Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Climate targets are the fallout from Japan’s nuclear disaster

Japan has announced it is significantly reducing its greenhouse gas reduction target. It now aims to achieve a 3.8% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 versus 2005 levels. The new target amounts to…

Concerns over nuclear energy mean Japan is moving back to fossil fuels. EPA/TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Japan has announced it is significantly reducing its greenhouse gas reduction target. It now aims to achieve a 3.8% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 versus 2005 levels. The new target amounts to a 3.1% increase from 1990 levels, a sharp reversal from the 25% reduction target.

Hiroshi Minami, Japan’s chief negotiator at UN climate change talks in Warsaw, said that the nuclear shutdown has forced the country to lower its “ambition level” and that “the new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future.” The United Nations, European Union and the world’s small island states reacted with disappointment to Japan’s decision, while green nongovernmental groups voiced fury.

The previous, far more ambitious goal drawn up before the Fukushima disaster was based on the assumption that an increasing share of the nation’s electricity would be provided by nuclear power. Nuclear energy was an integral part of Japanese plans to achieve the emission reduction target of 25% by 2020. Nuclear power’s share of total power generation was to increase from 27% (in 2009) to 40% by 2017 and to 50% by 2030.

Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power reduced Japan’s carbon dioxide emissions by 14% per year. At the moment, none of Japan’s 50 viable commercial reactors are in operation. To fill the void, Japan’s utilities have switched to thermal power generation that increases carbon dioxide emissions since it relies on fossil fuels.

Due to the nuclear shutdown following the Fukushima disaster, I argued that increased emissions will make it virtually impossible for Japan to reach its Kyoto targets. Moreover, as early as January 2012, Japanese leaders had been frank in dismissing any hopes of meeting Japan’s climate change targets.

Consequently, the official change in Japan’s emissions targets is not a dramatic turnaround but simply an honest acknowledgement of Japan’s energy security predicament in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear shutdown in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster has been a fundamental challenge to the principles that have underlined Japan’s energy policy since 2002.

In June 2002, the Japanese government created a systematic and comprehensive energy policy planning structure by adopting a Fundamental Law on Energy Policy Measures, also known as the Basic Act on Energy Policy (Law No. 71). The Basic Act established three general principles of Japan’s energy policy (the 3Es): energy security, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. These three principles correspond to three major dimensions of energy security in the scholarly literature: availability, affordability and sustainability.

The Basic Act requires the government to formulate a basic plan to promote energy supply and demand measures on a long-term, comprehensive and systematic basis in line with the 3E principles. The government is tasked with reviewing the basic energy plan at least every three years and revising it as necessary in light of changing circumstances and the effectiveness of existing policies.

Three such Basic Energy Plans have been adopted by the Japanese government prior to the Fukushima disaster, in 2003, 2006 and 2010, respectively. All of these policy documents balanced the three principles. Nuclear power has been essential in these plans, and was perceived in Tokyo as the ideal power source in line with the 3E principles: (1) a domestic energy source; (2) a cheaper source of power than its fossil fuels competitors; and (3) crucial for reducing emissions and achieving Japan’s Kyoto targets.

The Fukushima disaster and the ensuing nuclear shutdown have challenged all three principles behind Japan’s energy policy. Without nuclear power, Japan’s energy self-sufficiency has dropped from approximately 15% to 4%. As a consequence of the nuclear shutdown, the value of Japan’s mineral fuel imports increased from ¥17.4 trillion in 2010 to ¥21.8 trillion in 2011 and ¥24.1 trillion in 2012. The 2011 and 2012 trade deficits stood at ¥2.56 trillion and ¥6.93 trillion, respectively. In both years, trade deficits were mainly caused by an increase in the value of fossil fuel imports.

Finally, in 2012, Japan’s emissions increased by 5.8% as the country imported and burned large amounts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal to compensate for the loss of electricity production from nuclear plants. Japan’s 2013 emissions are also likely to increase. With LNG demand lower in 2013 due to increasing costs, Japan has turned to coal, which is twice as emissions-intensive per unit of energy compared to natural gas.

It is expected that the Japanese government will revise the Basic Energy Plan by December 2013. Informed sources have indicated that nuclear power will feature in the revised plan on condition that its safety is secured. While unlikely to establish any numerical targets, the revised plan is certain to emphasise safety as an additional energy policy principle.

According to Industry Minister Motegi, revised numerical targets for Japan’s future energy mix will be released in three years’ time. This timeframe will allow for a proper appraisal of the status of renewable energy since the extended feed-in-tariff was passed in July 2011, and will provide some certainty regarding the number of nuclear reactors in service.

A general consensus among experts is that no more than 20 reactors will ever be restarted. So far five utilities have applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for safety screenings to restart 14 nuclear reactors. Screenings for some reactors are expected to be completed in early 2014.

Referring to the new emissions target, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has noted that the 3.8% reduction has been set “just as a provisional figure”. Therefore, despite statements that the new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future, Abe’s statement and ongoing safety screenings indicate that Japan may be prepared to revise upward the reduction target, depending on the future reactivation of nuclear plants.

Join the conversation

99 Comments sorted by

  1. Paul Richards

    integral operating system

    The level of competence in any pro-nuclear argument and action is framed against ecosystem damage is the challenge.

