakes".

Re:Pick one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40233151)

You can mound up dirt and do geothermal above ground too.

The problem is that it breaks in earthquakes.

But shades that can be removed in winter for buildings would reduce a lot of the cost to cool them. If you made the shades out of solar panels, it would work even better.

I Don't Get It (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#40231737)

Any third option for the foreseeable future is a hippie pipe dream

I don't get it, all the free market preachers are promising that my energy problems will shortly be solved by the free market but your view is such a fatalistic-don't-even-try-jaded response that you seem to doubt the free market can provide.

And if anyone thinks that solar panels and wind turbines are going to supply Tokyo with even a fraction of its power needs, you've obviously never been there.

I haven't been there. But no one's asking those solutions to go from zero to powering Tokyo over night. Look how gradually it's taken wind power to start in the United States [wikimedia.org] (current numbers here [wikimedia.org]). Japan is comparable at our state level [gwec.net] and is looking at connecting with Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia power grids to buy more renewable energy [smartplanet.com]. So why call these hippie pipe dreams? If these are hippie pipe dreams, when will our innovation kick in and 'save us' from nuclear and coal?

(unless you count regular, sustained blackouts as an option)

Did you hear that Japan did actually make small adjustments following Fukushima [guardian.co.uk] and called the movement setsuden [nytimes.com]?

I don't think the situation is as dire as you describe it and, frankly, dismissing all the alternative efforts really undermines what we should be working toward which are transitional phases until some breakthrough comes in fusion or an unforeseen source.

Re:I Don't Get It (3, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#40232769)

I don't get it, all the free market preachers are promising that my energy problems will shortly be solved by the free market but your view is such a fatalistic-don't-even-try-jaded response that you seem to doubt the free market can provide.

No, the "free market preachers" aren't saying that. Because the "free market preachers" know perfectly well that energy production is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world.

And as long as NIMBY exists, there isn't really an answer to increasing energy production - the people want green, but they pretty much stop wanting that as soon as the price tag is mentioned (yes, going all solar and wind will increase energy costs).

On a related note, saw in the news this AM that the windpower industry is really peeved that Congress hasn't gotten around to renewing their tax credits, and is expecting massive layoffs as a result.

Which reminds me, I really need to get off my duff and get some solar panels on my roof before the tax rebates end - much better to buy while the neighbors are paying for it than to wait until I have to pay for it myself.

Re:I Don't Get It (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40234243)

And as long as NIMBY exists, there isn't really an answer to increasing energy production - the people want green, but they pretty much stop wanting that as soon as the price tag is mentioned (yes, going all solar and wind will increase energy costs).

Only because the true cost of nuclear was hidden until recently. The EU banned government subsidy of nuclear power so the UK government is now trying to subsidise it on sly through a mandatory levy on energy bills. In other words instead of subsidising nuclear through taxation where it is mostly hidden we are now seeing the true cost by subsidising it directly through energy prices and are alarmed at the prospect of paying a few hundred pounds a year more.

This article is about Japan where the cost of nuclear is now astronomical due to the Fukushima clean up costs, the cost of relocating people, of paying them benefits because their jobs disappeared and of compensating them, of insuring against future health problems and buying monitoring equipment. Not to mention the economic damage. So no matter what Japan does now nuclear was always and will always be the expensive option, it's just that they already paid a lot in so are rather heavily committed.

Re:I Don't Get It (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40233073)

Government regulations stop a lot of projects from even getting off the drawing board. The whole reason the nuclear power industry developed based on uranium instead of thorium was for military reasons.

But, yeah, keep being a little ideological twerp and railing against the free market. That's working out so well for the world.

Re:I Don't Get It (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about 2 years ago | (#40233929)

"The whole reason the nuclear power industry developed based on uranium instead of thorium was for military reasons."

Crap. Uranium reactors are physically simple devices, steam kettles heated by spontaneously fissioning uranium. Thorium isn't fertile enough by itself to initiate and sustain fission in a simple reactor structure. India has been building and trying to sell thorium-fuelled reactors but they include quantities of medium-enriched (ca. 20%) uranium and plutonium in the fuel mix to provide enough sustained neutron flux to fission the thorium fuel.

The LFTR designs being touted by assorted folks are monstrously more complex than the existing uranium-fuelled reactor designs already built and operating today, and would have required decades of development back in the 1950s to make them work. The simple fertile uranium fission power reactors were an easier path to take and every country which started builing research and power reactors in that time took that route.

