Friday, January 13, 2012

Consequential Elections

TaipeiThere’s some good news:

China has 28 plants under construction, and India is building seven reactors and has plans for 20 more. And despite its proximity to Japan, South Korea, with 21 active nuclear reactors, is moving forward on 18 more. Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are all actively seeking to join the nuclear-power club.

But mostly bad:

When voters here choose a president and a new legislature on Saturday, their decisions will also determine whether Taiwan pulls the plug on a state-backed nuclear power industry that provides the country with a fifth of its electricity.

This is because the challenger Tsai Ing-wen has a good shot of unseating the current President Ma Ying-jeou. I was curious about this, because Ma has overseen a economic boom due to a financial rapprochement with mainland China. Tsai prefers no contact with the mainland. Of course, this is a key issue in any Taiwanese election – much more so than nuclear energy could ever be – and consequently, according to this story on CNN, many Taiwanese working on the mainland are returning home to cast votes:

"Because of the closeness of the race, this election has the highest ever number of returnees," says Professor Ray-Kuo Wu of Fu Jen University, adding that estimates could be as high as 250,000 returnees. "Corporate bosses have mobilized their employees to participate in these elections like never before.

"Hon Hai Precision is chartering six planes to get people back to vote and Formosa Plastics Group is another company that is helping employees return for the election."

If you think the U.S. is the heart of free enterprise, you clearly haven’t been to Taiwan. Anyway, Taiwan is essentially in the same spot as Japan when it comes to nuclear energy because it is an island devoid of oil, gas and coal reserves. That mean – well, why not let the New York Times make the argument?

Proponents of nuclear energy say all the talk of a nuclear-free Taiwan neglects one important detail: how to replace the power generated by the reactors. Taiwan produces about 1 percent of its energy supplies and relies on a mix of imports: oil from the Middle East, coal from China and Australia and natural gas from Indonesia and Malaysia.

And the answer, unfortunately, is a little desperate:

Ms. Tsai speaks of increased conservation and of shifting the Taiwanese economy away from power-hungry manufacturing. Part of her “2025 Nuclear-Free Homeland Initiative” also calls for the construction of gas-fired turbines and an expanded reliance on solar and wind power.

There you go – kill your economic base and plant wind farms on extremely limited land resources.

I took a look at the 2025 initiative referenced by Tsai. Here’s what it proposes in handy Q&A form:

How could Taiwan replace nuclear power?

(A) Increase the proportion of renewable energy: the DPP’s initiative calls for increasing renewable energy by about 6.5% of total electricity generation by 2025.

(B) Improve the efficiency of thermal power: In addition to increasing power generation efficiency, invest in thermal power plants in order to reduce the amount of carbon emissions.

(C) Construction of natural gas power plants as priority because natural gas is a cleaner energy, and future power plants should give priority to using natural gas.

What are other methods to reduce power consumption in the long-term?

(A) Energy Conservation: the Government can encourage people to use energy-saving products.

(B) Adjust industrial structure: instead of just focusing on economic growth, we should encourage green policies among energy-intensive industries.

(C) Liberalization of the electricity industry: the government should liberalize the electricity market, which not only alters the issue of Tai-Power’s monopoly, but it also encourages the development of the renewable energy industry.

Yikes.

Now, nuclear energy isn’t meant to be a trap from which there is no escape, but Taiwan, even more than Japan, really needs to think this out. Nuclear energy was a boon for its growth as an economic power – lots of clean electricity from a limited land mass – and a viable way to replace it would need very careful planning. This plan seems based on some very dubious premises.

Election on Saturday. We’ll check back next week.

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Tell me what you really think:

The authors—in their effort to support a crackpot theory— used data that is essentially useless.

This is Josh Bloom, a scholar at the American Council On Science and Health, commenting on the recent article by Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman that radiation from Fukushima Daiichi has been killing Americans pell-mell. Eric has done a series of posts on this over the last few weeks, so no need to go over it again; still, Bloom’s takedown is really fun.

In trying to make a case against nuclear power, the authors have succeeded only in embarrassing themselves.

Richly deserved.

Taipei at night.

1 comment:

Rod Adams said...

Good news - Ma won with more than 51% of the vote to about 45% for the antinuclear challenger.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-01/15/content_14447365.htm