    Although the potential for human development of the powerful source of energy is obvious. Any of the considerable risks taken by engineers and scientists needs to be quarantined, fully funded and supported by the community. As timeframes in development terms are decades, half centuries and millennia for unprocessed fuel together with radioactive waste storage.

    Now is the time…

    Read more
  2. Mike Hansen

    Mr.

    Thanks for the article Vlado. I wonder if you have a reference for the following statement.

    "A general consensus among experts is that no more than 20 reactors will ever be restarted."

    I would be interested in knowing why that is the consensus.

    report
    1. Vlado Vivoda

      Research Fellow DECRA, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at University of Queensland

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Thanks Mike. I don't have a reference as this is something that came up via discussion with a number of experts that I cannot name. The general understanding even within the pro-nuclear camp is that it is unrealistic to expect a return to pre-3/11 levels and that many reactors deemed unsafe by the new regulator will not be restarted and will subsequently be decommissioned. Unlike the previous regulator that was part of the system (METI), from what I hear, the new regulator seems to be independent in determining the safety of each particular reactor. They are in a delicate position though as there are pressures (and evidence) from both sides, and it is up to them to adjudicate on the levels of safety.

      report
    2. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Vlado Vivoda

      @Vlado

      You may be interested in this report from the Climate Action Tracker**

      "The 2011 shutdown of Japan’s nuclear industry cannot account for this massive degradation of ambition. Replacing all nuclear production projected for 2020 with the present fossil fuel mix would reduce the original 25% reduction to a 17-18% reduction."

      http://climateactiontracker.org/assets/publications/briefing_papers/CAT_Policy_brief_Japan-Nov15-2011.pdf

      ** The “Climate Action Tracker”, www.climateactiontracker.org, is a science-based assessment by Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) that provides regularly updated information on countries’ reduction proposals.

      report
  3. John Newlands

    tree changer

    A couple of perspectives; how this affects Australia and the George Monbiot interpretation of Fukushima. The weird fact is that currently LNG is at an all time high price with Japan buying a third of world supply while uranium yellowcake is at a low price. Since piped gas in eastern Australia can be sent to the three processing plants under construction at Gladstone Qld local gas users will have to match the 'world price'. As a result the wholesale price of gas in eastern Australia is expected to…

    Read more
    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to John Newlands

      "Fukushima came about as a result of a rare Richter 9 earthquake and 17 metre tsunami. "

      Not according to the Japanese investigators.
      http://warp.da.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/3856371/naiic.go.jp/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/NAIIC_report_lo_res10.pdf

      Here are a few extracts from the report of the The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission.

      "A “manmade” disaster.
      The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between…

      Read more
    2. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John Newlands

      The second great disaster caused by the incompetence of TEPCO is the general damage done to the nuclear energy industry. It comes at a time when we need nuclear power to take over from coal and gas for much of the world's base load power. The investment needed to replace these old plants with newer generation plants will now falter.
      Sadly green energy is nowhere near being a viable alternative for base load power and instead coal and gas use will continue to increase into the foreseeable future.

      report
    3. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Steve Hindle wrote; "Sadly green energy is nowhere near being a viable alternative ... " Interesting the all pervasive fear raised once again.
      More evidence of the 'climate of fear' generated around the dystopian failure eminent if we fail to use the transnational corporate solution. Rather than an integral system of localised grids and alternative energy networking to form a solution.

      report
    4. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Richards

      My fear is that we are going to ramp up the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere because of the false hope of green energy for base load power.
      " ...an integral system of localised grids and alternative energy networking to form a solution" The problem is it is nowhere near an economic solution for base load power, it is not even close. That is why Japan is going back to fossil fuels.

      report
    5. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Steve Hindle wrote; "My fear is that we are going to ramp up the amount of carbon" Yes a genuine ecological concern and integral to a genuine solution.
      We need to be mindful how we go into this position of imbalance in the first place. At very the core of every single environmental issue on the planet is capital gain by corporations.
      Who have systematically put the metrics of book keeping, now automated into a spreadsheet of efficiency into exponential profit before CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility…

      Read more
    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to John Newlands

      John, didn't TEPKO want to build another reactor on a small coastal island which is an active volcano, and vulnerable to tsunamis?
      One poignant fact after the tsunami was the historic record of other tsunamis, large rocks left by villagers as a message to future generations, on hillsides all along the length of the coast, which indicate previous hight of larger tsunamis than this one.
      Nobody could suggest their scientific and safety advice was adequate in regard to tsunamis.

      report
    7. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      What you have to realise is that industrial civilisation is on its last legs. It can have no more than ten years left....... maybe far less if the FIRST horseman of the apocalypse, economic collapse hits first.