Do the math instead of doing the propaganda (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about 2 years ago | (#40232053)

Instead of stating your gut instinct as if it were fact, why don't you figure out mathematically if Japan has the geothermal energy to cleanly power their entire nation. Geo thermal is cheap and easy and Fuji-sama is a volcano, ã?

Iceland makes over 25% of their power from geothermal sources and is on track to cut over to 100% in the "forseeable future" as you put it. Japan has far more manpower and technological ability than Iceland, and the exact same equipment that is used to exploit a boiling water reactor can be used to exploit a geothermal resource. It's just heat, and the same antique technology that is used for nukes works for any other sort of hot rocks with little modification.

Re:Do the math instead of doing the propaganda (1)

CptNerd (455084) | about 2 years ago | (#40232181)

The problem is the time it takes to design, locate, get permission to build, build, test and bring online any new power plant over the next 20 years. Not every hotspot is stable enough to accomodate multi-megawatt power plants.

Plus, you want to talk about environmental impact, since people are so hung up about fracking causing mini-earthquakes, what do you think pumping huge amounts of water into hot rock on various faults would do?

Not to mention the water picking up large amounts of sulfur, creating sulfuric acid amongst other compounds. Yes, these can all be worked around, but not cheaply, and not quickly.

We've lived for over 30 years under the cloud of NukeFUD, and it's time we started getting over it. We have brains, we can figure out how to make dangerous things safer. It's not like we haven't done it before, and there's nothing special about nuclear technology that makes it uniquely impossible to fix.

Japan has 400 times the population of Iceland (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40232309)

Do the math. 40% of of the energy for 0.25% of the population means 0.1% of the total energy use of Japan if Japan used as much geothermal as Iceland.

No, Japan doesn't have enough geothermal.

Geothermal energy is an extremely limited resource, even though most people claim otherwise. New Zealand had to scale down several geothermal powerstations because they took too much heat from the reservoirs. Japan has about 30 times as many people as New Zealand. And New Zealand (itself the place of the largest volcanic eruption of the last 2500 years or so) only gets 10% of its energy from geothermal.

Re:Pick one (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 2 years ago | (#40232917)

Get moving on thorium based reactor tech? I would have expected more out of the box thinking from Japan. They were the only ones doing any serious research into extracting uranium from seawater, for example.

Re:Pick one (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | about 2 years ago | (#40233657)

If current trends continue world solar panel production will surpass world energy needs by 2023-24.

(Ok, so this cause so much change in energy prices and the ways we do things, that obviously current trends wont continue.)

Tokyo obviously have little room for solar in Tokyo, but we do know how to move electricity.

... and the Pacific is rather large, maybe there's room for a solar panel or two.

Re:Pick one (1)

mpe (36238) | about 2 years ago | (#40234917)

And if anyone thinks that solar panels and wind turbines are going to supply Tokyo with even a fraction of its power needs, you've obviously never been there.

Even if the could on paper the problem with both systems of generation is that supply is variable and in no way matched to demand. About the only technology which can store a useful amount of energy to help with this is pumped hydro. It's rather harder to build even one of these in the sea...

So in other words... (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40231495)

So in other words Japan will make nuclear power taboo so there will be little research/upkeep on the remaining reactors making another Fukishima more likely. Wonderful!

Re:So in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40231573)

Well, the soil's already irradiated, so not much more damage inflicted there. It would be like detonating a nuke on Pripyat.

Re:So in other words... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40234341)

On the contrary it is now being heavily researched and large sums of money spent finding ways to make the existing plants safer. The most comprehensive monitoring exercise ever is being carried out, and we will probably learn more about the effect of low radiation doses on human beings and the environment than we ever have before in the next few years.

Re:So in other words... (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | about 2 years ago | (#40234397)

Those were US-designed reactors. The Japanese should have simply kept up with the manufacturer's upgrades, just like the plants in the US did. Japanese research is somewhat irrelevant to that. Turning off nuclear power plants (which is just one of the suggested options) does not mean research into it becomes taboo. In any case there is still nuclear waste to be handled for generations, so there will be a nuclear industry of sorts in Japan, whether it produces energy or not.

Solar, batteries, and efficiency (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40231543)

Add in some large scale wind farms along the coast.

If they passed a law saying that individuals had to create 30% of their power using green methods, or buy into a green energy co-op that would pool the money to purchase large systems, it would work.

