Reuters has a nice roundup of Generation IV nuclear reactor designs. I’m pretty sure author Lisa Song is wrong when she says the designs will not be finalized before 2030. The very high temperature reactor, for one, is due to reach commercial viability by 2020. Plants currently under construction or proposed are Generation III-plus reactors, which are Gen III reactors with further safety enhancements.
No quotes. The whole thing is worth reading if only to learn the difference between a gas reactor and a fast reactor.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu Electric to close the Hamaoka plant over fears of an earthquake. Chubu complied and expects it will take two years or so to retrofit the plant to better withstand an earthquake.
Whether this is necessary or a sop to unfounded fears, I choose not to guess, but it’s certainly within the country’s purview if doing this quells fears. After all, if Japan wanted to close all its nuclear plants, that’d be its (unfortunate) choice.
That said, there’s considerable hesitation that this outcome is justified or beneficial:
Asked whether he would seek the closure of other nuclear plants, Kan told reporters on Sunday: "That won't be the case," adding that Hamaoka had an especially high risk of being hit by a massive earthquake.
And why hesitation?
Chubu says it can meet this fiscal year's peak demand of 25,600 MW even if Hamaoka shuts. But the Yomiuri newspaper, quoting a company executive, says the company may have to consider "rolling blackouts" in very hot weather.
At a capacity of 3600 megawatts, Hamaoka supplies about 15 percent of that number. Let’s hope rolling blackouts don’t happen. Japan’s had trouble enough already.
The story that contains these quotes tries too hard to spot out a change in energy policy through the Hamaoka closing, but I’m not sure about that: it seems equally likely that Kan wants to do something dramatic, as politicians will do, but he’s not shutting the plant for good and he directly says no other is being closed.
In other words, and to be fair, it’s too early to know how Japan will go forward with its energy policy. Let’s leave it there for now.
An interesting report coming up from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.
And that’s a good thing because:
The upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in greenhouse gas emissions from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million.
This could contribute towards a goal of holding the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius – an aim recognized in the United Nations Climate Convention’s Cancun Agreements.
Obviously, nuclear energy has no role here – the report is organized and titled to ensure it has none - although it would certainly be interesting to know what its contribution would be if it had been included. Impressive, I’d bet – in a lot less land space.
Here’s what the report considers:
- Bioenergy, including energy crops; forest, agricultural and livestock residues and so called second generation biofuels
- Direct solar energy including photovoltaics and concentrating solar power
- Geothermal energy, based on heat extraction from the Earth‘s interior
- Hydropower, including run-of-river, in-stream or dam projects with reservoirs
- Ocean energy, ranging from barrages to ocean currents and ones which harness temperature differences in the marine realm
- Wind energy, including on- and offshore systems
The description of the report makes it seem more a wish list for hardcore environmentalists than a practical roadmap forward. After all, the report is called “Climate and Capitalism: Ecosocialism or Barbarism: There Is No Third Way.” Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? – as long as you go along with the policy prescription. Otherwise, it’s barbarism for you, Visigoth.
I know, at root, I’m miffed by the sidelining of nuclear energy for no reason other than that using renewable resources is the desired method to reach the desired goal. And if there are other ways one might go to achieve the same goal – a third or even fourth way – too bad.
So this didn’t surprise me a bit:
Sven Teske, renewable energy director at Greenpeace International, and a lead author of the report, said: "This is an invitation to governments to initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy centre stage. On the run up to the next major climate conference, COP17 in South Africa in December, the onus is clearly on governments to step up to the mark."
I’ll wait until people more knowledgeable than I am review the text of the report before deciding if it’s truly a stinker – maybe there’s more to it than I’m allowing – but the bullying tone taken by the report’s title – and its lead author – portend otherwise.
Japan’s Hamaoka plant.I thought this might be the plant that housed people after the tsunami, but no. that was Onagawa.