Four years after the Fukushima nuclear reactors withstood one of the largest earthquakes in history, only to fall to the largest tsunami in history, the most important thing to realize is what did not happen – no increased cancers, no contaminated food, no contaminated fish, most evacuees can go home, and there will be no Fukushima Death Toll. In fact, some Superfund sites in the United States have caused more health effects and environmental damage than the crippled Japanese reactors ever will. Only a botched response and unfounded fear are the killers.
The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011 was a disaster of epic proportions – over 20,000 died, over 300,000 left homeless, a blow to the country’s economic and infrastructure unlike anything in the last 40 years. But the crippling of the Fukushima nuclear plants wasn’t the disastrous part. Source: Google Maps
The Japanese Press has literally flooded the news with mostly negative reports, including at least one outright lie from outside Japan. The following are summations of the more-significant Fukushima 4th anniversary postings by major Press outlets, all but one of which are Japanese.
On Jan 26, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that will have the effect — intended or unintended — of eliminating in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mining in the US. The technology, which the EPA choses to call in-situ recovery (ISR), is the dominant technology used by operating mines. Therefore the rule could eliminate most US uranium production.
Pico Curies, that is. A pico is a trillionth. Read about nuclear radiation, water chemistry, and how opponents to nuclear energy build scare stories. With a hat tip to David Ropeik.
Before it can sell its reactors to other nations, it must prove it can build them at home.
A key challenge is lining up customers who can pay for the products. Neither Argentina, nor Romania or Pakistan have the coin to pay for their orders. Even before that China must prove that its reactors are safe and can be operated by customer utilities at a profit. There are plenty of opportunities to do so. China has 24 nuclear power reactors in operation, 25 under construction, and at least five-to-eight more about to start construction this year.
6. Nextbigfuture – China approved two reactors this month as it vowed to cut coal use to meet terms of a carbon-emissions agreement reached in November between President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama. About $370 billion will be spent on atomic power over the next decade, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. Plans to triple nuclear capacity by 2020 to as much as 58 gigawatts.
“China is in a race with itself to reach a nuclear-power goal set for 2020 that’s concurrent with a coal-reduction plan,” Tian Miao, an analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a London-based researcher, said in Beijing. “Because it normally takes five years to build one reactor, the program needs to be ramped up from now on.”
China has 24 reactors in operation and another 25 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. France gets about 75 percent of its electricity generated by nuclear, making it the world leader, while the global average is about 11 percent, WNA data show. Whatever money is spent will only put a dent in the importance of coal, which is still expected to make up almost two-thirds of the nation’s power mix in 2030, said Wood Mackenzie Ltd., an Edinburgh-based energy consultant.
Unit 2 of China General Nuclear’s (CGN’s) Yangjiang nuclear power plant in Guangdong province was connected to the grid on 10 March. The company said the reactor will enter commercial operation once it has successfully completed a test run lasting 168 hours.
Yangjiang 2 is the second of four CPR-1000 pressurized water reactors being built at the site by CGN. Construction of unit 1 started in December 2008, with work on unit 2 beginning in 2009, unit 3 in 2010 and unit 4 in late 2012. The first unit began commercial operation in March last year, with unit 2 expected to start up in mid-2015. Construction of two further units at Yangjiang – both ACPR1000 reactors – began in 2013. All six units are scheduled to be in operation by 2019.
The cost of air pollution in China has been estimated at 6.5 percent of GDP. Applying that figure to China’s GDP of $8,227 trillion dollars in 2012, the year on which we base much of our analysis, implies that reducing air pollution in China to levels considered acceptable by WHO would yield annual benefits of $535 billion. As incomes rise and China becomes more urbanized, these costs are rising.
China’s GDP including Hong Kong and Macau will be about $11.6 trillion in 2015. This would mean the cost of the air pollution would be $750 billion.
Rand estimates the costs of three measures to reduce air pollution in China:
1. substituting natural gas or propane for coal for residential and commercial use
2. replacing coal with renewable and nuclear fuels to generate electricity
3. scrapping older vehicles.
Replacing coal used for residential and commercial use and about half of all coal used to generate electricity in 2012 would have resulted in a decline in coal use of 1.009 million metric tons, representing 27 percent of Chinese coal consumption that year.
The cost of replacing half of coal-fired power with water, wind, and nuclear power at $184 billion.
9. Nextbigfuture – The first japanese reactor slated for restart has gained technical approval, while two further older reactors were announced for retirement rather than being put through the restart process.
The older units officially declared for decommissioning are Shimane 1, owned by Chugoku Electric Power Company, and Genkai 1, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Company. These smaller units, of 439 MWe and 529 MWe respectively, started operation in the mid-1970s and enter retirement just one day after the same status was announced for three others of similar age – Tsuruga 1, along with Mihama 1 and 2.
The changes mean Japan now has a count of 43 operable nuclear power reactors and a total capacity of 40470 MWe, down from 54 units and 47,122 MWe before the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. All of the remaining reactors, however, will remain offline until they have been upgraded to meet extended safety requirements, such such as the provision of alternative power supplies, multiple sources of cooling water, back-up control rooms and venting to prevent hydrogen escape.
The leading unit in this process is Kyushu’s Sendai 1, which today gained the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA’s) approval for its ‘construction plan’. This means the 846 MWe reactor unit is technically ready for restart, having been upgraded, and that these engineering changes have been verified by the regulator. It also means that Kyushu’s management, personnel training and operational methods are in line with the NRA’s demands.
Sendai 1 and 2 reactors
* Three US uranium producers say they are poised to ratchet up production quickly if prices swing higher after a four-year slump.
Colorado-based Ur-Energy looks to produce 750 000 lbs to 850 000 lbs this year at Lost Creek, Wyoming, most of which it would sell under eight utility contracts. If the spot price climbs to $50/lb from $38.75 currently, Ur-Energy would push production to Lost Creek’s one-million pounds capacity, CEO Wayne Heili told Reuters at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto.
* Cameco is aiming for production of six-million to eight-million pounds (3000-4000 tons) at its new Cigar Lake, Saskatchewan, mine this year.