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Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In the last few weeks it appears that the nuclear reality is gaining momentum in Japan. This applies to Prime Minister Noda insisting that the nuclear reality will exist in Japan for the next few decades at the very least.  This was followed by a pro-Nuclear mayor winning a local election at the expense of an anti-nuclear campaigner. Then to top it off a nuclear consortium from Japan just signed a feasibility study with Vietnam with regards to two new reactors.

The Tokyo-based utility consortium played on the strengths of the nuclear sector in Japan which is amongst the best in the world. Also, Japan and Vietnam have very strong relations and both nations share similar geopolitical concerns in relation to China.  Therefore, with a powerful political and trade angle between Japan and Vietnam, it is not surprising that Vietnam listened carefully because nuclear power gave a fresh momentum to Japan’s economic rise and stabilized the energy supply.

Japan’s recently maligned nuclear industry appears to be gaining momentum and with China, India and South Korea expanding their nuclear industry, it would be travesty if Japan gave up on a sector which is powerful.

The Fukushima Daiichi crisis was clearly based on human failing but the reaction in some media outlets and in Germany was over-the-top because powerful lobby groups have vested interests.  Also, where will Germany get its new power supply from and will it rely on “dirty energy” in order to eradicate nuclear power?

In an in-depth article related to Germany by the New York Times which was written by Elisabeth Rosenthal (Germany Dims Nuclear Plants, but Hopes to Keep Lights On), the author raises important questions.

Elisabeth Rosenthal comments As a result, electricity producers are scrambling to ensure an adequate supply. Customers and companies are nervous about whether their lights and assembly lines will stay up and running this winter. Economists and politicians argue over how much prices will rise.”

“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said . He characterized the government’s shutdown decision as “emotional” and pointed out that on most days, Germany has survived this experiment only by importing electricity from neighboring France and the Czech Republic, which generate much of their power with nuclear reactors.”

“Then there are real concerns that the plan will jettison efforts to rein in manmade global warming, since whatever nuclear energy’s shortcomings, it is low in emissions. If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, falls back on dirty coal-burning plants or uncertain supplies of natural gas from Russia, isn’t it trading a potential risk for a real one?”

Ironically, it would appear that Japan is enacting a more realistic approach and this applies to maintaining nuclear power plants until a genuine alternative is found. Japan also may be biding its time until the Fukushima Daiichi crisis loses its potency and the nuclear issue gradually loses its power within Japan.

Alternatively, Japan may be sincere and actually reduce its dependence on nuclear power at home but maintain a powerful lobby for exporting its nuclear industry abroad. In other words, nuclear energy is ok but “not in our backyard” and given the fact that Germany will import electricity from nuclear energy France, and from other nations, then it is difficult to see a moral principle emerging.

Vietnam, noticing how the nuclear sector helped Japan in the past is following the same route in order to maintain rapid economic growth.  Therefore, Vietnam is planning to build eight new nuclear plants which will hold thirteen nuclear reactors by 2030.

Japan, the Russian Federation, and other nations, see a chance to expand the nuclear sector in Vietnam and in other nations.  Yasuo Hamada, the President of Japan Atomic Power Co., comments that “We pledge to work hard to ensure the nuclear power development of Vietnam.”

In an article written by Chester Dawson and Vu Trong Khanh (Vietnam, Japan Sign Deal for Nuclear-Plant Study) in The Wall Street Journal. They comment that On Thursday, a larger consortium of 13 Japanese companies, including the nine electric utilities, along with Hitachi and Toshiba, plan to sign another memorandum with Vietnam Electricity to start talks on reactor bids. Called the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co., it was set up last year under the trade ministry to promote reactor exports.”

“The Japanese government is expected to foot most of the bill for the plant through development aid and export-promotion programs run by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. The government will cover the entire ¥2 billion ($26 million) cost of the 18-month feasibility study.”

“The planned Japanese reactors will each have a 1,000-megawatt capacity and are slated to begin operation in 2021 and 2022, immediately after two Russian reactors planned for nearby. The sites of the two twin-reactor plants are about 20 kilometers apart along the coast of southern Vietnam, about 400 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.”

Irrespective of the final outcome, the most likely being that it will be favorable towards Japan and the Russian Federation, it is clear that other nations like Turkey are interested in Japanese nuclear technology.  Also, the government of Japan will continue to support the export side of the nuclear industry.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/science/earth/30germany.html?pagewanted=all – NEW YORK TIMES

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204138204576598164235317774.html?mod=googlenews_wsj  -THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/09/27/pro-nuclear-mayor-wins-despite-anti-nuclear-lobby-in-japan/ Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan – MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

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Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan

Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The crisis in Fukushima at the Daiichi plant made no difference in the mayor election in Kaminoseki. Therefore, the pro-nuclear mayor was re-elected once more and he will continue to push ahead with plans for a new nuclear plant to be built.

