Just a wee bit of a trolling headline for an exceptionally humid Kansai day.

Here’s an interesting figure or two from WSJ Real Time Japan:

But scrapping reactors is costly. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, if Japan abandons nuclear power now, utilities would need to register ¥4.4 trillion in one-off costs for decommissioning and asset write-offs. They will also face ¥3.1 trillion in additional fossil-fuel costs every year.

As of the end of March, the nation’s 10 utilities had a combined net worth of only ¥5.7 trillion. An immediate exit from nuclear power would leave four of them insolvent — Tepco, Tohoku Electric Power Co., Hokkaido Electric and Japan Atomic Power, METI said.

And another interesting one from Ampontan:

Now for the reality. The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a poll of the six prefectures in the Kinki region (served by the Oi nuclear power plants) two weeks ago asking whether people approved or disapproved of the resumption of nuclear power generation.

Here are the results:

49%: Approve
41%: Disapprove

The difference was even greater in Osaka Prefecture: 52% in favor vs. 39% against. Shiga was the only thumbs-down prefecture, and the Kyoto results were a rough 50%-50% split.

I don’t have the original question, however.

This post has been sponsored by KEPCO.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Aside from the hypocrisy of enjoying electricity without being realistic as to where it comes from, the other big thing I don’t get about the anti-nuke push is this decommissioning problem.

    Namely, even if you tell the power companies they can’t use their fully-loaded reactor cores to make electricity, you still have 50-something fully-loaded nuclear reactor cores that will be ready to spew their contents into the atmosphere IF by chance another 9.0 quake or a meteor hits them or something.

    If the silly plan is to shut them all down forever and rely on fossil fuels for quite a few years (final nail in the coffin of the various CO2 cutting proposals), what’s wrong with getting some benefit out of them while the decommissioning process is planned and more permanent arrangements are made for the electric supply (other than praying none of the thermal plants break down this year)? ’cause I guarantee you that if we start decommissioning these plants and looking for a place to store tons of slightly-used uranium, these very same people will turn NIMBY and raise hell again.

  2. I think this must be the Yomiuri article:



    Open, holistic discussion of energy, environmental and safety options is a threat to the anti-nuclear movement. Most journalists studiously avoid discussing global warming and nuclear power in the same article. Those that do are typically hand wavily positive about doing everything with renewable energy without looking at the details, which include sharing an as-yet-unbuilt and expensive supergrid with (part nuclear-powered and frequently hostile) China.

    The journos who don’t think a reliable electricity supply matters in a high tech economy under globalisation are just idiots. It’ll be tolerated short term if there is a plan in place to bring supplies back up. Relying on “well, we managed last year” is silly.

  3. beneaththewheel

    To me the protests are more of a result of government mistakes, than an actual hatred of nuclear power. Government trust/accountability is so far gone that it is anti-nuke, but I wonder if there magically came a government that they could trust, if most people would still be anti-nuke.

    I don’t see the protests as anything besides people concerned for their children/environment etc., and I don’t see a statement as to what should happen. It’s frustration and fear. I say start ’em up, but I don’t have an attachment to the land around me, nor is there a nuclear plant anywhere close to me.

    My biggest point is that it’s not a protest of rational argument, but of distrust and fear. If you think there’s a chance your neighborhood will be irradiated, then you’re not in the mood to discuss energy imports and global warming. I think the media attention is more on “holy shit Japanese are protesting” than anything, meaning basically taking advantage of a situation that can be exoticized for the Western reader.

    As a person who lives far away from any nuclear plant, nor with any attachment to the land around me through ancestor’s graves or shrines or whatever else, I say it’s the rational decision to start them up.

  4. But when you see the crowds in the protests, they look to be mostly seniors, gullible Concerned Parents, a scattering of OWS wannabes, Green activists, and the usual suspects whose protest gear has a Red color scheme. A perfect storm of basically any and all groups with both the free time and some practice in activism, and they still draw smaller crowds than an Exile concert (always divide the protesters’ attendance claims by at least 2. 4 for Twitter claims) in the largest metropolis on the planet.

    The crowds will thin out as the weather gets hotter. And disappear when the rolling blackouts hit. Though I suppose the hard-core conspiracy nuts will say any power shortages and blackouts are deliberate – the power companies trying to strong arm the population into accepting nuclear power. :roll: (Pretty fucking insulting, as the thermal plant engineers and techs will be working serious overtime and under huge amounts of stress. And stress resulting from meaningless political bullshit magnifies itself.)

    I long for smart-grids. Then people will in theory be allowed to choose where their energy comes from (depending mostly on how much they want to pay for it), and perhaps become a bit more rational in the process.

    Some will just keep being hypocrites, but they’ll have to do it by choice.

