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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No Nuclear Power Is A Gas, Gas Gas For Japan

Ever since the March 11, 2011 earthquake caused a shift in the power generating focus of Japan - what with the whole near thermonuclear meltdowns, discovery of facilities not up to snuff, which means they could snuff out life - the whole country has been doing quite well without all that juicy, electrical power it was generating for them.

People have been reducing their electrical power dependence, a bit, which helps... but what exactly is it helping?

Currently with 54 of 55 nuclear reactors out of action for repairs and trying to resolve a plethora of various safety issues, electrical power generation must come from some other form.

In Japan, that is being filled by LNG - liquified natural gas, as 10 regional power providers have said they burned a record high 52,900,000 metric tonnes of the gas in the fiscal year ending March 27, 2012.

This is up by 27 per cent from the year previous, according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies. The previous record was when 41,900,000 metric tonnes of LNG was consumed in the fiscal year ending 2008..

Other consumption data released by the federation includes:
  • petroleum, including crude and fuel oil: 23,300,000 kiloliters (more than doubled the last fiscal year's consumption). Petroleum use was the highest it has been in the past 10 yaesr, while crude and fuel back during the dark days of the first fuel shortage was only 57,700,000 kiloliters, ending March 1974;
  • thermal-power generation rose 26 per cent from a year earlier. Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife feels this might be the best way for Japan to gain its power in the near future;
  • the average operating rate of nuclear plants in the latest fiscal year was 24 percent, down from the 67 percent of a year earlier, according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies;
  • The atomic power generation for electricity was Japan's lowest since the country first began to utilize it in 1968. 
  • As of March 2012, there has only been one nuclear reactor working since the Fukushima disaster of 2011 - that's a 1.9 per cent of the total number of reactors in Japan.
So, while Japan's nuclear crisis causing it to either dislike or fear nuclear power generation, other forms of electrical power generation have been required. While it is a boon for these other industries which are salivating at the collapse of the Japanese nuclear energy sector, it should be tempered.

First, are these alternate energy sources big enough to handle Japanese demand for energy? So far - yes... but that is only because Japan has been rationing itself.

Will that trend continue or will Japan be what Japan will be - an energy consuming country like any first-world country? I'm guessing at the later.

What will that mean? Well... it's all about supply and demand. Japan's current supply of energy will soon be outstripped by its demand, and to compensate (?) prices of all forms of energy will go up. Will there be enough energy for the Japanese? Yes. It's strange how raising the price of an energy source suddenly makes the shortages disappear.

It's like, hey consumer, thanks for the extra cash you've been giving us for our inflated prices. Thanks to your efforts, we have discovered a whole new patch of dinosaur goo, and so while we can't lower our profits, er, prices, we will at least be able to provide fuel for you. Thanks for being a contestant on The Price Is Right Over Your Head.

Japan, like most Asian countries, does have one advantage... it rides bicycles a lot for transportation. That's cool! But, a bicycle won't heat your house or power up your PlayStation 3 (unless you really hook it up to make sure it provides power like a hamster running in its hamster wheel to a generator).

Japan can save a lot of money by turning off its lights at night. In Tokyo, you can walk around the city and glance at neon from all of the signage. Flashing billboards, big screens. Large things which are important to businesses, but not when their very existence also caused a drain on the country's energy resources. Yes, those companies are paying for their electrical usage, but the power is still coming from a power generation facility - whether its gas, nuclear or whatever.

Of course... that's not the big problem. Japan will continue to pay large sums of money simply because it has few options when it comes to power generation. Wood? Coal? Nope. Gas and oil? What reserves? Wind? We'll need more politicians. But windmills? Perhaps. Waterfalls? Precious few, and those that are there are beautiful? Wave generation? Is the technology there to make what the country needs? Nope. Solar? Maybe. Geo-thermal? Well... the country does sit on the volcanic ring of fire... but right now the supplies are not huge.

Hey! What about nuclear? I've heard that if done correctly, nuclear power generation can be a safe form of power.

You have a better idea? For the short-run?

By Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. Don't know what the answer is but it certainly isn't wind farms... They are an economic and environmental disaster: