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Analysis of Replacing Japan’s Nuclear Plants With Other Technologies

image Over at Forbes’ blog, Sara Mansur has dug into the numbers to see what it would take if nuclear were phased out in Japan:

If nuclear power were to be completely taken out of Japan’s power supply, the country’s carbon emissions would rise by at least 414 million tons over current emissions [assuming nuclear is replaced by coal and gas]. Carbon emissions would increase by at least 10% and as much as 17% across the entire economy, while power-sector emissions would soar by 29% to 49%, depending on the mix of replacement power.

What about renewables instead?

the 203 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity required to replace Japan’s current nuclear fleet would cover roughly 1.3 million acres, according to a land area calculator created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States. That’s the equivalent of roughly 52% of Japan’s total land area.

Using an estimate of $5 per watt of installed solar PV capacity, installing this 203 GW of solar capacity would cost the country at least $1.01 trillion.

Alternatively, replacing the generation lost from a complete phase-out of nuclear power entirely with wind energy would require wind generation to increase from its current levels, 3.257 billion kWh (0.3% of total electricity), to 267 billion kWh (27% of total electricity).

This would require 152 GW of installed wind capacity, at a total installation cost of $375 billion (using an estimate of $2,466/KWe). According to NREL’s wind farm area calculator, the installation of these wind turbines would require 38,000 acres taken out of production on a wind farm, and a total of 1.3 billion acres for the entire wind farm. This represents over 50 percent of Japan’s total land area.

And that’s to replace the existing Japanese nuclear fleet. By 2030, Japan had set a goal to double it. Check out the rest of the Forbes analysis to see what it would take if other technologies met that 2030 goal instead. Hint – there’s a reason why Japan is big on nuclear.

Update, 5/2: Looks like there was a serious calculation error on the amount of land needed for wind and solar. The land space needed for solar or wind to replace Japan's nuclear fleet would take up a few percent of the country's land space, not 50% or more.

Comments

Anonymous said…
What are the reporter's qualifications to perform an energy supply and demand analysis?

If a lay person OPPOSING nuclear power dared to do a quantitative analysis like this, most posters here would rip them to shreds for lacking expertise and qualifications.

Heck, I've seen posts here dismissing the analyses of certain physicists (Chu, Lyman) because they're not the right KIND of physicists, or those of engineers (Gundersen, Makhijani) because they're not NUCLEAR engineers.

I guess the takeaway is, expertise of a source doesn't matter if they AGREE with you.
David Bradish said…
most posters here would rip them to shreds for lacking expertise and qualifications.

Actually, most posters here use facts to rip them to shreds.

I guess the takeaway is, expertise of a source doesn't matter if they AGREE with you.

Nice try. If you bothered to take a look at the Forbes piece, you would see numbers and links galore for you to verify. If you have a problem with the numbers then say something. Otherwise you're complaining about nothing here.

Expertise, to me, isn't everything. I'm a "lay person" and do quantitative analyses here and other places yet I get ripped on very little. Comments are moderated here but very little is ever censored. The critics have had some shots here but most of the time they're silent. In my years as a blogger, I've learned that if you're wrong on a blog, then folks will definitely let you know. Try a different argument.
Anonymous said…
I agree. Analyses such as these should rise or fall on its own merits. That was my point.

I hope posters on this blog remember Mr. Bradish's criteria the next time a critic of nuclear power posts an analysis here. Don't reply with "they're not a nuclear engineer, so discount them" ... or worse yet, ad hominems like "they're happy Fukushima happened and want more blood." Stick to the facts.
Rod Adams said…
@anon - as far as I can tell, the analysis that David is quoting is not a supply and demend analysis, but simply a mathematical exercise to compute how much infrastructure and investment would be required to replace the existing nuclear output with wind or solar. The only qualifications that one needs for that kind of number crunching are the ability to read and program a spreadsheet. The facts can be checked by anyone with the same qualifications or skills.

I am one who attacks people who proclaim nuclear safety expertise base on a degree in particle physics focusing on the low energy behavior of mesons and baryons combined with a professional career that includes just three jobs, all located on Capitol Hill. The laat time i was in DC, i did not see a single operating nuclear plant or simulator.

I also challenge assertions about nuclear plant operations from a man who claims to have held a reactor operator's license, even though the only reactor he was ever licensed to operate was a 100 WATT university reactor that operates at room temperature. That license for the person that I am thinking about expired in 1972.

Facts are important, and anyone is free to engage in discussions on factual matters that can be researched and verified. However, people should offer better qualifications, a higher level of psonal integrity or some really complelling sources before I listen to their OPINIONS.
Anonymous said…
OK Rod, I think I finally get it. Only those who are nuclear engineers or licensed reactor operators (big reactors only, please) are qualified to opine on nuclear safety.