They also have to build more efficiency into their designs, use geothermal cooling, and energy efficient lighting. Also reduce the amount of stuff they have running when no one is home.

Re:Solar, batteries, and efficiency (1)

CptNerd (455084) | about 2 years ago | (#40232189)

Right, build them along the coasts so they can all be destroyed by the next tsunami.

When life offers you lemons ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40232441)

I wonder if tsunami could be used for energy capture? Like, making extensive double (one on shore, other off the coast, keeping elevated sea water between them) hydropower dams which occasionally replenish when huge wave brings high water over the sea-ward wall.

Toshiba and Terrapower (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 2 years ago | (#40231569)

This is an excellent opportunity for Toshiba [nuclearstreet.com] to seize the moment and take nuclear power generation in a whole new direction.

Re:Toshiba and Terrapower (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 2 years ago | (#40232297)

On a similar note, I ran across this [smartplanet.com] today. Chubu Electric Power Co. is investing some R&D bucks "specifically looking into an alternative reactor design that would use liquid thorium fuel in a reactor cooled by molten salt." That ought to make the thorium geeks happy.

The choice was made well over a decade ago (3, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 years ago | (#40231659)

They haven't built a new reactor in a very long time. This announcement is not much different to the German government one - letting the existing plants run down and not putting in a huge amount of capital to revive an almost abandoned reactor construction industry to build new ones. Everyone involved in building the previous ones has long moved on and spare expertise outside of their country is scarce.

Re:The choice was made well over a decade ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40232345)

Japan has been building new reactors fairly constantly from the 70s right up to the present. Several have come onstream in the last decade and several more are under construction.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf79.html

So this is nothing like the German situation.

Re:The choice was made well over a decade ago (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#40232585)

That's not really true. Fukishima had a new reactor being brought online and it was I believe 6 years old with plans for two more. There was a backlog order for containment vessels in Japan around a 20 year wait, because they make all the reactor vessels by hand instead of using forms.

Oh well, it just means us Canadians will make money off Japan. They're buying coal, and coalmines as fast as we can dig it out of the ground and at the rate they're going, they'll be outstripping the chinese for demand for our coal.

Re:The choice was made well over a decade ago (3, Informative)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40232867)

In fact reactor #6, while shut down at the time of the tsunami, was the only reactor that still had a functioning power supply after the tsunami. It was the only BWR5 design (#1 was a BWR3, #2 to #5 were BWR4) - unlike the others, it had three separate subdivisions each capable of cooling the reactor in the event of a power outage. Redundancy works. Just as in the Tokai, Fukushima Daini and Onagawa nuclear power plants that were also hit by the tsunami.

However, neither TEPCO nor the Japanese Government should be spared any criticism for failing to upgrade the power plants. Hydrogen explosions were a known problem in those plants and could be prevented for a very modest sum of a few million dollar per reactor. Filtered containment vents were also implemented all over europe, Japan was attending the Paris conference on filtered containment vents in June 1988 and the only nation not to issue any official statement at all about them or initiate any studies on the problem.

Until 2011 I thought Japan was basically a modern country with decent safety standards - now I know better.

Re:The choice was made well over a decade ago (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40234373)

Until 2011 I thought Japan was basically a modern country with decent safety standards - now I know better.

It is a modern country with decent safety standards, that's the problem. When corporate greed and low probability risk is involved the same thing happens everywhere.

Re:The choice was made well over a decade ago (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40235375)

The same thing happens everywhere? How come, then, that most european countries did in fact upgrade their safety systems?

Dear Japan (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#40231663)

Since you don't want your Uranium anymore, please send it over here so the U.S. can build more carbon-free power plants. Otherwise, how will we power all of the Japanese-made electronics that you so graciously sell us?

Re:Dear Japan (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#40231799)

Don't forget to send the wastes to us in France, after you'll have finished decommissioning the last nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in USA. We'll be very happy to sell you back the resulting MOX fuel.

Struggle? (2)

JWW (79176) | about 2 years ago | (#40231739)

"struggle to meet their emissions targets."

I think they misspelled the word struggle, it should be spelt FAIL.

Hooray for Mercury! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40231773)

Because coal is so much safer!

Hot hot Hot (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#40231881)

Years ago when I live in Japan I remember it being extremely hot. The sun would bake down and roast the street at 7am. If every house had to have panels on it's roof by law, would that help? Cover the whole place. Put it on sides of buildings.
they do the future there quite well. Now that there is a need I can see them being first.

