Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Media Power, And Media Lies About Power

As Japan heads into unknown territory, energy-wise speaking, expect mass media to sound all kinds of alarms as they are funded by the electricity companies and TEPCO in particular.

David McNeill noted that "Japan's power-supply industry, collectively, is Japan's biggest advertiser, spending ¥88 billion (more than $1 billion) a year, according to the Nikkei Advertising Research Institute. Tepco's ¥24.4 billion alone is roughly half what a global firm as large as Toyota spends in a year."

The Japan Times:  Fukushima lays bare Japanese media's ties to top

Be that as it may, I'm always worried about the sanity of regular bloggers, and others who may get a little too upset and stressed-out about what they read with their morning coffee. Isn't it funny how "media" has the "power" to make us upset...? But of course what I'm really talking about is the fact that Japan now is running without a single nuclear reactor in service, after the last one was shut down beginning of May for regular checkups. So far, so good. If we can get through this summer without them, they will obviously never need to be turned on again. And so goes the debate: They need to be gradually put on line again, or else.

Leika Kihara writes for Reuters: "Policymakers are worried about the damage to the budding economic recovery as the power shortages are expected to be more severe and widespread than last summer, when many areas in Japan were still running nuclear reactors. Some also warn of the long-term fallout as the rising cost of electricity, coupled with a strong yen, hits production and could prompt companies to shift operations overseas."

Reuters:  Nuclear-free Japan braces for summer power shortages

The quote that irritates me is this: "The shutdown of Japan’s last working nuclear power plant on Sunday morning and the government’s failure to convince a wary public about restoring production at dozens of reactors leaves the world’s third largest economy facing another summer of severe power shortages." But where does Leika Kihara get the idea that there will be "severe" shortages? That is not backed up in the article. Just because it is repeated several times does not make it more true.

Also, other countries in Asia like Taiwan are also debating rising electricity costs, with or without NPPs. Blogger The View from Taiwan notes that the rise in cost there will be phased in in three stages. Rising international fuel prices are going to cause a lot of damage, not just in Japan. Reuters, you can do better.

However, Associated Press does even worse, in a rambling piece that seems to be about greenhouse gas emissions, but really is about nuclear power, or about energy supply in general. But Malcolm Foster should spend a little more time to Google Your Facts (or ask someone to do the checking if you are too lazy). What about these quotes?

Quote #1: "Japan is now free of atomic power for the first time since 1966."

Check: The first real commercial reactor did not go online until 1970, during the Osaka EXPO. Anything before that, the Tokai reactor in Ibaraki, was just online on a trial-and-error basis, in spite of the claims by proponents of nuclear power (the design for Tokai was based on a now obsolete UK model called Magnox that was never used again in Japan, but for some reason caught on in North Korea). The early reactors at Tokai and the Tsuruga plants in Fukui were also off-line most of the time in their early days due to "reliability problems" and "long maintenance outages," with the "average capacity factor averaging 46% over 1975-77" according to WNA. Early on, they had so many problems that one has to wonder why they didn't just decide that this was going to be impossible.

Quote #2: "With the loss of nuclear energy, the Ministry of Environment projects that Japan will produce about 15% more greenhouse gas emissions this fiscal year than it did in 1990, the baseline year for measuring progress in reducing emissions."

Check: The Ministry of Environment actually thinks Japan can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent without relying on nuclear power according to a draft report that The Japan Times notes in a recent editorial, Cutting CO₂ without reactors.

Quote #3: "Renewable energy accounts for about 9% of Japan’s power generation—similar to the U.S. Most of that energy is hydroelectric power from dams; and some experts say solar and wind power are too intermittent to be a reliable source of base-load energy."

Check: Japan could do a lot better in this field, especially considering that China is able to get 65 GW from smaller hydro electric plants (Japan only gets 3.5 GW). This includes local energy production for local use,  and a relatively low environmental impact compared to large hydro. With or without nuclear power plants, Japan could - and should - also invest in solar, considering its climate, with a lot of sunny days. It has nothing to do with being "intermittent" as in irregular, in a country that has a lot of sunny days, which is exactly what the advocates of nuclear power is using as an argument for switching the NPPs back on. Surreal, if one considers how much money has been invested in nuclear power, rather than in securing alternatives.

AP: Japan's greenhouse gas emissions projected to rise 15%

Don't even get me started on the editorial over at Yomiuri Shinbun: Summer power shortage feared if situation remains unchanged

So,  what we need in the summer of '12 in Japan is not more nuclear power, but more common sense. And, as one commenter suggested, we did all right until the 1970s, managing fine with the heat. If it gets really bad, turn on a fan rather than the AC, and use wet towels, sip some tea, and listen to the cicadas while you take a nap. The old-fashioned 昼寝 hirune (siesta) is a time-tested and fool-proof way to deal with stress, that you may get from reading the news these days.

(Image of a simple design for a lovely hand-held uchiwa paper fan from wktokyo)

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