If we follow those criteria, that's a pretty self-sealing debate, with more than a little built-in bias.

And why doesn't your distaste for those who work on "Capitol Hill" extend to your colleagues at NEI, who have a very well-funded lobbying team?
Brian Mays said…
Anonymous - Sorry to be on topic, but do you have a question or comment about the article?
Anonymous said…
I was replying to Rod Adams, whose post proved my original point on double standards for source qualification. I thought that was obvious; maybe I should have made it clearer.
Brian Mays said…
Anonymous - No, I think that it's perfectly clear to everyone that you harbor feelings of being unfairly persecuted because of a lack of qualifications.

Please forgive my curiosity, but I was just wondering whether you had anything constructive to add that is actually relevant to the topic of the article here. From your reply, I can only conclude that your answer is a definite "no."
djysrv said…
What I think would be interesting as a "what if" exercise is to look at Fukushima with a different nuclear reactor design. Suppose Units 1-4 had been sodium cooled designs like the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) developed at Argonne West?

When it loses active cooling, it simply shuts down.

Of course, this is pie in the sky speculation, but worth the time to share a beer.
Anonymous said…
Criticism of the analysis:

The writer has numerous factual errors in the analysis.

- The writer incorrectly prices solar power at $5. It is already at $3.5 and expected to be at $2 or less by the end of the decade.

- The writer neglected to account for the fairly massive decline in energy use via adoption of energy efficient tech such as Passivehaus and other standards which drive efficiency.

- The writer neglected to account for other renewable energy sources which Japan has plenty - geothermal for example.

- The writer completely exaggerated and misrepresented the land area of Japan required for both solar and wind power. The actual percentage is closer to 1.5% of total land area for solar. Similar orders of magnitude error for wind. This is without accounting for the large increases in PV efficiencies and radical technology changes occurring today.

The scale of the errors in the calculations alone lead me to believe this writer is either incompetent or has an agenda which is not compatible with a fair evaluation of nuclear replacement costs.



-
Brian Mays said…
Anonymous - Apparently, you left out pixie dust, which could provide a massive increase in Japan's non-nuclear energy generation.

What?! You say that you don't believe in pixie dust?

Well, it has as much credibility and as many verifiable references as what you have provided for your claims.

The author of the article might or might not be "incompetent," but at least she is published by Forbes. Meanwhile, you're just a random, anonymous person who is posting a random comment on an Internet blog.

I don't think that many people are impressed by your nonsense.
David Bradish said…
Yes, finally you have something to debate.

The writer incorrectly prices solar power at $5. It is already at $3.5 and expected to be at $2 or less by the end of the decade.

EIA notes on page 7 that solar is between $4.7 and $6.0/watt (pdf).

The writer neglected to account for the fairly massive decline in energy use via adoption of energy efficient tech such as Passivehaus and other standards which drive efficiency.

Ever heard of Jevon's Paradox? Here's what EIA noted about efficiency last month: "Homes have more energy-efficient appliances, but the efficiency gains are partly offset by more consumer electronics"

The writer completely exaggerated and misrepresented the land area of Japan required for both solar and wind power.

Hmm, she linked to the National Renewable Energy Lab for her numbers. Do you have a better source?
Anonymous said…
Even The Breakthrough Institute and the propagandists who propagated these lies have pulled back and admitted that their calculations were way off base on this. What a joke. The cost of replacing nuclear with a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal is less than dealing with the Fukushima catastrophe. This blog is obviously not interested in facts.
David Bradish said…
Even The Breakthrough Institute and the propagandists who propagated these lies have pulled back and admitted that their calculations were way off base on this.

Could you show where they pulled back? I looked all over and couldn't find anything. The post that looked most relevant to what you're talking about had this to say:

In sum, it costs $155 billion dollars to construct, operate and maintain solar technologies that will produce less than the equivalent amount of power as $53.5 billion in new nuclear technologies.

Didn't see any retractions on the calculations...
David Bradish said…
Even The Breakthrough Institute and the propagandists who propagated these lies have pulled back and admitted that their calculations were way off base on this.

Anon, it looks like you were correct on the land use numbers. The land space needed for solar or wind to replace Japan's nuclear fleet would take up a few percent of the country's land space, not 50% or more.
Anonymous said…
I notice that the author of this article did not even once mention carbon free Geothermal and a possible replacement to nuclear in Japan (a land of volcanoes)]

I can't help but wonder why the author would miss so obvious a solution

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