Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Counting Yen

yenJapan does not have many options for electricity if it leaves behind nuclear energy and if limiting carbon emission remains a national goal. But what Japan decides to do about nuclear energy is something that is tough to gainsay.

So, the groundwork to lessen dependence on nuclear is being laid, though the results are imperfect:

Nuclear power generation in Japan is about 50 percent more expensive than estimated after factoring in the cost of paying for an accident like the Fukushima disaster, a government panel said.

Nuclear energy costs at least 8.9 yen (11 cents) per kilowatt hour, compared with a government estimate of 5.9 yen in 2004, the panel said in a draft report today.

Presumably it is still 5.9 yen if the accident is factored out, but okay: 8.9 yen it is. Why is that imperfect?

Coal is estimated to cost 9.5 yen per kilowatt hour, while liquefied natural gas and oil cost 10.7 yen and 36 yen respectively.

Another story put wind at 9.9 yen and solar at 33.4 yen.

Those are Japan’s choices – and everything has to be imported.  Japan will produce more carbon emissions, pay more for the dubious honor, and has to build the plants and train the workers. There’s a lot of capital investment involved in this process.

Various accounts have shown Japan abandoning or reducing or sticking with nuclear energy. It’s almost a time of day thing. But if the trend is toward reducing nuclear energy output – because the accident rendered nuclear energy persona non grata - it’s a genuinely terrible outcome.

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One of the dumber editorials. Our writer wants to signal disapproval for nuclear energy while voicing support for the Keystone XL pipeline:

But our nation does need power. For electricity, we need to open up desert space and urban rooftops for solar energy projects. But solar and wind will not be enough. That's why the Keystone Pipeline project - which is oil from a friendly country - may be the preferred alternative. At the very least, it would be better than building more nuclear power plants.

Solar and wind will not be enough for what? And if they are not enough, how might oil fill in?

Sheesh!

The lady on the 5000 yen note is Ichiyo Higuchi, a writer and poet who lived her brief life from 1872 to 1896. Much of her work focused on the people and social order in the Yoshiwara district (essentially, the red light district) of Tokyo.

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