Skip to main content

Japan and the Impact of No Nuclear Power

tokyo-geceIt’s not hard to understand the reason why:

Kansai Electric Power said it incurred a net loss of 242.26 billion yen ($3 billion) turning around from a year-before profit of 123.14 billion yen.

This is in Japan. I mentioned last week that a nuclear plant can be very expensive to build but very inexpensive to run – both in absolute terms and relative to other power plants. That can make them quite profitable over time. But if Kansai and other electricity providers in Japan – Tepco is the one that owns Fukushima Daiichi – switch off the plants and begin depending on electricity imports or coal imports to fire up older plants, this is the result.

“Operating costs surged from the year before with the lower utilization rate of nuclear power plants and higher fuel prices pushing up costs of thermal power generation and of electricity purchases from other companies," it [Kansai] said.

How are the other electric companies doing?

Hokkaido Electric Power, which until it flicks the switch on May 5 is the only company with a reactor still working, reported a net loss of 72.07 billion yen, reversing a profit of 11.98 billion yen in the previous year.

Tohoku Electric Power, based in the nation's northeast devastated in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, said its net loss grew to 231.91 billion yen in the year to March 2012 from 33.71 billion yen in the previous year.

I don’t know how electricity rates are set in Japan – and coming off a gigantic natural disaster – and the accident at Fukushima Daiichi – I can imagine no one wants to contemplate raising rates.

And yet - here comes Summer.

Let’s not be too doomy. The Wall Street Journal says that production capacity has returned almost to normal, though not without sacrifice:

Then, there's the question of whether Japan will have enough electricity to power all production in July and August when electricity demand is at its peak. While many companies are taking conservation measures or setting up on-site power generation, shortages could force rationing like last year or even rolling blackouts, crimping output. 

I could be wrong, but that “on-site power generation” is more likely to be gas-driven generators rather than windmills. The Journal isn’t focused here on the electricity providers – but it is the pressure on those companies that will determine what happens next.

Tokyo. In Godzilla movies, Tokyo always seemed eminently stompable by the giant lizard. Things do change.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…