      The SECOND horseman will be peak ALL fossil fuels/Uranium ~2017
      http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/peak-fossilsuranium-in-2017/

      The THIRD horseman, coming far far sooner than anyone anticipated (50 years!!) is Climate Change
      http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/arctic-death-spiral-and-the-methane-time-bomb/

      The FOURTH horseman is the nail in the coffin, COLLAPSE.......

      report
    8. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thanks for the candour and glimpse of your values.
      Mike Stasse wrote; "... maybe far less if the FIRST horseman of the apocalypse" Respectfully a dystopian Abrahamic line of logic around this issue causes more harm than good. The metaphors in the cultural values held are grasped and projected outcomes understood.
      We are a small blue dot in the cosmos that has winked into life, our time frame is minuscule and fragile. The tribal warning is appreciated, but out of context with big picture of human knowledge.
      __________________________________
      * http://goo.gl/wQbNq6

      report
    9. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      My comments were about the situation world wide, not just limited to a sparsely populated country with a lot of potential for renewable energy.

      report
    10. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      So your getting all this information from the Matrix. Hmm...I am guessing you took the blue pill?

      report
    11. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, sea walls all along the Japanese coast failed and 20,000 people died. The safest place to be along that coast when that tsunami hit was in one of the reactors. The TEPCO sea wall wasn't good enough to stop the meltdowns, but it saved hundreds of lives. Just imagine you had a huge strip of solar farms along that coast. Would anybody have built a massive sea wall to protect them? Of course not. It would make them "uneconomical". So people would have died instead. If you don't want to leave a…

      Read more
    12. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike "What you have to realise is that industrial civilisation is on its last legs." I agree with the prognosis, if not the time-frame. I think our civilisation will appear to roll along, getting less and less profit, until it is no longer possible to prime the money pump. Either way, the future will not be like the present only more so: it will be dystopian. Not sure when it will collapse, but the writing is on the boardroom wall ...

      report
  4. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    The Fukushima disaster has not ended, but only started if anything goes wrong with the Fukushima cleanup operations.

    Removing rod from No 4 reactor was recently cancelled, and some believe it cannot be done anyway without catastrophic results.

    Meanwhile that reactor might collapse completely due to subsidence, and they can’t even get near other reactors.

    But there seemed to be an opportunity for Japan to reduce its electricity consumption when rebuilding after the tsunami.

    It seems that reducing electricity consumption can’t be done either.

    It might be best for Japan to concentrate on reducing its population.

    report
    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Appreciate the comment here.
      Dale Bloom wrote ; "The Fukushima disaster has not ended, but only started if anything goes wrong with the Fukushima cleanup operations."
      Could not agree more and the deniers of nuclear damage are conspicuously absent on any commentary around the clean up at Fukushima *.
      This single fact must alone make anyone think about the level of lobbying done promoting nuclear industries by public their relations agencies on TC.
      ___________________________________________
      * https://theconversation.com/lessons-from-edo-japan-can-help-fukushima-recover-16017

      report
    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Paul Richards

      What damage are we talking about except that to the reactors themselves? There was no demonstrable need for the evacuation or the monster level cleanup. There was an refinery fire at Chiba which sprayed carcinogens over a large area of Japan. Is that being cleaned up? Why the double standards? Who is cleaning up the deposited toxic compounds from the recent Sydney bush fires? Really ... what is happening currently in Japan is beyond bizarre. It has been simply cruel and inhuman to totally ignore IAEA guidelines and evacuate for no good scientific reason. I'd suggest a class action by the evacuees against an incompetent Government.

      report
    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff. Your comment is the only thing bizarre here.

      The evacuation was done under IAEA advice and guidelines.
      "So far 70,000 people have been evacuated from a 20-kilometre-radius zone centred on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant – but that may only be the beginning. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that radioactive contamination outside the evacuation zone has exceeded levels at which people should relocate. But the Japanese government says it will not widen the zone."
      http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20324-iaea-says-fukushima-fallout-warrants-more-evacuation.html#.Uo0nF8Ro82A

      Read more
    4. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      You can't be serious........ the building is on the verge of collapsing, so undermined are the foundations of the building from spraying millions of tonnes of seawater all over it to stop it going critical....

      One more earthquake they reckon, and it's all over Rover....

      You are clearly so badly informed, nothing you say here is believable......

      report
    5. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Of course, they're only doing this to make people scared of nukes, nothing to see here, move right along...........

      Headline: Russia Stunned After Japanese Plan To Evacuate 40 Million

      Japan wants to talk with Russia about reclaiming islands lost during WWII and reports are circulating that Japan is also talking to China about relocating millions of Japanese refugees into the deserted cities that China built prior to the 2008 financial collapse.

      The “extreme danger” facing tens of millions of the Japanese peoples is the result of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster that was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

      Cont. Read...http://www.eutimes.net/2012/04/russia-stunned-after-japanese-plan-to-evacuate-40-million-revealed/

      report
    6. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      In fact, the plant has been decrepit for some time.......

      "In September of 2002, TEPCO admitted to covering up data concerning cracks in critical circulation pipes in addition to previously revealed falsifications. In their analysis of the cover-up, The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center writes: “The records that were covered up had to do with cracks in parts of the reactor known as recirculation pipes. These pipes are there to siphon off heat from the reactor. If these pipes were to fracture, it would result in a serious accident in which coolant leaks out. From the perspective of safety, these are highly important pieces of equipment. Cracks were found in the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, reactor one, reactor two, reactor three, reactor four, reactor five.” The cracks in the pipes were not due to earthquake damage; they came from the simple wear and tear of long-term usage."

      <MORE> @ http://www.thewire.com/global/2011/07/meltdown-what-really-happened-fukushima/39541/

      report
    7. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      You are confusing politics and science here Mike. Read your quote carefully. The IAEA was talking about a small area "OUTSIDE" the evacuation zone. Evacuation criteria are listed in the IAEA
      document below. I'm happy to apologise if you can show me evidence that there are areas INSIDE the evacuation zone that are above the levels specified in this IAEA official document:

      http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1467_web.pdf

      report
    8. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Which states..........

