Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nuclear Power? Japan Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Both, by the way, on Faultlines

I am not a negative person but I am astounded at the news everyday. It seems like, with every passing day, something comes up in the news to add to an already full plate of bad news for Japan. Here's a couple of news stories that have slipped through the cracks that, if you pause to consider, could have serious ramifications.
Japan's troubles seem like they keep growing. Our debt to GDP is 225%; the government keeps spending; cheap foreign labor have left the country; more holes keep being found at Fukushima along with proof that the cores of the plants melted down ("melted down" sounds really bad, but what exactly that means for you and me is unclear) and, in general, problems with the Fukushima nuclear reactors continues to mount. Throw on top of that an incompetent and bungling political system and we are most definitely headed for the hottest summer in Japan in years!

As I noted in a previous post, Nuclear Crisis in Japan? When the Cure is Worse Than the Disease:

The actual disaster is bad enough. But it is the after effects that are going to kill us. You've heard the expression that the "Cure is worse than the disease?" Well here is a case example happening in slow motion right in front of our faces.  It is the "ping-pong" effect. And the repercussions of this ping pong effect are spreading wider and wider and everyday brings a new facet to this problem as it continually evolves.  

That ping-pong effect could have very serious and long term effects and cause huge damage to the Japanese economy and, in turn, seriously hurt the world economy.

The ramifications to the Japanese economy of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, government bungling of the entire affair along with  throwing away $63 billion dollars in taxpayer monies to bailout TEPCO, a private firm (when Japan is already at debt of 225% of GDP) - along with all the new problems that are popping up everyday are what's really going to mess this country up.

When the world's number three economy gets a case of cancer this bad, the rest of the world is going to suffer too.

I think it is completely impossible, at this time, to predict how all these various events will affect the Japanese economy and, in turn, the world economy.

Since I make these claims that no one can predict what's going to happen, here's two articles that I have found that are of interest. 

In Japanese superquake moved ocean floor 79 feet sideways and 10 feet up - and new data shows region is under more strain the articles states: 

The ocean floor shifted sideways by 79 feet in the Japanese earthquake in March - much further than scientists originally predicted.

And researchers are warning that immense amounts of seismic stress remain stored in the area, putting it at risk of further devastating earthquakes.

The journal Science has published three new papers about the effects and causes of Japan's March 11 mega-quake, which paints a picture of an earthquake hot spot much more complex and potentially dangerous than scientists had ever anticipated.


Under the seabed, the movement may have been even greater - perhaps 160 to 200 feet, by some estimates.

In another study sure to raise alarm in Japan, scientists from the California Institute of Technology have reconstructed how the Tohuku-Oki earthquake unfolded using GPS data recorded at more than 1,200 sites.

Tsunami about to hit Fukushima nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011

Their data showed that - contrary to previous opinion - the area had built up massive amounts of strain prior to the earthquake.

Earlier, there had been general agreement among researchers that the 'Miyagi segment' of the fault line was not under the stress of other segments along the Japan plate boundary, where large earthquakes occur at a regular basis. But Professor Mark Simons' team showed that this assumption was deeply flawed.

This raises questions about other sections of the fault line that had previously been considered low risk - including areas further south, closer to Tokyo. 

This 'Ibaraki segment' of the plate boundary has been thought to behave in similar fashion to that of the Miyagi segment, and Professor Simons says it may likewise hold large amounts of seismic stress.

I do think that, most times, the Daily Mail is a dodgy newspaper, but at least in this article they didn't make any silly statements like "There's is going to be another massive earthquake and we're all going to die." But this article is well written without the writer adding in their two-cents. To read this article has to cause one, who is living in Japan, or anywhere on the Pacific rim, to pause for a moment and consider.

Throw that one article with this blog post by Mish Shedlock about our energy problems not being just Japan's energy problems but a world-wide phenomenon, and you have another factor to consider deeply. Mish writes in Energy Shortages Spreading quoting the ASPO May 23 Energy Review:

Pakistan and China continue to top the list of countries with the most serious power shortages. Last week brought in reports of energy shortages developing or worsening in Egypt, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, India, Japan, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Libya, Mozambique, Nepal, Venezuela, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania. Most of the reported shortages are of electric power caused by inadequate water levels at hydro dams or insufficient coal, but some of these shortages stem from unaffordable oil prices or the inability to import sufficient quantities of liquid fuels.

In most countries, electricity shortages quickly translate into increased demand for gasoline and diesel as organizations strive to keep important activities such as computers, elevators, hospitals, refrigeration and even factory production functioning with back-up generators.

More stress on fault lines? Sounds plausible. Especially considering this year's earlier massive earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand followed by the March 11 disaster in Japan (and frequent after shocks - just had one ten minutes ago). Throw on top of that the public growing disdain and distrust of nuclear power and the system of political power in Japan - along with the coming of a very hot summer and rising oil prices - and you have a situation that could turn into another energy crisis very quickly.

I've written it before and I will say it again; the very worse thing that could happen to Japan is the loss of cheap, clean energy. 

At outside festivals, hot summer is fine... Not in a hot office, though!

Sure, nuclear power has its warts...And I believe that we need to get rid of these 40-year-old power plants and build new safer units.... 

What are the practical alternatives? Wind power or solar power? No. Those are fine for running a refrigerator or heating your bathtub, but they could never power a steel factory or a subway line... There's no way they could power the grid for a city of over 35 homes like Tokyo.

Certainly, this is going to be a hot summer for Japan and the rest of the western world. 

Japan is most definitely in between a rock and a hard place. The fault line makes it even more precarious. 

Thanks to Lew Rockwell


Anonymous said...

Japan has really no choice but to completely dismantle all its nuclear reactors. Really, they should have been much more responsible in the first place, not building when aware of the dangers. If Japan gets 70% of its energy from non-nuke sources, then it will have to run at 70% of its capacity until they develop better solar, wind, and hydroelectric stations. It is imperative.

The fact of a meltdown is not a "wart" but a cancer. Should a power plant have a meltdown in southwest Japan, the country would collapse.

There are ways to conserve, better than this coolbiz idea of Hawaiian shirts. There's adding two hours of Daylight Savings for example. Turning off the stupid TV monitors everywhere. Some rationing of A/C use per household. Turning off the noise and lights of Pachinko parlors, etc. It's not impossible. It must be done.

Anonymous said...

"Safe nuclear energy" is one our language's greatest oxymorons, especially in a country as quake-prone as Japan. As long as they operate, they are ticking time bombs.

Moreover, with a system as corrupt as amakudari in place, you can't exactly have much faith in "safeguards."

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