Friday, April 11, 2008

Japan and France: Nuclear Energy Points the Way

Back in 1959, director Alain Resnais released a film that has since become a classic. Called Hiroshima Mon Amour, it posited a love affair between a Japanese engineer and a French actress. As the title suggests, the relationship founders on the issue of a defining moment of modern history both western and eastern.

No debates, please, and the film is a masterpiece that chokes off debate anyway. In the real world, here comes a different defining moment:

The prime ministers of Japan and France said Friday they wanted to put global warming high on the agenda for the Group of Eight summit and hailed nuclear power as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

And here's some more:

In a joint statement, [French Prime Minister Francois] Fillon and [Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo] Fukuda said they "share the same vision of nuclear energy's paramount role for prosperity and sustainable development in the 21st century."

The two countries have chosen nuclear power "as a key component of their energy plans to ensure energy that is safe, competitive and without CO2 emissions," the statement said.

France is the only G8 member to rely on nuclear energy for most of its power and has actively promoted nuclear technology overseas.

Japan comes in second in the G8 with about one-third of its energy coming via nuclear plants, despite visible public opposition in the only nation that has been attacked with atomic bombs.

We're in no way competent to mediate the Japanese relationship with the atom, except to acknowledge that it is complex and goes to the heart of what must be remembered and what can be forgot.

Regardless, the way forward is as clear as the sky that surrounds a nuclear energy plant. France and Japan have advanced to a point where they demonstrate by example all the qualities the pro-nuclear crowd has touted all along. Clean, safe, affordable - arguments against it just wither away like a relationship grown cold.

8 comments:

gunter said...

Well, it's not all wine and roses for the Japan

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5h4Cf9tSEuzyuQslZJgVUA-43yPmw

700 Japanese antinuclear protesters rallied in protest of the nuclear sales meeting by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

What do you think the costs are now for the still shutdown Fukishima nuclear power complex which scrammed during the last earthquake?

David Bradish said...

You mean the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station? Until the units come back online, the costs for its shutdown are probably very large considering Japan now has to import expensive natural gas to meet its demand. The plant's shutdown is further evidence of its importance of providing low-cost energy to the country. Counter-intuitive to what you're trying to say, don't you think?

By the way, are you ever going to answer my question? Your silence indicates that NIRS and Beyond Nuclear aren't as pure as some may think. Otherwise, you would be shouting it from the roof. I'm obviously not going to get anything from you (didn't expect to) but we're going to do the research. We'll let you know what we find.

gunter said...

Just offering this as a classic example of why nuclear power, as a large centralized generate, needs as large sources of spinning reserve.

David Bradish said...

Is there a magical source out there that doesn't need backup power?

gunter said...

No, but the larger the centralized generator source the larger the chunk of energy that is simultaneously lost---hence more cost for backup power when its down for extended outages like the Japanese reactor complex.

David ---- Regarding your request, I find that I actually don't have your email address. Can you please formally submit your request to Beyond Nuclear for our filing information?

David Bradish said...

Paul,

I could understand that argument a few decades ago when there was much less capacity on the grid. But now since the U.S. has about 1,000 GW of capacity, it's able to compensate for unplanned outages very easily. Not only that, if any source of power is to make some sort of difference to the grid, a lot gigawatts are needed, not small megawatts.

perdajz said...

Gunter isn't thinking this through logically, and as always, he doesn't compare apples to apples.

Yes, it is very expensive for Japan whenever Kashiwazaki-Kariwa shuts down. As David Bradish points out quite correctly, this only demonstrates how valuable nuclear power is to Japan. Moreover, the plant was not significantly damaged by the earthquake, and will come back online sometime soon. The only reason it is down so long is the rigorous and indefatigable adherence to public health and safety attendant with operating a NPP.

For Gunter's point to make sense, he must identify some other source of Japanese electrical power, to the tune of 8000 MW, that would have performed flawlessly in response to a very severe earthquake. But he can't make this point. There isn't such a source. As fossil fuel plants are free to pollute even under the best of circumstances, it makes no sense to discuss their response to an earthquake. And Gunter's favorite sources of solar and wind are not availabe in sufficient quantities to replace KK station. There's also no reason to believe that 8000 MW of wind and solar power could withstand a 7.5 Richter scale earthquake unscathed.

Demesure said...

Like always, long and costly nuclear shutdowns are due to administrative medling to throw some bones to most hysterical anti-nuclear voters. And like always, those are the same people who complaint about the costs of nuclear.

That's how here in France, the socialist government who took power thanks to an alliance with the then ballistic Green party (which now has less than 1.5% voices at the last French presidential elections and no seat in parliament) and who had an environment minister from the Green (Dominique Voynet) killed the fast reactor SuperPhenix.