Thursday, July 5, 2012

The End of Japan's Economic Golden Age: Financial Times Covers Anti-Nuclear Power Demonstrations in Japan

Who says the mainstream media doesn't cover anti-nuclear power demonstrations in Japan? The Financial Times has. This seems to me to be a very fair report.

My take on this? Japan is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't. The economic miracle of Japan from the 1960s to the mid-1980s is over. The bursting of the bubble in the mid-80s was the beginning; Fukushima is the nail in the coffin.

The protestor who says, "Japan is an earthquake prone country so building nuclear power is crazy," is correct. It is.

But what are the alternatives?

Then prime minister Noda says that its not just energy, it has to do with the entire economy of Japan; he's right too.

Finally comments are made that Japan will try to utilize more "renewable energy sources." Folks the most efficient and cost effective bio fuel resources are oil and coal by far. That being said, for every one person who has died from nuclear power (including Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl) 4,000 have died from coal.

So called renewable energy resources such as solar and wind are expensive, inefficient, and, wait for it... rape the environment (though no where near as bad as coal or oil).

Japan has nuclear power plants that are running on technology that is 50 years old. Those plants should be shut down.... But to reject nuclear power as unfeasible is ignorant. 

Throwing out all nuclear power because we have problems with 50 year old plants is like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

How about Thorium?

Japan cannot survive as an economic power without nuclear energy. Japan is too far in debt already to be subsidizing inefficient and expensive "projects" in so-called renewable energy resources (like wasting $78 billion on renewables in 2010)... People need to eat and need to have jobs....

Since the Japanese people and government can't seem to think past their noses, this surely is, the end of Japan's golden economic era.


Mr. Nobody said...

Greetings Mike,

The people of Japan are in a world of hurt, especially in regards to energy. What should happen I believe, in most OECD countries, is a push for conservation. The rub is, that generally people don't like to be pushed into doing something, even if it might be for their own good.

With regards to energy policy in Japan; Japan seems stuck between the horns of a rather difficult dilemma. Regarding Japan, and the nuclear Fukushima diaster, it is according to Greg Palast of the BBC and the Observer/Guardian, at least partly, if not mostly, due to the maelfesence of an American corporation.

According to Mr. Palast, the American corporation knew that the Fukushima complex wouldn't stand even a minimal quake, and yet the complex was built anyway.

Should the Japanese people trust the JPG? Should they trust large corporations, especially American ones?

Regarding uranium, when some of these nuclear power plants were built, the cost was ca. $2-20 per pound for uranium. If the price has ranged from $50-130 per pound in the last 5 years for uranium, what might the cost be in the future, say in another 5 years?

Even if Japan, or any other country for that matter, wanted to build a nuclear plant powered by uranium, due to the finite amount of easily expoltiable uranium, they might be unable to do so at an economically feasible price.

If that happens to uranium, the same could quite easily happen to thorium.

Mr. Nobody

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Mr. N. But Thorium seems to be quite abdundant! "‪Thorium benefits and Challenges‬". . "The Thorium Energy Alliance (TEA), an educational advocacy organization, emphasizes that "there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 10,000 years."... If they are to be believed! (snarky comment!)

Anonymous said...

Hi its me Aaron Moser

Thorium is a good idea but the reason the governments wont let it happen is because the conventional Nuclear power companies lobby the government for protection. The future of electricity is Nuclear Fusion, Unconventional Nuclear Fission, and efficient Solar power. It will be many years perhaps decades before Nuclear Fusion and efficient Solar power will be viable. The problem in not that there is the wrong energy policy the problem is that there is an energy policy. There is no computer or shoe policy. The government needs to get out of the way and let the market make the choice.

Anonymous said...

Happy 4th! Bless u and your family and our Japanese allies.

And I’m proud to be an American
where at least I know I’m free
And I wont forget the men who died
who gave that right to me

Mr. Nobody said...