  5. But when you see the crowds in the protests, they look to be mostly seniors, gullible Concerned Parents, a scattering of OWS wannabes, Green activists, and the usual suspects whose protest gear has a Red color scheme. A perfect storm of basically any and all groups with both the free time and some practice in activism…

    Hmm… So, you’re categorising those people and making assumptions about their motivations and discounting their perspective based solely upon how they look…? :cool:

  6. Starting up power plants is absolutely the smartest idea in the interim, but what I find insulting is that Tepco still has a monopoly on power in the Kanto area.

    There are tons of other businesses who have to wait to gain access to the transmission lines so that they can start delivering energy on smaller scale to local businesses and whatnot. This is a viable alternative that is being hampered by government interference (most likely because they need us to pay for the damage caused by Tepco).


    What I also find insulting is that the very same Tepco officials that got us into this mess got golden parachutes to friendly companies without being held accountable for the accident at all.


    Not to mention we still don’t have an independent monitoring agency, we have to pay higher electricity fees to cover the accident cause by Tepco, and small businesses are going to get hammered by the extra costs because they can’t negotiate the same low-cost electricity contracts that major manufacturers can.

    So no, a complete withdrawal from nuclear power isn’t really a valid reason for protest, but you have to be kidding if you don’t think that Tepco and all the other nuclear players should be held to much higher standards now that they have screwed the pooch.

  7. @beneaththewheel:

    I don’t see the protests as anything besides people concerned for their children/environment etc.,

    It’s more than this. What about those people with children who are not anti-nuclear? Do they care less? Clearly not. Protesters talk about it being for their children, and I’ve encountered quite a few online trotting out the offensive “if you had children you’d understand” line. (These people love their children so much, they leverage them with strangers in internet arguments).

    And it’s not about the environment. Most of these people have let their environments suffer without protest their entire lives – my point above is that most of the anti-nuclear crowd is in denial about the environmental and energy choices we have to make – including the use of land for renewables. (Made-up facts and figures fly around with no care for their origin.)

    I think it’s a post-industrial, post coldwar economic malaise. People who’ve begun to protest talk about finding a meaning and a purpose. Fear has galvanised their inner lives. To me, it looks like radiation serves as a metaphor either for a loss of control or a sense of systemic oppression. It’s given these people focus. They’re susprisingly uninterested in the science of radiation.

    It’s always dodgy to do mass psychology, but I think the problem with the government has not been mistakes, but vacillation and lack of ideas. Democracy slips into crisis when a succession of leaders worries about popularity in the country or their party more than their values. Governments should not behave like a second-rate company driven by market research trying to find their niche. The problem is, systemically, it’s a very difficult rut to get out of.


    Do you know anyone in favour of the restarts who thinks TEPCO has done a fine job? I don’t. People like me would like the governance of nuclear power in Japan sorted out because it clearly is dysfunctional, but that discussion is being blocked by those who switch between “evil TEPCO” (then let’s introduce proper regulation) and “evil nuclear” (then let’s look at the short and medium term prospects for the alternatives) and “oh, but, evil TEPCO” again. When a train crashes and kills hundreds of people, everyone can separate the idea of train regulation in general and the company/driver in particular. Not here, it seems.

  8. @VK

    I’m not so sure the two are comparable. The main reason being that Tepco has had a huge say in the policies that led up to this disaster.

    If it was a single train accident, let’s say like the one in Hyogo a few years back, we could look at the accident, find fault with the company (JR West), and then take a look at the regulations that led to the accident — namely the stressful atmosphere of training that was making rookie drivers go fast to avoid punishment.

    Same with the recent bus accident that happened on route from I think Kyoto to Tokyo Disneyland. First we could investigate the fault of the driver, and then put stricter policies on the dirt cheap pricing scheme that was causing bus companies to cut corners in breaks and backup drivers.

    Now for Tepco, I’m sure you can immediately see where the problems are. First they control all of our electricity. Second, Tepco and its subsidiaries are one of major destinations for Amakudari — the very people who should be regulating the company don’t want to shoot holes in their golden parachutes. The company is backed by tax money, but beholden to its share holders. Etc.

    There are a million reasons why the company should not be trusted, but they have a stranglehold on the root of dialog because they have all the cards in their hand. If Tepco was not bailed out and had been forced to go through restructuring via a bankruptcy, I would totally agree with you, but as it stands, only Tokyo’s vice-governor has been putting the kind of heat on Tepco that you would expect after they caused one of the worst nuclear accidents the world has ever seen. I think the very valid fear right now is that if they get things back up and running, they will have lost the sole remaining incentive to make improvements, simply because a lack of operating plants is directly affecting their bottom line.

