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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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