Re:Hot hot Hot (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#40232339)

Every last light must be replaced with something efficient, and they're going to need solar-thermal systems so they can do away with inefficient electric on-demand hot water heating systems, and so on... but they can certainly make massive improvements along those lines... for massive amounts of money.

Re:Hot hot Hot (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#40232805)

When I first went the country wasn't very disability conscious. Skip a few years later ..... every main sidewalks, rail and subway stations had bobbled track bright yellow of floor ties. Braille on hand rails - lifts and loads of other bits. Social conscience has drive there too. If you can make it cool people will want them. Tax breaks for the supply chain and many more false economy drivers can be put in place. The tax make work they use builds good infrastructural items. Use the trillion yen subsidy for power stations corruption money and hand out contracts to install panels.

Re:Hot hot Hot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40232679)

If every house had to have panels on it's roof by law, would that help? Cover the whole place...

...and drive the whole country bankrupt.

Re:Hot hot Hot (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#40234309)

It won't help (unless their roofs are already painted black or close to black).

Otherwise it would get hotter than before. Solar cells absorb sunlight and convert about 25% to electricity. Much of the other 75% becomes heat (only some of it is reflected back to the sky). So if their roofs were not black and were a lighter colour and reflecting more light to the sky, then installing solar panels would make things hotter.

You can use the 25% for air-conditioning, that makes the houses cooler, but the heat is just transferred outside. So it is unlikely to make the streets cooler unless the streets are shaded and cooled too...

Nukes will come back when they are safe (3, Interesting)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | about 2 years ago | (#40231889)

We need nuclear power generator technology that can be safely run by corrupt liars. Most government and regulatory agencies are run by corrupt liars, as we saw in the handling of the Fukushima crisis.

Re:Nukes will come back when they are safe (2)

Delarth799 (1839672) | about 2 years ago | (#40234255)

Thorium based reactors are pretty safe and with some investment you can build a few trash burning plants which produce fairly clean and cheap energy. Of course this requires people to actually learn about this sort of technology which isn't convenient for most people to do.

Re:Nukes will come back when they are safe (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40234413)

Even if such a thing existed you still have to get it built to spec, install it, fuel it, remove the spent fuel, decommission it and store the waste. People on Slashdot bang on about developing safer reactor designs that can't melt down, but that is only part of the problem and far from the most common type of accident.

Somebody Died in a Car Crash Yesterday (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40231991)

Cars are clearly too dangerous. We need to all go back to walking by 2030. Heavy Goods Vehicles will be replaced by the horse and cart.

As for space exploration, forget that. The proportion of deaths to space flights is incredibly high so clearly we need to give up on that.

In fact, let's all just go back to living in caves and wearing animal skins.

Re:Somebody Died in a Car Crash Yesterday (1)

CptNerd (455084) | about 2 years ago | (#40232707)

Some people think coming down out of the trees was a bad idea.

American Forest Dwellers (1)

Dareth (47614) | about 2 years ago | (#40233089)

You would need something the size of a redwood tree to hold the average American right?

This is a mistake (2)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about 2 years ago | (#40232059)

Look nuclear could lead to bad scenarios, but civilization destroying climate change is the Worst Possible Thing. Why not spend the money to build them better? They knew beforehand that their older gen nukes were vulnerable. It has to be at least one option. It's great that there are super incentivized to find sustainable alternatives but is incentive what is lacking on the part of researchers or is it now time we're running out of ?

Systematically lower carbon emissions- at the point of gun if necessary. Full throttle research into green technology - using deficit spending if necessary. Conservation and maximum usage of current alternatives , by law if necessary. That's what's got to happen and it will the only question is will we do it in time?

Solar power is worse than Fukushima (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40232429)

If you want to replace just Fukushima Daiichi with solar power, you'd have to blanket the whole evacuation zone with one huge solar power plant like that one. [www.juwi.de] (Notice the incredible environmental friendliness of solar power in that place!). But in fact, you'll lose about half of that energy due to storage issues or inefficiency.

In order to replace all Japanese nuclear power plants with solar power, you need ten of those power plants - if you ignore storage losses.

Re:Solar power is worse than Fukushima (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | about 2 years ago | (#40233957)

Ye, gods, you mean they'd have to roof over ten! parking lots.

The Horror!

Ok, so huge parking lots, but still ...

Re:Solar power is worse than Fukushima (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | about 2 years ago | (#40234601)

Just did the numbers

Daiichi was 4.7 GW, solar is 1kw/m^2 at peak insolation, average is .25 kw/m^2, so 18.8 kw/m^2.

