Fukushima Daiichi nuclear

What will happen with Japan’s nuclear power stations?

by Gerhard Fasol

Watch The Economist interview on Japan’s energy policy.

Read our report on Japan’s energy sector,
and our report on Renewable energy in Japan.

Many times, often several times a day, I get asked about what will happen with Japan’s nuclear power stations – today alone twice. So here is the answer I usually give – please note that I am Physicist, and I know a lot about the Physics of nuclear power, and although I have personally avoided working in the nuclear physics field (which is much wider than nuclear power), I do not have a personal opinion for or against nuclear power:

Quick answer: it is impossible for anyone, including the Prime Minister of Japan, to know with any certainty.

Long answer: Japan is a democracy. Japan currently is quite polarized for or against nuclear power. Everyone knows that some Japanese leaders including the Prime Minister Abe, are in favor of nuclear power. On the other hand, many outstanding opinion leaders are strongly against nuclear power in Japan, these include Nobel Prize Winner Kenzaburo Oe, and also the former Prime Minister Koizumi. Currently we can observe the evolution of a democratic process in Japan to reach a consensus on the future of nuclear power stations in Japan. This process is different for every single nuclear power station, and it is impossible for anyone to make predictions.

Obviously the owners of the nuclear power stations hope to restart their power stations as quickly as possible, and they are supported by many industrial leaders and the current Prime Minister. They need to obtain the agreement by the newly established nuclear power regulator, which was newly established because the Parliamentary Committee which investigated the Fukushima nuclear disaster established that the cause for the nuclear disaster was “regulatory capture”. This committee was chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, and you can read one of his speeches “Groupthink can kill”, and watch YouTube movies explaining the results of his committee here.

Sofar none of the nuclear power station was cleared by the new nuclear safety agency, and no one knows when the safety inspection program will be concluded for any of the nuclear power stations, nor which stations will be cleared to restart (in principle) and to which the nuclear safety agency will refuse the clearance.

However, clearance by the nuclear safety agency is by far not enough. In addition, in Japan, nuclear power stations need the agreement of the local communities, i.e. the local mayors and Province (Ken, Prefecture) Government Prefects. As an example, the world’s largest nuclear power plant is Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, it is currently owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company to supply Tokyo with electricity, and it is located approximately 80 km from the Prefecture capital city Niigata-shi, which has about 1 million inhabitants. The current very outspoken Governor (Government Leader) of Niigata-Prefecture, Hirohiko Izumida (泉田 裕彦), has clearly stated his opposition both to the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station, and secondly he has also stated that he considers Tokyo Electric Power Company unsuited to manage a nuclear power station. Read and watch a video of Governor Hirohito Izumida here. I have read speculations that as a consequence it might be thinkable that ownership and/or management of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power station could be transferred to a different power company to overcome this local resistance. But it is not possible for anyone to predict how this will play out.

It is my understanding also, that in Japan it is not clearly defined which local authorities have to agree before a nuclear plant can operate, and which distance from the nuclear power station is still close enough that agreement of local authorities is needed. In my understanding also it seems to be unclear which type of local authorities have veto power: The Prefect (i.e. the chief of the Prefectural Government), cities, towns, villages etc. There seems to be much uncertainty here, which did not exist in the past, or which did not come out into the open in the past.

Another factor is the local geological situation for each nuclear power station. In Japan there are legal requirements that nuclear power stations need to be located away from active geological faults. Recently there have been investigations by geological experts about the geological conditions near the nuclear power stations, but my understanding is that many questions are still unsettled at least for some of the nuclear power stations.

Still another factor are the courts. Traditionally Japanese courts have rejected all complaints against the operation of nuclear power stations, but I hear that recently some court complaints against the operation, or against the restart of nuclear power stations have been successful. Court decisions also cannot be predicted by anyone.

So in summary: No-one can possibly predict what will happen with Japan’s nuclear power stations. When pushed, I sometimes say that a possible scenario will be that about 10 out of Japan’s approx. 50 nuclear power stations might be restarted in about 3 years from now. However, no one can know this for sure, and no one can assign a probability to any outcome.

There have been enquires by some non-Japanese/foreign media, which interviewed a number of experts, asked them to estimate the probability for each of Japan’s nuclear power plant, and then took some kind of average of these experts opinions. I was also asked to participate in this experts’ enquiry, but I refused to participate, and said that simply no one can know with any precision at all.

Watch The Economist interview on Japan’s energy policy.
Read our report on Japan’s energy sector,

and our report on Renewable energy in Japan.

