Japan: less nuclear but much more coal

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Japan: less nuclear but much more coal

Post by camiel » May 03, 2015 10:00 am

Japan is building and planning to build more coal-fired power plants, 43 new coal-fired power plants in total:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/ ... group-says (Bloomberg report from last month)

This is contrary to what is happening in the U.S., where utilities are shutting down coal-fired power plants. To me, it is as if Japan, a technology powerhouse, is using the reverse gear and going back in time.

Kurt Sellner
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Location: Iowa, USA

Re: Japan: less nuclear but much more coal

Post by Kurt Sellner » May 07, 2015 3:53 pm

Japan is a unique country when it comes to nuclear power, as far as public opinion goes. Japan is the only country that has been a target of a nuclear weapon in war, and is one of the few nations to experience a wide scale nuclear power plant meltdown. While this does not excuse their fear of modern nuclear power it does explain it. This unique popular view has lead to some interesting politics.

One example is when the last US Navy aircraft carrier was to be decommissioned that left the US Navy and the Japanese people with an interesting choice, either have a nuclear powered aircraft carrier in a Japanese harbor or have the nearest carrier stationed in Hawaii. The public outcry over nuclear anything left many to consider leaving Japan in a much less guarded position against North Korea and China.

This also carried over to military aircraft. The USDoD recently developed two airframes, the multinational developed F-35, and the much more capable domestically developed F-22. The F-35 was from the start intended to be exported, the F-22 was never to be exported. However, when Japan asked the USA to keep their carrier but instead provide F-22 airframes to the Japan Defense Forces the US government did not immediately deny that request. The fear of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier was so high that the US government was willing to consider handing over their prized, one of a kind, aircraft to a foreign nation. I don't know how to show what a change in national policy that would have been.

Then there is the debate on man made global warming. The issue of global warming is not considered as much of a threat as it used to be, that is in the USA, Japan, and elsewhere. I'll start believing global warming is a national threat when our leaders start acting like it. If POTUS can take the family, and all the security personnel that go with them, to vacation in Hawaii every year then I won't feel bad about driving my little Ford SUV to work everyday, instead of a Prius.
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.

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Re: Japan: less nuclear but much more coal

Post by Asteroza » May 08, 2015 5:32 am

Japan has other problem aspects as well. Low land area (in theory) reduces available acreage for large solar panel powerplants. But the reality is due to assorted missteps since before the bubble, combined with the business realities of many large properties, means a number of former golf courses and shutdown airports are now becoming "megasolar" plants. There has also recently been a push for reservoir floating solar PV powerplants, due to available space and to cut down on evaporation. With the huge feed-in tariff (now being shaved done but still large), many newbuild residential homes (and there's a lot of that in Japan due to short lifetimes of homes because of an aversion to used homes), quite a lot of residential solar is going up. So much so that power utilities have successfully petitioned the government to stop issuing permits for tariff registration in some areas due to lack of grid capacity.

Home residential fuel cells, some with combined hot water heater functionality are now openly available, and apparently condos will start using them as well (though in a weird shared power arrangement between apartment owners).

The lack of grid intertie capacity means the various regional power providers are fairly isolated islands and operate as defacto monopolies, and deregulation/disbursement of transmission from generation (and setting up proper ISO's) is barely moving forward. The most egregious example being hokkaido green power production is so large, but transmission capacity to Tokyo so small, that many large green power providers up in the north are ordered to dump power by the hokkaido main power company regularly. COnsidering the shear cost of new transmission capacity installation, coupled with encroaching NIMBYism, means improvement in transmission capacity isn't likely for a long while.

Japan is now playing with offshore floating wind (test area actually is off near the meltdown, precisely because local fishing cooperatives would be unable to object). There are small pushes to increase geothermal, but most is lip service due to rejection by local hot spring associations.

The economic impact of the current shutdowns due to fuel costs being passed onto the consumer (rate hikes were approved) is real and it is hurting. More new large scale generation must be built if they are serious about shutting down most of the nuclear fleet, but those fuel costs are hard to get away from. Japanese domestic coal at this point is a non-starter, so the fuel import costs are serious business. The only good thing about the increase in coal (assuming greenfield/brownfield coal plant standup) is improving the technology involved, as FutureGen in the US petered out for testing large scale IGCC gasification type plants.

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Re: Japan: less nuclear but much more coal

Post by rgvandewalker » May 12, 2015 3:20 pm

IGCC plants petered out in the U.S. when cost estimates went above $5/W, based on prototypes in operation.
They're also harder to run than classic coal plants, because keeping the chemistry efficient is actually important to the economics.

Something that would make more sense to me would be to revive the coal-based topping cycles that used MHD generators.
These went out of use because natural gas combined-cycle plants were cheaper and used conventional technology,
and nuclear was cheaper with lower fuel costs.
But, if Japan can't use nukes or natural gas, MHD plants might be a better option than IGCC for more efficient use of coal.
A Japanese university still holds the world record for the specific power of an MHD generator.

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