It is not the purpose of this site to undertake the detailed analysis of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear accident. That is being done more than adequately elsewhere.

However I would not want anyone to think that Decarbonise SA is trying to ignore it. Reality is our friend around here; it serves our mission not one bit to ignore or obscure the facts of this event. The more people talk about it, and the more that talk is informed and constructive the better. 

To that end, I have provided links to three articles I have had published in relation to this event.

The first, Think climate when judging nuclear power, was a guest post on Brave New Climate during the height of the crisis. It was well received and broadly distributed, and was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald. Here I was focusing on trying to have people retain an open mind, and contextualise the incident.

The second, What happened? What next? was published as the lead article for the Tech State on-line magazine. Here I am moving into considering the implications of halting nuclear power on the back of this event.

Third, Life after Fukushima: the future of nuclear power in East Asia, is something of a variant on the second post, but here I am beginning to explore the lessons that need to be taken from the event, with particular focus on the importance of nuclear power in East Asia.

I hope these articles will help to clarify my approach to this event, and how I feel it should impact our decision-making in energy.

5 comments

  1. Ben,
    In your article,”what happened, what next?” you don’t say very much about “what next” all you are saying is replacing ALL of Japans nuclear reactors with FF or renewable would be a mistake. If Japan starts to replace all aging GEN II designs as soon as possible with GENIII, what are the implications for nuclear expansion in other countries? How long will it take? Can renewables fill some of the gap, faster, if not cheaper? The US now has 40GW wind capacity(>20,000 turbines) so 30,000 turbines is not a ridiculous number, even for a smaller economy, and Japan has good geothermal resources so wind wouldn’t have to replace all of the gap while nuclear is being replaced or upgraded.

    1. Hi Neil,
      Good questions. To be fair on myself, for context I wanted to respond to the calls being made by many to shut down the nuclear altogether. Sounds extreme to me, but it was being seriously suggested. But the question you ask is a far more sensible one. For the wind example, the 30,000 comes from a 40% capacity factor (which is itself an upper end estimate) for offshore wind. Building offshore is a very difference proposition to on shore. I am sure you agree that geographically Japn differs greatly from the US, making offshore all the more important/ likely, so 20,000 on-shore in the US is a bit of a different scenario to any similar quantum in Japan. Then taking the intermittancy into account makes my estimate a low one, either that or a lot of back-up which will be gas with greenhouse gas emissions. Then considering that wind turbines are typically 25 year investments. I don’t really see that Fukushima changes the prospects for wind in Japan a great deal; it’s driven by the fundamentals and building at anything like the scale to replace some nuclear capacity is a very, very big challenge, and more a permanent change than a stop gap. Geothermal is interesting. I would expect it to be a good resource in Japan. Why has it not been used thusly to date? It would improve their energy security even more than nuclear. What are the examples here; Iceland? Do that use it at the type of scale Japan needs? I don’t have the answers there, feel free to enlighten me if you do. New Zealand? Do they use it? Seems a good option if they can do it. Japan has an opportunity to re-appraise their energy a bit, but their proirities will be supply. That means fossil fuels in the short term. In the longer term I would hope it means safety retrofitting the older reactors or decommissioning, and upgrade to Gen III+. Impact on global expansion? Hard to say.

  2. That makes sense to me that they would be, and thanks for the link. Seems that the stations range up to around 40MW. No doubt these are useful contributions to New Zealand, but something far greater would be required to substitute 3-6 large nuclear reactors in Japan. That may be the problem; scaling it up.

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