That's asuming total cover and no clouds or other inefficiencies. In other words multiply land need by the inverse of your efficincy.

Now compare that to the 13,400 km^2 that Japan used for roads in 2007 (source [mlit.go.jp]). And I'm sorry, but I couldn't find a reliable number for rooftops.

Re:Solar power is worse than Fukushima (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40235339)

The solar park i linked to delivers an annual average of 4W/m^2. That's 60MW peak, 6MW average, 160 hectars of land. That's the real numbers. Since Japan is further south, I used 6W/m^2.

Re:Solar power is worse than Fukushima (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | about 2 years ago | (#40236045)

Japan is quite cloudy, though. We might as well just use the real numbers.

Landing at 128km^2 to replace Daiichi.

By the time they've roofed over every road, they're at more than a hundred times that. And again rooftops haven't been counted.

My point is simply that land use is in no way a deal killer for solar.

Re:Solar power is worse than Fukushima (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40236261)

That area is far too small. Even at 10W/m^2 you'd only get 1.28 GW on that area.

You forget about the unavoidable gaps you need between the solar panels to avoid casting a shadow on neighbouring panels. On houses that is no problem, because the shadow is where the other half of the house is and you don't count the area of the other half of the house. But when you try to saturate an area with solar panels that cannot be ignored.

Japan has no worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40233507)

Their population will decline, reducing energy needs. At some point, when enough people are gone, they can go back to being an agrarian society and eliminate all forms of energy use other than biological. That includes the horrible, bird-killing windmills.

All of the west needs to change (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#40233625)

We need to have a diversified energy matrix. For example, America is using around 40% coal, and thankfully, that will be below 33% within 5 years. However, much of the replacement is Natural Gas. What is needed is for us to make coal/NG be around 33% MAX, with Nukes around 33% MAX and likewise, the various AE around 33%. By doing this, we can limit damage from any one area.

Re:All of the west needs to change (1)

g8oz (144003) | about 2 years ago | (#40234223)

In America there is enough land that wind can do 25% and solar can do another 25%

Wind is under a million per megawatt. Competitive with new natural gas or coal capacity - and without fuel input costs.

Solar is dropping fast. First Solar says its manufacturing costs are $.73 a watt or $730,000 per megawatt. Don't know what the installation & profit margin is but the point is alternative energy has a bigger role to play than you might think.

I see a lot of technological determinism on Slashdot. Talk about energy and everybody turns into a Soviet technocrat. They contrast dozens of elegant nuclear plants with the hundreds of thousands of wind turbines and solar panels needed and decide that former will be a better bet for the next 5 Year Plan. But the bottom line is nuclear is horrendously expensive. I recall the new Areva plant in Finland costing $5 million a megawatt. What a joke. Plus nuclear capacity is not modular enough. Utilities can't just plunk down 5 megawatts the way they can with wind or solar. The *financial* flexibility is just not there.

(The hyped mini-nuclear reactors are still unproven and undeployed after years of talk)

Finally nuclear requires a lot of smart people to keep it safe, and they are in short supply.

All of my objections to nuclear have answers, answers that depend on unproven technology, subsidies, or transformation of Congress into a bunch of engineers.

Meanwhile new wind, solar and nat gas capacity is coming online everyday.

Re:All of the west needs to change (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | about 2 years ago | (#40234751)

I keep hearing about these $1 per watt solar panels, but whenever I actually look at installed system costs they remain many times that. Combine that with a maybe 20% load factor, and that $5 per watt nuclear's suddenly not looking so bad. And that's before we even get into the costs of storage and backup to handle the intermittency.

I don't see why plonking down 5 megawatts here and there is relevant when the extra capacity the world needs is more like hundreds of gigawatts.

Re:All of the west needs to change (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | about 2 years ago | (#40235135)

In America there is enough land that wind can do 25% and solar can do another 25%

The USA could easily accomodate 100% solar in some corner of one of the desert states, there are other reasons why going fully solar is a bad short term solution, but lack of land is not one of them. Not even in Japan.

In the long run solar under one form or another is likely to be as dominant an energy supply as fossil is today.

I'll make it simple (1)

koan (80826) | about 2 years ago | (#40235739)

Nuclear, because nothing else is going to run places like Tokyo.

Start looking at the modern tech, I'm sure you will find your safe nuke tech because Japan has always been able to solve challenges.

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