    I think it’s silly to be purchasing so much fuel when we have so much available to us now just sitting there unused, but I have simply not seen the kind of steps being taken that neef to be taken to make sure that Tepco is being held accountable. Just the opposite; Tepco immediately jumped on the ‘raise the rates bandwagon’ before even remotely trying to restructure the company or improve its operating structure. And do you honestly believe those idiots in the DPJ and LDP have what it takes to make Tepco actually fix things?

  9. @George:

    The two are comparable to the extent that the inherent safety of the technology, and the culture of safety around the technology as run by a particular company, can, and should be separated.

    What you describe there are the problems in the way the company is run, including structural issues. The difference with the transport cases is that with nuclear the problems are more complicated and to do with company culture, and cannot simply be pinned down to one individual or conveniently hived off.

    My point is, those protesters are not saying “No more Tepco running nuclear power” or “reform the system before restarts”. They are not saying “shut down the older reactors” on the grounds that more modern ones are inherently safer. They are saying “No more nuclear power” (and to hell with the consequences of going with that), as if TEPCO is the only way that nuclear power can be operated. They want to block any discussion of the reform of nuclear power operation. Right now, that’s a far bigger problem than intimacy between civil servants and TEPCO. The momentum could so easily be for a proper separation of oversight and operation, if the government put its foot down and said nuclear power needed to continue, so we need to reform the system.

  10. @VK:

  11. @VK:

    I think you’re expecting something more studied and nuanced than I would typically expect from a mass public protest.

    It’s really up to those with the power [ :cool: ] to come back with the alternatives, convince the public that it is a resolvable issue… And freaking resolve it.

  12. argh, weird mouse behaviour yielded empty post

    “These people love their children so much, they leverage them with strangers in internet arguments”

    ..or in real life at an onsen… D’oh, too easy set up there.

    Anyway, yeah, “It’s for the children!” : the go-to argument for those who don’t really know why (or just don’t want to admit why) they’re really protesting.

  13. @iago:

    I don’t expect every protester to have a nuanced and detailed view. I do expect people leading and organising these protests to articulate a more nuanced view than “NO”. I do expect the people leading these organisations to have a proper, honestly thought out alternative, especially considering the twin threats of climate change and economic crisis.

    I do expect journalists, and politicians, to have a basic grasp of the issues. That’s their f**king job, and they’ve got those jobs usually by graduating from some very good universities. They’re not too stupid to do this.

    We’ve got to stop with these low expectations of the media, and political actors. They get to act dumb because we let them. We mistake acting dumb with being easy to understand.

  14. @VK:

    I was responding to what you said about the protesters, not about the media or political actors.

    Whadda we want?

    We want to compromise on a mutually beneficial power generation policy that objectively and appropriately balances the risks, benefits and costs of the various options, taking into account the economic and environmental impacts.

    When do we want it?

    We want it in a suitably negotiated and realistic timeframe that allows all the alternatives to be fully explored and…

    Nuance and detail doesn’t mobilize a crowd.

    If the protests are a symptom, the people with the qualifications need to diagnose and treat the disease. Or ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.

  15. Iago is absolutely right. For better or worse, the time for nuanced conversation went the way of the dodo as soon as Fukushima had three meltdowns.

    Companies like Tepco had years to demonstrate a committed stance of self-regulated safety mindedness, but now they have to start from scratch with proof that they can be trusted to run the technology safely. That things are harder, and that people are less forgiving and ignorant are all the results of their incompetence and corruption. They have no one to blame but themselves.

    And those of us who do understand the importance of nuclear energy should be twice as severe in our condemnation of these yahoos who have run the industry so poorly. The technology doesn’t exist in a bubble, so regardless of whether it is safe, if it’s continually run and operated by lying incompetents, then there is going to need to be dialog AND action in regard to what can be done to fix the situation. We all know that the protestors will have very little effect on the official policy, but as far as I’m concerned, they can serve to keep the spotlight on the people making the decisions so something like Fukushima never happens again.

  16. @George: Here’s a perfect opportunity for the Japanese government to demonstrate that it wants to attract qualified foreigners to work in Japan.

    Why aren’t any Japanese nuke plants recruiting ex-US Navy nuclear power plant operators and EOs? I guaran-fucking-tee that the enlisted guys would have plant operations up to Rickover standards within ninety days, and the O-gangers would not only keep M-div in line but would have their politically-appointed “superiors” so shit-scared of a trained-in propensity towards full disclosure that there’d be roughly zero chance that anything like this could ever happen again …

    … sure, the ex-nukes can’t speak Japanese fluently. They don’t need to — the plants they’re working on are GE, and they’ve already qualified on them (or their successors) during prototype. We hire dodgy foreigners to give us massages, serve us food, and take away our trash … why not hire reliable excessively-trained foreigners to handle our power?