      "DISCLAIMER
      The IAEA safety standards reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation. The process of developing, reviewing and establishing the IAEA standards involves the IAEA Secretariat and all Member States, many of which are represented on the four IAEA safety standards committees and the IAEA Commission on Safety Standards.

      The IAEA standards, as…

      Read more
    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      There's nothing about Fukushima that will change Table 3 ... which gives criteria for evacuations, among other things.

      And unless somebody can produce evidence of anywhere INSIDE the evacuation area where rad. levels exceeded the levels in Table 3, then I'd like an apology for being accused of telling lies.

      There was one area outside of the evacuation area where a brief evacuation was indicated by Table 3, but that doesn't alter the fact that ~150,000 people were evacuated without that being required under IAEA guidelines.

      Atomic bomb survivors suffered, on average, a much, much lower rise in cancer risks than Japanese emigrating to the US (or Australia). Radiation simply doesn't compare to lifestyle choices as a cause of cancer. To suggest otherwise is either ignorance or deliberate deception.

      report
    10. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Why? Was Sydney evacuated to avoid recently deadly bush fire smoke? The science is quite clear that such smoke will produce a spike in deaths and also contains carcinogenic chemicals which will produce cancer in the future. This could be avoided by evacuation ... but as was demonstrated in concrete terms with substantial suffering at Fukushima, evacuation is far, far more dangerous. At Fukushima it killed hundreds and destroyed lives to prevent a few theoretically possible cancers in 10-15 years time. This is a massive failure of governance.

      report
    11. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Table 3 shows UPPER limits of 100 micro Sieverts in a MONTH.....

      Yet, this map http://new.atmc.jp/ shows almost 2 micro Sieverts per HOUR (=1440 micro Sieverts in a MONTH) as far away as ~60km.

      Further out, ~80km, 0.1micro Sieverts per HOUR (=72 micro Sieverts in a MONTH) is fast approaching the limits on Table 3, and are exceeded at at least one site 90km from the power plant.....

      Your 20km radius has well and truly been breached old son.....

      report
    12. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thank you Mike for at least taking the trouble to check the table.

      But "mSv" is milli Sieverts, not micro Sieverts (uSv) ... so 1.4 milli Sieverts per month doesn't come anywhere near 100 mSv per month.
      So I repeat, the evacuation area never needed evacuation on IAEA criteria and only a small area OUTSIDE the evacuation area satisfied the criteria ... for a brief period.

      report
    13. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff Russell now concedes that the IAEA found reason to evacuate at an area outside the original 20 Km radius evacuation zone. Actually at Iitate Village about 40 Km from the plant and 20 Km outside the original evacuation zone.

      But bizarrely he claims that there should not have been an evacuation closer in.

      This is from the 20 March 2011,Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log.
      "The highest values were found in a relatively small area in the Northwest from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. First assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village. "

      http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2011/fukushima300311.html

      report
    14. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      What's bizarre? Either you believe in science based evacuation decisions or you don't. The area designated the "evacuation zone" was well inside the IAEA guidelines. An area outside of it happened to have higher levels. Science and compassion says you evacuate this small area for a brief period instead of the huge and highly populated 20km radius. Why evacuate the 20km zone? Because of some sense of geometric elegance? I can almost hear the public announcements: "Sorry, I know your area is quite safe, but we've drawn these lines on the map they are nice concentric circles, and the area closes to the plant is supposed to have more radiation so what's not to like about having your life turned upside down? Sorry, but a circle is a circle."

      report
    15. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Bizarre is probably an understatement.

      The original 20 Km exclusion zone is 1260 square kilometres. You cannot claim that it was safe. I cannot read Japanese so I do not know if there were readings from Tepco and the local regulator before the IAEA teams arrived. But in any event "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". What are the chances of "hot spots" being found up to 40 Km from the plant and none anywhere else in the 5000 Sq Km zone, a 40 Km radius from the plant?

      The IAEA had…

      Read more
    16. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Think about it Mike please. The IAEA teams would have been looking for hot spots with full information about which way the winds were blowing and on the basis of substantial experience.

      Have look at the map in my article (even better, why don't you please read it):

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/11/01/stayin-alive-gene-pool-p1/

      The red plume is small and narrow. What are the odds that the IAEA team just happened to chance upon it? That they just picked north/northwest by dumb luck? Not…

      Read more
    17. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      @Martin Nicholson

      For the record.

      This was Geoff Russell's original claim
      "... what is happening currently in Japan is beyond bizarre. It has been simply cruel and inhuman to totally ignore IAEA guidelines and evacuate for no good scientific reason. I'd suggest a class action by the evacuees against an incompetent Government."

      Are you saying that you agree with that statement?
      A "yes" or a "no" would be the clearest way to respond.

      report
    18. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike, just for the record. The IAEA guideline of 100 mSv per month is debatable, but in terms of DNA damage, your cells generally handle 60,000 times MORE damage every day than would be caused by this amount of radiation. So are you saying that people should be kicked out of the homes/jobs/life at 1% of this level (~1.4 mSv level per month that the other Mike suggested above).

      A "yes" or "no" would be the clearest way to respond.

      report
    19. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      @Martin Nicholson

      My question was I thought pretty clear but happy to ask it again.

      For the record.