Hi Mike,

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Professor Al Bartlett
The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See

One can hope for many things. The problem is reality. First, thorium has less energy than uranium, and is almost as expensive as it. Secondly, the estimates may be optimistic. Thirdly, even if the estimates are accurate, it doesn't list what the URR might be. In oil, one can only extract 30-50% of the oil in a given field.

Finally, if one factors in increasing energy usage, of say only 3% compounded, the reserves drop to only ca. 230 years. The problem is world's demand for energy has recently has been a modest 5%, at the rate, the reserves drop to only ca. 140 years.

The USGS at one time crowed that the US had 1,000 years of coal reserves. What do you think they are now?

Should Japan "bet the farm" on a relatively unproven technology?

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Hi Mr. N,
Good point! I love professor Bartlett. He came to my university in 80 or 81 and gave this speech about Arithmetic and population... It blew my mind....He was great!
I am not sure if building a Thorium reactor could be "betting the farm" I do know that Japan is 230% at debt over GDP right now and cannot afford to be subsidizing solar and wind power (or any other project for that matter)... Looks like China is going to be the country that builds the first Thorium reactor.... Check this out!

Zanchito said...

Hi, Mike!

This post is much more balanced (and true to the problems and needs, in my oppinion) than most regarding nuclear power.

Yes, the main problem with nuclear is that most power plants are WAY past their due date, and nuclear is pretty shit, but coal is even shittier (in a similar comparison with the renewables, that are not that "green", but compared to the others it's not even a contest).

I wish we could use thorium (or even modern nuclear if you won't let me have it my way) until fusion becomes practical, as a heavy power source, with renewables as a mean to keep a little more energy independence and localiced production. Even if they are not as price effective, I think they are worth investing money in. We certainly invest a LOT more money in things that are a LOT less useful!

Anonymous said...

The thing that pisses me off, is that once again the younger generation are being made to carry the can for the inadequacies (this time energy policy) of the post-war generation who not only have essentially bankrupted the country but left it with no viable energy policy. Why should their children and grandchildren have to pay for all this when they won't be entitled to the standard of living that their parents/grandparents enjoyed?

Anonymous said...

That's probably one of the most balanced things I've ever read on the subject. Just what are we going to do? Things are getting bad all over!

Insania said...

Sorry if I'm late to the party on this post (as well as it being long). But I think I have to respond to a particular comment.

Anonymous said...

The thing that pisses me off, is that once again the younger generation are being made to carry the can for the inadequacies (this time energy policy) of the post-war generation who not only have essentially bankrupted the country but left it with no viable energy policy. Why should their children and grandchildren have to pay for all this when they won't be entitled to the standard of living that their parents/grandparents enjoyed?

July 6, 2012 12:50 PM

This is, indeed, true. Each generation always has to carry the legacy of their predecessors for good and for ill. But I think that too often the world today tends to focus on "what went wrong" when it comes to thinking about the potential consequences. I am not saying that people should blindly look at the positives but to use the current situation as a catalyst for the young generation to change their country from the ground up.

Look at history. Right when Japan was starting to become a modern nation, much of the youth studied abroad to form the nation's intellectual capital. After World War Two, much of the nation's youth shared the same desire as those who survived the war to make the country better. For those who are more familiar with American history, look at the protests against the Vietnam War. Much of those youth wanted to change the social fabric of the US with their philosophy of "peace, love, and rock and roll". Over time, these efforts have been discredited by what these particular generations have done, even in the present day (militarism, relying on the same economic model well past its expiration date, Baby Boomers being self-absorbed and unwilling to acknowledge what their successors have done). Of course, the response is usually in the likes what Anonymous said in the quote above.

The desire for change will not come from older generations. They're not getting any younger and they're quite comfortable with the way they do things. It is ultimately up to young generations, much like the examples I listed above, to right the wrongs of their predecessors and not just hope that a white knight will solve anything. Some of these people might be byproducts of their upbringing or their education. But they should take advantage of their strengths and weakness to become one of Japan's greatest generations (their understanding of the Internet is one of them).

They now have an imperative to do so after Fukushima.

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