Japan is Restarting their Nuclear Reactors to avoid Rolling Outages and High Electric Bills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

Japan is facing the economic reality of energy in the modern economy.  And is restarting their nuclear reactors (see Japan approves 2 reactor restarts, more seen ahead by Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka posted 6/16/2012 on Reuters).

Japan on Saturday approved the resumption of nuclear power operations at two reactors despite mass public opposition, the first to come back on line after they were all shut down following the Fukushima crisis…

The decision, despite public concerns over safety after the big earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant, could open the door to more restarts among Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors…

The push to restart the two Ohi reactors, before a potential summer power crunch, also underscores the premier’s eagerness to win backing from businesses worried about high electricity costs that could push factories offshore…

Nuclear power supplied almost 30 percent of electricity needs before the March 2011 disaster, which triggered meltdowns at Fukushima, spewing radiation and forcing mass evacuations…

Like it or not the modern economy runs on energy.  And the clean energy the environmentalists so like that powers the Toyota Prius has to be generated from something.  They hate coal and oil.  They’re against building dams.  Which only leaves natural gas and nuclear as only viable options.  Japan is not a country rich in fossil fuels.  So they turned to nuclear power for 30% of their electric generation mix.  There have been some bumps along the way but Japan is still there.  They even survived the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. 

Public trust in regulators was tattered by evidence that cosy ties with utilities were a key reason Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co was unprepared for the tsunami, and subsequent signs that relations remain far too snug…

“We can no longer go back to a life that depends on candles,” ruling party heavyweight Yoshito Sengoku said in an interview with the Sankei newspaper this week.

The Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency, the current watchdog, has approved stress tests for Shikoku Electric Power Co Inc’s 890-megawatt No.3 reactor in Ikata, southern Japan. Next on the list for possible approval are two Hokkaido Electric Power reactors in Tomari, northern Japan and Hokuriku Electric’s two in Shika, western Japan.

The Fukushima plant survived an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale.  An earthquake that was so powerful that it moved the earth.  The New York Times reported “NASA scientists calculated that the redistribution of mass by the earthquake might have shortened the day by a couple of millionths of a second and tilted the Earth’s axis slightly.”  The earth may have moved.  But the Fukushima plant did not.  And probably would have emerged unscathed had it not been for the tsunami that followed.  Which submerged the electrical distribution equipment that powered the cooling pumps.  And because this distribution equipment was not rated to operate submerged in water it failed.  Causing the Fukushima disaster.

Fault nuclear power all you want but the plant survived most of the worst the earth could throw at it.  It only failed when the ocean moved inland.  It withstood the powerful force of that wave (it swept some buildings away whole).  But not the effect of water entering the electrical gear.  Highly conductive saltwater.  Which just shorted out the works.  And stopped everything electrical from working.  Making it even impossible for the backup generators to power the cooling pumps.

Note how much power they will connect to the grid by connecting one reactor.  The No.3 reactor in Ikata can produce 890-megawatt.  Let’s compare that to wind power.  In Texas on the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center they have 421 windmills on nearly 47,000 acres with a nameplate rating of 735.5 MW of installed capacity.  With a capacity factor of 20-40% for wind power on the high end that reduces the actual power to 294.2 MW.  And that’s only when the wind is blowing.  The capacity factor for nuclear power is 60-100+%.  At the LOW end the No.3 reactor in Ikata will put 534 MW onto the grid.  In short nuclear power blows wind power away.  And you don’t need 47,000 acres to build a nuclear power plant.  Which is good because Japan doesn’t have land to spare being one of the most congested nations in the world. 

How can Japan not restart their reactors?  There are just no better alternatives.  Unless they want to suffer through rolling blackouts during the summer, pay higher electric bills and lose businesses seeking cheaper power.  Which is the alternative.

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