      This was Geoff Russell's original claim
      "... what is happening currently in Japan is beyond bizarre. It has been simply cruel and inhuman to totally ignore IAEA guidelines and evacuate for no good scientific reason. I'd suggest a class action by the evacuees against an incompetent Government."

      Are you saying that you agree with that statement?
      A "yes" or a "no" would be the clearest way to respond.

      report
    20. Martin Nicholson

      Energy researcher and author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I thought my question was pretty clear as well. Which were you replying to? I assume you read my comment on Perception Gap.

      Yes I agree that what is happening in Japan is bizarre but the real question is why is it bizarre? The government recognised the residents fear about radiation (as they did at Three Mile Island) and ignored its perception gap and decided to evacuate to assuage the fears of its residents without considering the consequences.

      But this issue is much broader than the evacuation. It goes to the core of how our fears rule our decision making, often to our disadvantage.

      report
    21. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      I agree Martin, Fukushima is a difficult problem to understand. Most people's understanding of the dangers of radiation have come from Hollywood. Radiation is a complex hazard that humans have no real instincts in understanding. In effect it becomes fear of the unknown that people are reacting to.
      Here is a summary from a respected journal that attempts to tally up the actual damage done to humans.
      http://www.nature.com/news/fukushima-s-doses-tallied-1.10686

      report
    22. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      That article certainly does highlight the perception gap between facts and ideology but perhaps not the gap that Geoff Russell and Martin Nicholson are going to thank you for.

      "The UNSCEAR committee’s analyses show that 167 workers at the plant received radiation doses that slightly raise their risk of developing cancer. The general public was largely protected by being promptly evacuated, although the WHO report does find that some civilians’ exposure exceeded the government’s guidelines…

      Read more
    23. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      A couple of points. "UNSCEAR which is a pro nuclear group" is your opinion which I disagree with. It was set up by the UN as an organisation to provide independent advice and is made up of scientists from 27 different countries. There is nothing in its make up or charter to suggest it is "pro nuclear"
      The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover, is a lawyer. He seems to have no background in either health or science.

      report
    24. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      You've done nothing to contradict my "original claim". Anand Grover? Did you bother to check his credentials. He's a lawyer. I'm sure he's a very nice gentleman with a solid concern for rights ... that's his job. But he's no authority on radiation ... whereas the IAEA is.

      In summary, you've produced no evidence that doses in the evacuation area from which some 150,000 were forcibly removed ever came even close to those where IAEA guidelines indicated that an evacuation was required. The evacuation…

      Read more
    25. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I'm playing catchup here, and you know more than I do, so I'm going to ask questions now....

      Research indicates that 'background' radiation is ~67.7mSv/a. Is it different to what's happening at Fukushima? Is it a different type of radiation? And is the measurement at Fukushima inclusive of the background radiation, or exclusive?

      report
    26. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I don't know where that number comes from Mike, but at it's good to
      see you starting to think about the process ... here's an accessible set of background figures
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

      Most of the numbers being thrown around at Fukushima relate to gamma radiation from atoms that escaped the reactor. Basically as dust. An atom of Cs-137 sitting on the ground is harmless ... it emits beta and gamma particles ... your cloths/distance/skin stop the betas so its only the…

      Read more
    27. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      @Steve Hindle.
      So you are saying that UNSCEAR are a credible group.

      Here is what they say again.
      "The UNSCEAR committee’s analyses show that 167 workers at the plant received radiation doses that slightly raise their risk of developing cancer. The general public was **largely protected by being promptly evacuated**, although the WHO report does find that some civilians’ exposure exceeded the government’s guidelines."

      "Overall, the reports do **lend credibility** to the Japanese government’s…

      Read more
    28. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      The reason I ask is that IF the gamma rays are ADDED to the background level, then the 100mSi/h is exceeded. And that may be the reason for the evacuation.

      report
    29. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      You're forgetting that NO ONE knew exactly what was going to happen next. The accident could have gotten a whole lot worse quickly, and if people had not been evacuated and the situation worsened suddenly, THEN whose head would be on the chopping board.

      Are you aware that now they are attempting to remove the rods, Japan is considering evacuating FORTY MILLION PEOPLE to China and Russia...??? Maybe they know something YOU don't know....

      report
    30. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Sorry, that shouldn't read 'attempting', I meant considering.......

      report
    31. Martin Nicholson

      Energy researcher and author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Background radiation is typically between 2 and 3 mSv/a but can be higher in some high altitude regions.

      report
    32. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      No, it could not have gotten a whole lot worse.

      Chernobyl was far worse. It had no containment and a raging fire spewing radioactive dust far and wide. But even that did nothing compared to lifestyle choices like cigarettes, red and processed meat, alcohol and obesity. The rate of cancer in Ukraine is 50% lower than the rate in Australia (or the US). It was and remains simply impossible for radiation from a nuclear accident (or even from multiple atomic bombs) to match more powerful and highly…

      Read more
    33. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "So you are saying that UNSCEAR are a credible group"
      Yes they are a credible group. The structure is based on independent scientists from a wide range of different countries answerable to the UN, much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
      What is not credible is giving equal weight to a lawyer with no science qualifications. That is the type of approach that people who totally deny climate change use.

      report
    34. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "Removing rod from No 4 reactor was recently cancelled, and some believe it cannot be done anyway without catastrophic results." It would be interesting to calculate the CO₂e emissions generated by the massive clean-up effort. Dirty response to a dirty problem: aren't we a clever little species?

      report
    35. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike S "the plant has been decrepit for some time" - now, that sort of incompetence and cover-up exactly what will happen in any commercial enterprise, in response to any adverse event. Just because Gen IV nuke designs are safer does not mean human greed and blame-avoidance in the company running the reactor will also be safer than TEPCO's. There will be faults, they will be covered up and there will be consequences, imho.

      report
    36. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      @Steve Hindle

      There are plenty of people who deny climate science who have science qualifications, even some with climate science qualifications. The primary issue is the evidence, not who presents the evidence. But yes - generally speaking I am going to take more notice of someone with expertise.

