Skip to main content

An Authentic Replica of a Closed Nuclear Plant

This affects Germany, too, and I suppose any country with a democratic form of government:

One of the first policy victims of Japan's incoming Liberal Democratic Party is likely to be the commitment to phasing out nuclear power. The promise made after Fukushima does not sit well with the pro-business party.

Get it? Every few years, the party in control changes and everything that was certain becomes  uncertain. Can you be sure that the next time the government changes in Japan, the nuclear facilities will not be heading into mothballs?

Now to be fair – and to ding this story a bit – the previous prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, did not get as far as pledging a shut down of the nuclear facilities. He was, if anything, frustratingly vague on that subject.

Abe, who has been in power since December 26, has not said directly what he intends to do with the plants. All but two reactors are currently idled and have been since the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. He has been trying out a few statements, though.

But Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which regained power in elections this month, says it plans to spend 10 years studying the best energy mix for the country. Abe has said he may reconsider the previous government's decision to stop building reactors.

And gotten a good response from the people he would like to appeal to.

The relatively favorable stance toward resuming operations of more nuclear plants has won favor among business leaders worried about power shortages and rising costs; since the Fukushima disaster, Japanese imports of costly liquefied natural gas have soared.

To be honest, the thaw in Japan lurked in my mind as something more likely to happen in Germany. There, the government has said it will close nuclear plants by 2025. That’s far enough down the road that a change in regime could reverse it. That’s still true.

I’ve read that the tax cuts in the current fiscal cliff deal are “permanent.” Really? Permanent? Permanence in government policy is like that authentic reproduction of a Renoir on my wall. Unless Japan or Germany were to bang down the nuclear facilities with sledgehammers and salt the earth, we may expect a similar permanence in their decisions – or at least anticipate the possibility of a complete or partial reversal. Either would be welcome – and good policy, to boot.

Comments

It may not be so easy to compare Japan with Germany. Germany enjoys borders with neighbors who can supply energy (much of it nuclear) or accept energy depending on the speed of the wind and/or brightness of the sun in Germany. Nuclear energy looks to be expanding in the Czech Republic and also most likely will be introduced in Poland. Yet, just because they have options, STILL Germany will construct more coal/fossil plants. I suppose my point is that it may take the Germans longer to learn the lesson that is so evident in Japan.

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…