Friday, January 27, 2012

Power in the rising sun

The theme behind these stories is the energy situation in Japan since the Fukushima disaster last year. In the aftermath of the destruction a report was quickly compiled for the Japanese Govt. outlining the possible worst case scenarios and actions that might need to be taken.

Report on Japan nuclear crisis said millions might need to leave homes; gov’t kept it secret
Associated Press, January 25

The Japanese government’s worst-case scenario at the height of the nuclear crisis last year warned that tens of millions of people, including Tokyo residents, might need to leave their homes, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. But fearing widespread panic, officials kept the report secret.

It also casts doubt about whether the government was sufficiently prepared to cope with what could have been an evacuation of unprecedented scale.

The report was submitted to then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his top advisers on March 25, two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, causing three reactors to melt down and generating hydrogen explosions that blew away protective structures.

Kan commissioned the report, compiled by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, to examine what options the government had if those efforts failed.

Authorities evacuated 59,000 residents within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the Fukushima plant, with thousands more were evacuated from other towns later. The report said there was a chance far larger evacuations could be needed.

The report looked at several ways the crisis could escalate — explosions inside the reactors, complete meltdowns, and the structural failure of cooling pools used for spent nuclear fuel.

It said that each contingency was possible at the time it was written, and could force all workers to flee the vicinity, meaning the situation at the plant would unfold on its own, unmitigated.

In that case, it said evacuation orders should be issued for residents within and possibly beyond a 170-kilometer (105 mile) radius of the plant and “voluntary” evacuations should be offered for everyone living within 250 kilometers (155 miles) and even beyond that range.

After Kan received the report, he and other Japanese officials publicly insisted that there was no need to prepare for wider-scale evacuations.
Naoto Kan, the Japanese Prime Minister at the time of the disaster has since become an anti nuclear campaigner.

Japan's former Premier takes anti-nuclear campaign to Davos.
Wall Street Journal, Jan 25th.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan returns to the world stage this week, part of a campaign to reinvent himself as a global antinuclear activist nearly a year after he oversaw his government's widely criticized handling of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

"I would like to tell the world that we should aim for a society that can function without nuclear energy," he said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.

He was forced out by the parliamentary opposition and by critics inside his own ruling party, who blasted his handling of the accident and, more generally, his strong-willed, improvisational style of governing.

"People tell me that I've gone back to my roots," he said in the interview, his first with a non-Japanese news organization since leaving office. "I'm pouring most of my time and energy into promoting renewable energy, and I'm having a great time," he added.

While his successor, Yoshihiko Noda, is pushing to restart closed reactors in Japan and to promote Japanese nuclear-reactor exports to countries such as Vietnam and Turkey, Mr. Kan is now pursuing an alternative-energy agenda, hoping to use his connections to make headway. "I think we should aim to create a world in which people do not need to depend on nuclear energy, and it would be ideal if Japan can become a model country for the world," he said.

As Mr. Kan rose to power, he came to embrace the national consensus that Japan should ramp up its use of nuclear energy.

Mr. Kan said that as a young politician, he believed atomic power was only a transitional energy source. But " as our party grew in size, many of us began to see nuclear power as a safe power that should be more aggressively utilized," he said.

By the time his Democratic Party of Japan wrested control from the LDP ... the new government had adopted the LDP's pronuclear policy, promising to build 14 new nuclear reactors by 2030. Nuclear power was repackaged as clean energy, becoming the centerpiece of the DPJ's plan to cut carbon emissions by 25%, in relation to Japan's 1990 output levels, by 2020.

March 11 changed that. Mr. Kan had to make gut-wrenching decisions, including rejecting a request from Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pull workers back from the increasingly dangerous reactors. "It was the first time since World War II that a Japanese leader was asking people to risk their lives," he said.

Four months after the accident, Mr. Kan used the bully pulpit of the premiership to declare that he was revising Japan's energy policy, aiming eventually to rid the country of all its nuclear-power plants. He called the technology's risks impossible to contain. The announcement surprised his own cabinet ministers, who were notified of the decision only hours beforehand, and shocked a political system in which consensus-building skill is prized.

Mr. Kan remains unapologetic: "A large part of people's criticism against me was that I acted spontaneously or just off the top of my head. But for me, that's a positive thing. If you're not inspired, you can't act."

The power deficit caused by the closure of a significant fraction of Japans nuclear reactor has pushed the country into its first trade deficit since 1980.
Energy imports push Japan to trade deficit
Financial Times, 25th January.

After a year of natural disasters, muted global growth and an uncomfortably strong yen, Wednesday’s full-year figures from the Ministry of Finance showed a trade deficit of Y2.49tn ($32bn). That compares with an average annual trade surplus over the past 10 years of Y7.7tn.

The geographic breakdown of trade balances emphasises Japan’s dependence on energy and minerals imports. While the country ran an overall trade surplus with Asia, for example, it ran significant deficits with resource-rich Indonesia, at Y1.3tn, and with Australia at Y3.1tn. By far the biggest trade deficit was with the Middle East, where the Y11tn deficit was almost a third wider than in 2010.

Currently Nuclear capacity has been cut to just 8% of capacity.
Tepco Idles Unit Cutting Japan Nuclear Capacity to 8.1%
Bloomberg Jan 25th.

Japan has four nuclear reactors operating today with capacity of 3,958 megawatts, or 8.1 percent of the total, after a unit was idled yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

The following table (see original) shows the status of the 54 reactors with capacity of 48,960 megawatts operated by Japanese power companies. Capacity figures are in megawatts.

But this power deficit is a ray of sunshine for those lucky householders and businesses able to sell the small amount of solar power currently being generated in the country back to the grid.
Japanese sell more solar power back to utilities
Reuters, Wed Jan 25

Japanese small solar panel owners - householders and small businesses - sold 50 percent more power to utilities last year than in 2010, Reuters calculations based on an official data showed on Wednesday.

Japan is overhauling its energy policy after the Fukushima crisis shattered public confidence in the safety of atomic power, and is set to introduce a new subsidy scheme which covers a wider range of renewable energy power developers to support the budding market for domestically produced power.

Owners sold a total 2,150 gigawatt hours to power utilities last year, helped by the government scheme.

The data showed Japan's 10 regional power companies spent a total 96 billion yen ($1.2 billion) for surplus solar power from house owners and small businesses last year via a feed-in tariff scheme, which requires them to buy such power.

Last year's purchase volume is equivalent to 0.24 percent of sales from the power companies of some 884,000 gigawatt hours a year on average in the three years to March 2011.

Which may be a contributing season why Solar Frontier is planning to invest heavily in CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide)cells.
Solar Frontier to supply world's largest CIGS solar plant
Reuters, Tue Jan 17

Japan's Solar Frontier has reached a deal to supply up to 150 megawatts of its solar panels to a California power plant that will one day be the world's largest solar installation made from an up-and-coming technology know as CIGS.

Once completed, the project with a unit of France's EDF Energies Nouvelles will supply enough electricity to power 35,000 homes.

CIGS panels have been slow to penetrate a market dominated by silicon-based equipment, although they have long been seen as a potential challenger to traditional panels because they cost less to manufacture and have the potential to generate nearly as much electricity from the sun's light.

Solar Frontier is the world's largest CIGS manufacturer.

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