      Interestingly though whenever I quote someone, I am told they are rubbish. Whenever I quote one of your experts or one of Russell's - like the IAEA for example, Russell refuses to accept their position…

      Read more
    37. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I don't speak for Geoff Russell however there are so many wild claims going around about the effects of radiation and it is easy to become confused. I try to listen to both sides and then compare the claims against expert studies. There are always individual experts with counter claims, but unless they have strong evidence, I usually accept the consensus.
      This graph seems an honest attempt to put things into perspective.
      http://imgs.xkcd.com/blag/radiation.png

      report
    38. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike you consistently miss the main point. You seem to think that
      any possible elevation in cancer risk would be enough to justify the evacuation. Wrong. Large scale permanent evacuations are very, very dangerous activities and they are only justified if they reduce suffering. Given that more than a few people died in the evacuation, the fact that it prevented a few cancers is very cold comfort ... I can see the defence closing argument now: "Yes, your honour 500 people did die during and shortly…

      Read more
    39. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      The WHO, IAEA, UNSCEAR, ICRP all share a similar view on how radiation impacts people. What's confusing is when people consider the impacts in isolation. Here's the best analogy I can come up with. Suppose you drop a stone in a still pond. You can use physics to estimate the size of the ripple wave. That's roughly what WHO has done at Fukushima to calculate increased cancer risk. Now drop that same stone in the ocean. Can you spot the ripple in the breakers on the beach? Only if it is huge, which…

      Read more
    40. Osk Archer

      Chemist/Maltster

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      This has been quite a good comment thread so far.

      I have been keeping up with the (recently good, boring) news from the Fukushima plant. At the same time I've grown quite disgusted at some people pushing the barrow against nuclear power who so easily forget the tens of thousands of innocent victims of the natural disasters. The bulk of Japan is still recovering from that, guys. The situation in Fukushima is mostly good for selling newspapers, unless all the sensationalism and perception gap is…

      Read more
    41. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Osk Archer

      When the need to vent radioactive steam from the reactors was first realised, the protocol was for a temporary 2km evacuation ... this was
      quickly promoted to 3km. That makes some sense. It's no different from moving people out of the path of an oil refinery smoke plume during a fire. If you read Mark Willacy's book you realise how disturbingly ignorant all kinds of people were ... starting with Naoto Kan. Willacy interviewed a lot of people for that book (some of the book is really good), but…

      Read more
    42. Osk Archer

      Chemist/Maltster

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Yes I agree.

      I read your review a while ago... I was up with the infant this morning watching News24 and an unrelated article which Willacy had recently filmed about a US veteran living in exhile on a Japanese island. Interesting story but it struck me as obvious that Willacy is pretty much hanging around for the next "catastrophic" spill or accident at Fukushima or bungling by TEPCO that he must be convinced will happen after listening to "experts" like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Perrow

      Also, everyone should read your 3-part article on radiation and mutations to which you've repeatedly linked and refered. It begins to become obvious who has not.

      report
    43. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Osk Archer

      An "impending doom" story has a much longer shelf life than any story about actual tragedy. Picture the news photographers camped outside hospitals waiting for any workers injured at Fukushima. Three radiation burns threw them into a global frenzy while they ignored the hospitals full of tsunami victims. Many of whom were injured because of sea wall failures that Helen, Jim Green and the various Mikes and Zs on this thread continually ignore ... because they weren't screw ups by nuclear villians, just screw-ups by normal humans. And they resulted in real death and injury not just possible illness sometime in the next few decades.

      report
  5. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    You just don't get it boys and girls. The hysteria over nuclear accidents and contamination that has killed less people worldwide than Australia's annual road toll when compared with the estimated 100,000 coal miners killed and maimed annually will die away soon enough.

    That soon enough will be when we start running out of fossil fuels and our population has tripled to 21 billion and everyone is clamoring for their human right to own an Audi 4WD and have fully airconditioned houses and to be able to fly to Europe for a holiday.

    Then all of the 'issues' with nuclear energy will quietly drift down our priorities and we can go on trashing the earth as usual.

