Monday, April 09, 2012

Japan and The Summer Heat

ohiGermany is exhibit A for the economic havoc that turning off nuclear facilities can wreak if care and planning aren’t taken. No energy source should be seen as an economic trap or be allowed to become one – it’s one reason the term “energy diversity” is bandied about – and countries should be able to respond to price spikes in, say, the cost of natural gas, uranium or coal without the cost of electricity likewise going haywire. That’s another reason for energy diversity. But if a country makes too precipitous a change, without adequate planning, well, you’ve got Germany.
Japan, of course, is a different case. If it were to allow a similar outcome, it would be especially distressing because Japan has so few other options.

With some of its reactors running, Japan’s gross domestic product in 2012 would grow 1.9 percent, according to the first scenario. Industrial production would rise 5 percent from the previous year, and the country would have a trade surplus — its standard for three decades, before a deficit in 2011.
Without its reactors running, though, Japan’s GDP would grow just 0.1 percent. The country would be 12 percent short on electricity during the hottest months, forcing a reduction in factory production and further encouraging corporations to relocate overseas. Just as important, the country would log another trade deficit — projected at $57 billion. Much of this will be directly attributable to fossil fuel imports, which will account for about $21.1 trillion, or 30 percent of Japan’s total imports, according to the report.
It’s a tough situation, much more so for resource-poor Japan than for Germany. The story says that Japan’s new energy policy, due this summer, is likely to retain nuclear energy in some measure – let’s hope enough of it to stave off some of the more dire predictions.
In the meantime:
Japan's economy minister said Monday two nuclear reactors tentatively met government safety standards even though completing improvements will take several years, paving the way for final approval for their startup soon.
And that’s because:
Kansai Electric said Monday that its service area, including Osaka and Kyoto, will face up to 20 percent of power shortage during the summer if the reactors stayed offline.
All but one of Japan’s 54 reactors are off-line for inspection and it’s fair to guess they won’t remain that way as the summer heat arrives.
There can be no second-guessing the national reaction caused by the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. This is something that has to be left to Japan’s people and government. Culture and history will play their parts, too, in how the Japanese will proceed. But there are practical issues, too, and those, right now, are pressing down hard.
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Speaking of Germany:
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has underlined Iran's right to develop its nuclear energy program as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
On the one hand, chalk it up to the strange ways of international diplomacy; on the other hand, huh? This comes from an Iranian news source, so there is plenty of reason to doubt that this is the whole story.
I looked at Bild, which the story cited, and of course Westerwelle hoped Iran would resolve any issues about weapons building.
Wir setzen uns für eine atomwaffenfreie Zone im gesamten Nahen und Mittleren Osten ein.
Iran hat das Recht auf eine zivile Nutzung der Atomenergie. Es hat nicht das Recht auf atomare Bewaffnung.
Approximately (my translation - buyer beware):
We are committed to a nuclear-free zone in the entire Middle East.
Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It does not have the right to a nuclear weapon.
A little more:
Ein Iran mit Atomwaffen hätte schwerwiegende Folgen: Die ohnehin gefährdete, prekäre Stabilität der Region wäre endgültig dahin. Es würde ein kaum kontrollierbares Wettrüsten einsetzen. Auch die globale Sicherheitsarchitektur käme ins Wanken.
Or:
A nuclear Iran would have serious consequences: the already vulnerable, precarious stability of the region would be permanently gone. It would cause an uncontrollable arms race. The global security architecture would falter.
So there you go. What do you think Westerwelle is “underlining?”
The Ohi nuclear facility. This has the two reactors which may be allowed to operate again.

1 comment:

jimwg said...

It is just one totally unreal situation with Japan and Germany! You skittishly knee-jerk shut down perfectly good functioning energy plants in two nations just because one's peculiar case is knocked out by a rare mother-of-all natural calamity -- which still doesn't hurt anyone or cause widespread damage. I mean think about that if you applied that same rational to other energy sources, industries, transportation that DO occasionally wipe out people en mass. It's crazy! Since they get most their nuclear "education" from scary movies and TV shows despite nuclear energy's incontestable real-world safety and operating record -- including worst accidents, I think one college classroom lesson on nuclear power be mandatory for all politicians.

James Greenidge
Queens NY