    (I’m an ex-nuke, a Japanese citizen, and know roughly a billion qualified ROs {both officer and enlisted} who would give their left nut to work out here in Candyland)

  17. @iago:

    I don’t agree with your characterisations of how demonstrations and movements usually work – or used to work, anyway. There is typically a complex interaction between organisers and (potential) attendees. There are speaker meetings, discussions, attempts to inform and self-educate, to build a movement. Far from everyone will get it, but the goal is for a critical mass of articulate people to form. I don’t see that at all here except at the lunatic fringe (and I don’t see this being challenged in the media, either.) Turning up seems more akin to a facebook “like” – it doesn’t transform you or anything else, it just makes you feel good about yourself. It’s action-lite.

    Slogans are for rallying around a cause, rather than preceding a cause, as you seem to suggest, being the defining and limiting cause in themselves. Find the slogan to match what you want. “No restarts under Tepco” fits on a placard.” “Invest in renewables now!” does too. “Get smart” works in English – I’m sure a good punning phrase can be found in Japanese. So I’m afraid your satire misses the point.


    If you’re saying ignore the protesters and get on with reforming nuclear governance, then fine. We need politicians with the courage to have the debate you describe. Courage, because it means saying clearly “we will continue with nuclear power”.

    It’s important to push that debate forward now because we have a fairly brief window of opportunity while companies like TEPCO are on the rack and people and probably the courts would not object to some heavy handed government appropriation and redistribution of assets and responsibilities. If we limp along without committing one way or the other, the old TEPCO will flip back into place.

    I’m for a review run by US, French and Japanese regulators and engineers setting out alternatives.

  18. @Steve:

    From all the online discussions I’ve read among US nuclear engineers and their incomprehension, given their own training, over how things under TEPCO got so bad, I think importing a certain number of people from the right safety culture background could certainly be part of the solution.

  19. @VK:

    That’s OK. It’s fine to not agree.

  20. @VK: Sir, you sound like an officer. You’re able to sum up three paragraphs of enlisted detail into one sentence of command-friendly presentation. Do you know anyone in a position of authority who would be receptive to this idea?

  21. I take it nobody knows anyone who went on the demo them ? I didn’t either, because I don’t live in Tokyo and don’t agree with the closures for the same reasons that have been given, but a lot of old friends from the capital did and mailed me about it. That’s one reason why I am more sympathetic to the protests, as I don’t think it should be dismissed as mere alarmism. As George said, there are Japanese people who are fed up with Tepco and the politics of bureaucratic entitlement, and others who have learnt that when a space opens up in public sphere you need to get there before it closes down again. Of course it’s messy, but it’s how any popular politics begins, and if this generates some clearer thinking along the way (from all parties) then I am not going to dismiss it out of hand now. Unfortunately, the defection of Ozawa today will probably overshadow all this, as political coverage goes back to the usual sorts of intrigue. Be careful for what you wish for, I guess.

  22. @Steve:

    Steve, I actually like your idea a lot, but I think there will have to be a major overhaul of the entire system before anything of the sort could happen. I think it’s pretty disappointing that there were numerous times that overseas help could have been more fully utilized, but wasn’t.


    VK, regarding demos, you’re forgetting the online element that a lot of these things feed off of. I’ve been in a number of Facebook communities where announcements were sent out for demo participation, and there was always a lot of interest. Same goes for petitions to prevent the burning of tsunami wreckage in other prefectures. It seems someone at the top is against it and uses the general lack of awareness online to whip up support. That doesn’t mean that everyone is clueless, but it doesn’t indicate any sort of centralized theme other than perhaps the basic “anti-this” or “anti-that”. It seems that this is particularly easy with nuclear-related protests in the wake of Fukushima; just look at Germany.

    Also, you should probably remember that the protests are generally considered protests by leftists, which is why there were always right-wing fringe groups on hand to physically and verbally harass the protesters and counter protest. Sometimes the protests are more anti-establishment than anything, which means that they are a conglomeration of ideas with little organization.

  23. More fodder for the conspiracy theorists:

    Power plants are under siege by hordes of jellyfish!

  24. Tony in Saitama


    >>up to Rickover standards within ninety days

    Does that mean they would start playing “Never gonna give you up!” if there was a risk of meltdown? :smile: :grin: :grin:

    Seriously though, since the Japanese taxpayer has just given Tepco et al a humongous bailout, I think they should get something in return. Like say, umm, the National Grid.

    Small electricity producers have been saying for years that it is not economical to use the TEPCO grid, so they cannot distribute the power they generate. Take it away from the big boys, nationalize it, and make every supplier (including Tepco et al) pay the same to use it. A giant leap towards an open electricity market.

    Or am I missing something?


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