Monday, March 12, 2012

Stunning Fact: Fukushima Closes One-Eighth Of World's Nukes

While a lot of Fukushima anniversary commentary about nuclear power's prospects around the world focused on new nuclear plants under construction in China, Russia, and India, one stunning fact got little attention that makes clear that the last year has been the worst for nuclear power in its history. The world's third and fourth largest economies--Japan and Germany--closed at least temporarily 60 nuclear reactors or 1 out of 8 in the world, in the year after Fukushima.  Germany shutdown 8 nuclear reactors permanently in 2011, and, today in Japan, 52 out of 54 nuclear plants are off-line, with their future uncertain.  Germany will also close all of its remaining 13 nuclear plants by 2022.

Prior to the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan generated one-third of its electricity from nuclear power.  Japan closing 52 of 54 nuclear reactors or one-third of its power in a year is the equivalent of  the USA closing nearly all of its coal-fired power plants.  Given how much of its power came from nuclear reactors, it boggles my mind to think Japan has done a "nuclear cold turkey."

What has Japan done to replace nearly all its considerable nuclear power?  Super aggressive conservation practices have been the most important means to replace the lost power.  Well before the Fukushima disaster, Japan was a world leader in energy efficiency so all the low-hanging efficiency fruit was picked long ago in Japan. After Fukushima, wringing more energy savings out of Japanese homes and businesses has required changes in lifestyles or sacrifices to use another word.

In addition to cutting electricity consumption, Japan boosted the use of gas and coal to make electricity, increasing carbon emissions in the process.  For the long-term, the Japanese have also embraced policies to increase sharply renewable energy, as Germany has done too, in reaction to the Fukushima disaster.

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