Ever since the heady days of 2011 when one of its nuclear reactor facilities nearly went ka-blooey with multiple near meltdowns, Japan has been in panic mode.
It's actually a good panic mode, as it has taken a good hard look at all of its nuclear power generating sites, found issue after issue after issue with every one of them, and essentially took all of them - all 50 nuclear power generating plants - off-line, while it tried to resolve all of the issues to ensure they were up to global safety standards.
I should state that there a total of 43 operable power reactors… and they are all awaiting confirmation that they meet Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) safety requirements—something new since the Dai-ichi, Fukushima snafu.
As with most things that are fixed up after the fact, there has to be a before-the-fact… and that usually means death and/or destruction.
Hey… only 140,000 residents within a 20 kilometer (12-mile) radius of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility had to evacuated.
Any deaths that might have occurred have been because of exposure to radioactive materials during its clean-up.
Did you know that according to a Financial Times report, just the nuclear disaster at the Dai-ichi facility has cost Japan about US$118-billion… TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany), the privately-owned company that owned the Dai-ichi facility, has only had to pay 20 percent of that amount, with the government and the good citizens of Japan having to pay the rest.
Did you know that for a while, Japan was completely nuclear-produced electrical power-free as of May 5, 2012… a first since 1970.
But… on July 1, 2012, Unit 3 of the Oi nuclear power facility was restarted, but a year later on September 2013, it went off-line, again plunging Japan into a nuclear-free society.
But… on August 11, 2015, the Sendai 1 and 2 nuclear power plant in Kagoshima-ken was started up by the Kyushu Electric Power Co.… and then the Takahama 3 plant in Fukui-ken on January 29, 2016 (this one by the Kansai Electric Power Co.)…
And then on March 9, 2016, thanks to anti-nuclear activists, an injunction—ordered by the Otsu District Court—meant that the Kansai Electric Power Co. had to suspend operation of its 870-megawatt Takahama 3 nuclear power plant, as well as any possible start-up of #4… it had tried to start up, but the Takahama 4 pressurized water reactor suffered a reactor trip… the company was trying to determine WTF happened.
So… that means there are a total of three nuclear power plants out of a total of 43 operable nuclear power plants in Japan that are currently up and running, with 24 of them in the process of seeking restart approval.
Ever wonder where the energy is coming from to keep the neon glowing in Tokyo?
Well, even when firing on all cylinders, those 50 operable nuclear power plants were powering about 30 percent of Japan's electricity… with plans, pre-2011, to have them supply at least 40 percent by 2017.
So… where does the energy come from needed to move the country? Obviously the majority of it is still via oil and gas… with some 80 percent of its oil (and 20 percent of its natural gas) coming from the Persian Gulf.
Fuel imports cost Japan about ¥3.8 to 4-trillion (US $40-billion) per year. in 2013, Japan even imported a record 109-million tones of coal (mmmm, that smells nice) to help generate electricity.
Now… there's one problem with coal.
In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, CO2 emissions rose to 1.395-billion tones… the highest amount since 1990… a fact that smacks Japan in the face regarding its climate change goals.
Did you know that in November of 2013, Japan's Minister of the Environment changed its country's CO2 emission target rate from 25 percent lower than 1990 levels by 2020 to a 3.1 percent increase from then, or 3.8 percent reduction from 2005 levels. The minister said, at the time, that the shutdown of Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors, some possibly for an extended period, as a prime reason for this, forcing reliance on old fossil fuel plant. In FY 2013 emissions were 0.8 percent up on 2005 levels and 10.8 percent higher than 1990.
Confused? Basically, Japan wanted a do-over because the unexpected shutting down of its clean nuclear power facilities meant that along with the oil and gas, it had to use coal (and other power generating sciences)…
So… should Japan get back into the warm bed of nuclear power generation?
A 2012 survey found that 47 out of the 50 most popular Japanese media said they were anti-nuclear, and are still (I believe) spouting the same views.
A 2015 poll by the Mizuho Information & Research Institute of Japan notes that 67 percent of the respondents would be in favor of nuclear-generated electricity if the costs were the same as what they were paying for non-nuclear power now.
Who's driving the bus?