    Gerard Dean

    report
    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Given that the Fukushima cleanup is going to take more than 40 years according to the IAEA, it will also chew up a chunk of the Japanese budget, so there is very little chance of the Japanese forgetting about the disaster.
      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57580704/fukushima-nuclear-plant-shutdown-may-take-japan-longer-than-predicted-40-years-warns-u.n-agency/

      And if Vlado is correct, they will also have to pay to decommission 30 retired reactors. Any thoughts on how long it takes and how expensive…

      Read more
    2. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      The hysteria over nuclear accidents and contamination that has killed less people worldwide than Australia's annual road toll

      You mean........... like the estimated one million Russians who've died of cancers since Chernobyl?

      report
    3. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Correction, the peer reviewed sources are including all future deaths from cancers whereas your claiming 1 million are already dead.

      report
  6. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Given that the anti-nuclear movement has succeeded in making the Japanese, Germans (and Australians) more frightened of deathless accidents like Fukushima than climate catastrophes like Haiyan or the 2010 Pakistan floods, articles like Vlado's will, I fear, become common over coming years. Until rationality can be allowed to enter in debates on risk, we are in serious trouble.

    report
    1. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Rational debate would indicate that nuclear power plants are safe where there is no likelihood of natural disasters overcoming the site.
      Like Australia's centre: no earthquakes, no tsunamis, no floods, no monsoons. An ideal place to build a modern nuclear electricity generator - or six.
      To build a nuclear facility in a place known to be dangerous ( as in an earthquake prone region) is to require the designers to have built-in safety features. It appears this did not happen with Fukushima.
      By…

      Read more
    2. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Right.......... and the water will come from..........??? And getting millions of tonnes of concrete and steel to the centre is a piece of cake, as is building the thousands of kilometres of high tension power lines.

      All we need is to raise the debt ceiling a little more..... and for WHAT?

      If everyone lived like we do here at our house, we wouldn't need your nukes, and we could shut down 3/4 of all the coal fired power stations.

      EXPECTATIONS are the real issue/problems......

      report
    3. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      If only ! But you cannot force other people to live as you do, no matter what you say or do. It is also pointless to argue with people who have no wish to listen. So. We do nothing, you have all the answers and no-one listens.
      To control CO2 will not be a cheap exercise. It will take many decades to achieve a significant reduction, but we can be absolutely sure that the cost of any amelioration will increase as the years roll by. So arguing that the cost of reducing pollutant gases is too great elicits the question "At what stage does the danger to the planet equal the rising cost of of fighting the problem.?"
      I think that it about now. But of course it is all too difficult.

      report
    4. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Thank you. I was unaware that the earthquake activity was as consistent as the article states. Nevertheless, there are many excellent building techniques which allow a buildings to ride-out the shaking of an earth tremor - many of them used in the renewing of Christchurch.
      Mike Stasse asks where the water would come from. Why not the sea?There is no shortage, especially with the forecast rise in sea levels. And the cost? If there is global warming then it is time that we accepted that the accumulation of personal piles of money may not be the proper end point. Preservation of the planet must assume a greater importance, surely ! If not, why should we fool ourselves into being concerned over a mere supposition ?

      report
    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Michael H "Rational debate would indicate that nuclear power plants are safe where there is no likelihood of natural disasters overcoming the site." Given the litany of incompetence and cover-ups by TEPCO, long prior to the tsunami, nuclear power plants are only as safe as the people running them. Incompetence and corruption are not safe bedfellows for nuclear energy enterprises of any kind.

      report
    6. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Agreed. Dispense with private development of ALL electricity generation and instead, run a semi-government organisation ( I think the term is QUANGO) which is accountable to parliament and, by inference, the voters. This would not only be safer, because the profit-motive and subsequent cost-cutting is eliminated, but the profits would be returned to the Government coffers and thus make up for the foolish tax-cutting of past years. Finance ? the vast amounts of money held by superannuation funds, insurance companies and trading banks. Pay them an interest rate equal to the average return on the Stock Exchange and turn their profit-making into infrastructure development.!!

      report
  7. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    Prior to the Fukushima accident things were looking very rosy for the nuclear energy industry. No major accident for decades. Climate change becoming urgent. Only one source of dense energy available, other than hydrocarbons....

    Then... bang... it all fell apart.

    Not because there was an accident, but because that accident happened in a politically stable, technically advanced country and the one nation that has most cause than any other in the world to pursue nuclear power with the utmost…

    Read more
    1. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Chris Harries

      There's no way the nuclear industry is going to survive this, China may be the exception, but only because it's a virtual dictatorship. And post collapse, it may turn out to be an even bigger disaster than the US....

      Consider this: half of the US' nukes are now so old and decrepit they all need decommissioning. Decommissioning costs at least double what building a new nuke does. WHERE will the money come from? There's only one place money comes from, and that's DEBT.

      We're already at Peak Debt. In fact, we are as good as at PEAK EVERYTHING right now, give or take three years.......

      The party's over. Very little new energy infrastructure will be built over the next three years, renewable or not. It's downhill all the way from here on. And HUNDREDS of nukes will rot away unattended and undecommissioned, ALL becoming death zones...

      report
    2. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thanks Mike,

      That puts the renewables crowd and the new-nuclear crowd together under one roof, though they seem on the surface to be sworn enemies. Both camps trying earnestly to prove that we can avoid collapse.

      The one thing that sets them apart under the certain collapse scenario is that the surviving civilisation (presumably a much reduced one) will be able to much more easily use low density renewable technology that has been developed.

      I guess a majority still believe, optimistically, that a catastrophic collapse can be be averted. Increasing social and political chaos seems assured no matter what and that is relevant to this debate.

      report
    3. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike S "HUNDREDS of nukes will rot away unattended and undecommissioned, ALL becoming death zones" - that is exactly the dystopian future I have nightmares about. If our civilisation crashes, who is going to safely defuse all the environmental time bombs we have built over the years, not just nukes? We have some pretty nasty chemical plants handy to oceans and they may be under threat from sea level rise, amongst other things. We are pretty well screwed, whatever we do from now on. Ah, the profit motive: what a wonderful boon to humanity ...

      report
  8. Martin Nicholson

    Energy researcher and author

    This debate centres on risk perception and what David Ropiek defines as the Perception Gap - the potentially dangerous distance between our fears and the facts. Alas our fears often rule the roost. So we shutter the nuclear power plants to assuage our fears and risk a much greater calamity in future climate disasters.

    The very use of the word "disaster" associated with Fukushima helps to increase our fears so we ignore the much greater risk from future climate change. Which was the greatest disaster: Fukushima or Haiyan? In terms of deaths and damage to property the answer is obvious.

    report
  9. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    "(Japan's) Nuclear power.. share of total power generation was to increase from 27% (in 2009) to 40% by 2017 and to 50% by 2030."

    What is the source of this claim - how can it be possible - Japan was not building new plants?

    The author also does not mention reports via BBC and Guardian news that Japanese emissions were 7% higher in 2005 than 2000 even WITH nuclear power? They were losing the battle because they were, tragically, too heavily invested in one (failed) solution. This should be…

    Read more
    1. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      The real test for renewable energy supplying base load power is after the sun has set and there is little wind (a very common occurrence). It then becomes incredibly expensive.
      Closing down the option of next generation nuclear energy is to condemn the world to increasing the burning of fossil fuels (which as this article points out, is what is happening in Japan now).

      report
    2. Zvyozdochka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      If you're 'baseload' in your thinking, you've already missed the point.

      report
    3. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Steve. I was taught that on the edges of the deserts, the wind blows towards the centre as the desert heats up during the day and then reverses direction as the desert cools and the sea becomes the warmer place. If this is so, then perhaps we are building our wind farms in the wrong place. By and large, deserts are unpopulated so that there would be few people to raise objections.
      There is also the possibility of vast areas of solar panels placed on desert landscapes. Not only providing abundant local electricity but providing shade for all manner of mammals and reptiles. Did I hear something about local industry being an unattainable dream?

      report
    4. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      One point I haven't missed is the falling Green vote and the likely reversal of a price on carbon. This is the result of uncompromising, blinkered thinking.

      report
    5. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Michael Hay

      The rising hot air during the daytime does pull in a sea breeze starting around mid morning and there is a weak reversal at night. However, as I understand it, a strong sea breeze rarely penetrates far inland.

      report
    6. Zvyozdochka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      "This is the result of uncompromising, blinkered thinking."

      No, it's the result of exactly what I said in my first comment.

      Nuclear boosters are distracting from the real target; those that artificially support fossil fuel industry.

      They are those in Labor terrified as usual to upset the current job mix and the filthy-Lib deniers.

      If you're trying to boost nuclear, and voted for either of those parties you're part of the problem. Did you? Hoping that the Libs would bring on Nuclear in Australia despite the hopeless economics that just extend the use of cheap fossil fuels? Useful idiots.

      The only solution that will destroy the fossil fuel industry is large deployment of renewable energy, causing a breakdown in the baseload business model dominated by utilities, due to falling wholesale pricing. Exactly what the Germans are doing.

      report
    7. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      The urgency of our climate problem has been exacerbated by the anti-nuclear movement giving coal a free run for the last couple of decades ... otherwise we could have been where France has been for 20 years ... with electricity for 80 gm-CO2/kwh instead of nuclear free Australia at 850 gm-Co2/kwh. If Germany hits its target of 80% clean electricity by 2050 it will be 60 years after France got there. The French nuclear roll out was 6 time faster than the current German wind+solar roll out:

      http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/nuclear-has-scaled-far-more-rapidly-than-renewables/

      report
    8. Zvyozdochka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      We're not talking about historic actions in France. Those plant are essentially paid for (apart from the massive decomissioning costs) and will need to be replaced soon (a-la USA). They can't build an extra watt for anything like an economic value, even in France, or in the UK, or in the USA.

      Did you vote filthy-Liberal Geoff, thinking that would help your pet NPPs would get up in Australia?

      report
    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      If you thought I'd vote Liberal, you clearly haven't read much of what I've written since changing from being lifelong time anti-nuclear, 30 year vegan, to being pro-nuclear, vegan AR activist. Back before I locked myself up for a couple of months to reconsider my position on nuclear, I could have mirrored most of what you and Mike Hansen keep saying to me. But the anti-nuclear movement is the classic emperor without clothes ... it just doesn't stand up to rational examination. You and Mike keep ignoring the obvious. We could have followed France and had 20+ years of clean electricity. But we screwed up big time. We could have powered Australia with one small U mine but we chose instead to bugger vast areas with coal mines while staying proudly anti-nuclear. It's easy to just go with your mates and keep mouthing slogans and quite an emotional challenge to change position. But we don't have time for irrationality ... we don't want more Haiyans!

      report
    10. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Logical, rational thought with no party politics or three word slogans. Thank you.

      report
    11. Osk Archer

      Chemist/Maltster

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Let me go out on a limb here, maybe even poke the bear, and suggest that if the Bataan NPP was already operating or even merely fueled, and Haiyan had tracked a little further north, then the 5000+ unfortunate dead in Tacloban and other regions, and the 2 million homeless would (by some media outlets) be swiftly forgotten as they focused on whatever potential "radioactive catastrophe" there might be.

      report