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Gen IV, Japan, IPCC

hamaoka 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.


Karen Street said…
Mark, I think that you go the purported name of the report from the web site. Also, Teske may be a lead author, there tend to be many of these, but his name is not listed on the summary for policy makers. IPCC reports all have boring names, eg, Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN)
Brian Mays said…
Geez ... just when you thought that the IPCC couldn't lose any more credibility.

Can someone please tell me why a professional activist from Greenpeace is a lead author of a UN report? (And yes, he is a lead author of Chapter 10.) Is it because he's some highly educated academic with valuable, in-depth knowledge of a specialized field? Not according to his CV (PDF), he isn't. He has only a basic engineering degree and has never had a real job working for academia, industry, or government. He has spent the entire time since getting his diploma working for Greenpeace and almost all of that time working as a "campaigner."

Is this where the IPCC gets its "overwhelming scientific evidence"? From environmental pressure groups? From organizations that are known for playing fast-and-loose with the numbers, like Greenpeace?

Is this "science" or advertising?
Anonymous said…
Hydropower, eh? Fukushima has caused no fatalities among the population, whereas hydropower was responsible for washing away a village of 1800 people when the Okura dam collapsed in Sendai province. Interesting how that didn't make the report, or the newspapers.
gunter said…
Howdy folks,

It's now Japan's own conclusion is that nuclear power is so risky, dangerous and expensive thatit has decided to abandon new reactor construction.

Meanwhile, you might have missed that TEPCO has fessed up that nuclear power can't afford to clean up its severe accidents.

And while industry cheerleaders continue to trivialize the extent Fukushima contamination, TEPCO goes begging to the Japanese government and taxpayers for decontamination and decommissioning funds.

Now in the eighth week of the accident, shouldn't the entire global nuclear industry be contributing to bring Fukushima into cold shutdown?

Moreover, why isnt NEI, INPO and WANO leading an effort to pass the hat among the nuclear industry. Scratch that, the entire nuclear industry should now be held finacially liable in perpetuity for the decommissioning, radioactive management and containment of this new sacrifice zone.

Here's nuclear power's latest reality check that the rest of the world is witnessing; 12 miles around Fukushima--including 24 miles of coastline---will not be recovered or reinhabited from the earthquake and tsunami devastation. Its too radioactive.

Will Davis said…
What a coincidence; The IPCC issues another BS report at just the right time to shove its all too clear agenda down the throats of all the people frightened by the big media's onslaught of misinformation. I for one don't buy that flowers and sunshine and cute little bunny rabbits co-mingling with their now-tamed former predators in some eutopian dreamworld is the answer, but the IPCC and all of its echoes in the vast sea of public dupes sure do. And don't try to confuse them with the facts... facts like the complete impossibility of transferring AC over the entire North American continent from their massive sun and wind farms out West. Facts like they'll never have electric, much less hydrogen, cars in every driveway without nuclear. They're not interested in facts; they're dealing, investing in, and spending for, fantasy. Isn't it wonderful that we have qualified Climate Scientists, who tell us we can't make any real claims or have valid opinions without also being Climate Scientists, to lead us through our own dark self-imposed morass of failed energy policy?
Anonymous said…
Howdy Doody Gang,

If Japan really decides to forego nuclear, they'll have cut their own throat as an economic and industrial power. So-called "renewables" are responsible for thousands of deaths in Japan (Okura dam collapse, whereas the Fukushima plant has harmed no one) and in any case can't carry the load. "Conservation" alone won't cut it - you still need an energy source to conserve. If you conserve nothing (no energy source), you'll get nothing. Once things settle down people will come to their senses and realize that no good will come of crippling the country's electricity supply by cancelling nuclear build.
Unknown said…
I have always struggled with defending the Price-Anderson Act. The earthquake/tsunami in that caused the Fukushima Daiichi accident has actually made it much easier. I have yet to learn of anything that TEPCO did legally wrong. The design basis may have been insufficient and they should have looked at what the US industry was doing with regards to station black out events but they have no fault due to negligence.
The Fukushima Daiichi accident pales in comparison to over all disaster. Governments are always the ones who pick up the big bill after a natural disaster and I don’t see how the Fukushima Daiichi part of the overall recovery should be any different.
If a hurricane tore off a blade from a wind turbine that then killed a large group of people, would the wind turbine operator be at fault? Only if the wind turbine had not been designed according the best engineering knowledge and practices and any regulations. I don’t see much difference here except for the fact the nuclear part of this disaster has killed no one.
Betting that only renewables and conservation are necessary will turn around the pending Global Climate Disaster will lead us to a disaster much worse than the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. If we do not turn this situation around and if we have not built new nuclear plants as a significant part of an effort to do so, I will blame organizations like Greenpeace and Beyond Nuclear. I hope we can hold them liable is this comes to pass.
If you are serious about climate change, your focus should be on eliminating the problem, not trying to pick winners.
Brian Mays said…
Well, the report has been released, and it is even worse than I had thought.

It turns out that Chapter 10 (the one with the lead author from Greenpeace) turned out to be a very important chapter, which includes all of the scenarios that are discussed in the report. The key scenario that made its way into the press release (i.e., "close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century") comes from a joint publication of Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (a trade group with an obvious bias), which was authored by the same Sven Teske that is a lead author of Chapter 10.

So basically, the IPCC has slapped its UN-sponsored brand on a Greenpeace report. Have these people no shame? How can anyone with any common sense take anything published by the IPCC seriously after this?!!

The whole organization is corrupt. It should be dismantled immediately.

More information here.

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