Fukushima is a “nuclear football” where scaremongers over-hype the crisis and desire to make Japan non-nuclear.  Issues certainly need to be raised and mismanagement at this nuclear plant was a clear factor in the ongoing crisis.  However, the earthquake of March 11 which unleashed the tsunami is being used for political purposes and it is difficult to find the truth amidst the propaganda.

It is abundantly clear that safety measures were woefully inadequate and this fact is disputed by few people. Therefore, many individuals still support the nuclear energy sector but their voices are being neglected on the whole because you have a slick anti-nuclear lobby campaign.

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich, who is a PhD holder in nuclear engineering and is a retired nuclear safety specialist, is very skeptical about short-term policies which seek to dismantle the nuclear sector in Japan.  He comments in his article titled EU, US, & Japan: Dysfunctional Leaderships are Gambling with leading Capitalist Economies, that “The Japanese nuclear establishment has overlooked the need to provide a need for adequate tsunami protection. San Onofre nuclear power plant in my neighborhood is protected by a 30 foot high tsunami wall. The Tohoku earthquake originated in a subduction zone and the tsunamis generated in a subduction zone are much larger than those resulting from earthquakes in a strike slip geologic fault systems such as faults near San Onofre.”

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich also comments thatNuclear power plays an important role in the world’s energy mix. It is clean, as the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions. It is steadier than renewables, such as solar and wind, which require a more expensive and sophisticated power grid. In addition, the solar and wind energy storage facilities still need to be developed. The nuclear power, like coal, provides inexpensive source of base power, while solar and wind are useful as supplementary energy sources. The third largest world economy cannot afford to abandon nuclear power. Japan in future could focus on building inherently safe high-temperature gas cooled reactors.”

Therefore, when the pro-nuclear Mayor Shigemi Kashiwabara was re-elected in Kaminoseki against his opponent who is anti-nuclear, then people should take note.  After all, images of Fukushima are still in the memory and even now the crisis continues in Fukushima but despite this the majority of people in Kaminoseki remained loyal to the local mayor who supports the building of a new nuclear plant.

Even the reporting of this event is being manipulated by language and excuses are being made.  Example, comments stating that “much of the electorate is elderly” and some “small pockets who support nuclear plants remain” – implying that only negative factors won the election.  However, it is not some small pockets because the electorate is divided despite all the scaremongering. 

Even in Kaminoseki it isn’t so simple because many locals also oppose a nuclear power plant being built and demonstrations took place way before the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.  However, the majority did support Kashiwabara but clearly this is a hot topic and very delicate.

The planned Chugoku Electric Power Co hopes to build a new nuclear plant and the major is focused on the needs of the people he represents and obtaining much needed revenue.  It is obvious that many towns and cities in the countryside need to attract investments and nuclear power enabled rapid economic growth in Japan along with other sources of energy in the past.

China, India, and South Korea are all focused on expanding nuclear facilities and many Japanese companies are heavily involved in this sector.  The current economic crisis throughout the world also needs pragmatism and if Japanese politicians desire to scrap the nuclear sector then it should only be based on feasible alternatives.

Mayor Kashiwabara comments “What is wrong in hoping for a decent living?”  

It is a fair question and many parts of the countryside need economic stimulus and while this should not rely on any one particular source of revenue, it is clear that the nuclear option is a source of possible economic support. 

In another article published by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that  “Alternative energy can enhance the energy demands of Japan alongside a well maintained nuclear sector but the phasing out of nuclear energy appears to be over dramatic and ill-considered in such a short space of time.” 

It would appear that Prime Minister Noda shares the same thinking because he clearly believes that the nuclear sector will remain to be an important source of energy for the next few decades.

However, if a genuine policy of alternative energy is put on the table whereby it makes economic sense and which is obtainable, then the water will no longer be muddy.  At the moment, this isn’t happening and nuclear energy isn’t the big evil which it is perceived to be by the anti-nuclear lobby.

Fukushima was about human failure and a freak potent tsunami which destroyed many coastal regions where the earthquake hit.  The safety mechanism failed and the defensive structure was inadequate amongst other major failings.

The re-election of Mayor Kashiwabara is a reminder that the nuclear issue is very complex and that many people still believe that this sector is viable and needed.

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Japan

 

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