Copyright 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved


IAEA recommends international cooperation for Fukushima decommissioning, Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

IAEA President Amano on Fukushima decommissioning

by Gerhard Fasol

It is wrong that Japan has all technology to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi

“It is wrong that Japan has all technology to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi. The IAEA strongly recommends international cooperation for the decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants”, is the strongest statement Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made today at the Foreign Correspondence Club in Tokyo in a very carefully worded presentation.

IAEA is currently preparing a report about Fukushima Dai-ichi which will be completed by the end of this year, 2014.

We are often asked, whether nuclear power is safe, the answer is that no technology is 100% safe. A multilayer defense is required against risks, in-depth defense. Safety levels are now higher than they were before the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident.

IAEA: non-proliferation, nuclear safety, and other programs

Let me introduce The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA has three roles:

  1. Advise on nuclear power and nuclear safety. In this area, IAEA has no authority. IAEA only can advise. IAEA also helps developing countries which are are thinking to introduce nuclear power.
  2. Prevent nuclear proliferation. In this area, IAEA has authority.
  3. Other projects, for example in healthcare and decease prevention. For example, IAEA used radiation to disable breeding by insects distributing malaria and other illnesses.

IAEA is not an international nuclear safety regulator. IAEA can only advise on nuclear safety. IAEA does not influence countries, but provides comprehensive assistance.

Of course nuclear safety is intrinsically international: one country’s nuclear accident is all countries’ nuclear accident.

IAEA position on nuclear power

The IAEA has the position that nuclear technology is affordable and useful. IAEA is much more than a “nuclear watchdog”. IAEA also helps to make nuclear technology available for developing countries.

IAEA advises countries introducing nuclear energy. Today we have 437 nuclear power plants globally, and 72 are under planning or construction. Growth of nuclear energy is mainly in Asia, especially China and India, but also in Europe and in developing countries.

30 countries use nuclear power, and 60 countries are considering to start using nuclear power in the future.

IAEA and nuclear security

A growing role for IAEA is nuclear security, to advise on proper protection of nuclear materials, for example to prevent dirty bombs. IAEA provides guidance and measurement equipment. IAEA is ready to assist Japan in advising on nuclear security for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Next week, we will have a Nuclear Security Summit in Den Haag.

IAEA prevents proliferation, prevents spread of nuclear weapons

The main current issue is Iran, and Iran has taken positive steps forward, but much remains to be done.

Regarding North Korea, the IAEA is currently not involved inside North Korea, but ready to help. The IAEA calls on North Korea to fully cooperate with IAEA.

IAEA motto is “Atoms for peace”.


  • Question: Is it right to release contaminated water into the ocean?
    Answer: It is common practice globally, to release contaminated water into the ocean, provided contamination is sufficiently low, and it is essential to talk to stake holders, e.g. fishermen. Storage is not a long term solution. IAEA recommends to release contaminated water into the ocean after proper treatment of the water, and after consultation with stake holders. IAEA recommends release into the ocean, because storage is cost and human resource intensive, and these resources need to be used in other areas of the decommissioning work.
  • Question: Should not Japan have higher safety requirements because Japan is in an earthquake zone?
    Answer: IAEA does not discriminate against any countries, and strong earthquakes are also known to happen in Europe. Strong earthquakes and tsunami can occur anywhere.
  • Question: what is IAEA’s position regarding the prioritization of the Sendai nuclear plant in Kyushu?
    Answer: IAEA does not take party in such decision making. Regulation is the responsibility of each country, and IAEA says that the regulator must be robust, independent and well funded.
  • Question: Prime-Minister Abe says that Japan’s nuclear safety regulations now are the strictest in the world. What about missing evacuation plans?
    Answer: It is not IAEA’s role to rank countries. Broadly speaking, Japanese regulations today are broadly in line with global regulations recommended by IAEA, and Japan has requested the IAEA to review the Japanese nuclear safety standards. IAEA makes safety standards, recommends the use of these standards, and if requested, sends missions to assist.
  • Question: why do you say “broadly”?
    Answer: Nuclear safety is a huge and complex field. In our view, Japanese nuclear safety regulations are broadly in line with global regulations, and IAEA will evaluate Japanese safety regulations on request by the Japanese Government.
  • Question: Did IAEA warn that pre-Fukushima Dai-Ichi-disaster Japan’s nuclear regulator did not fulfill IAEA criteria: (1) robust, (2) independent, and (3) well funded?
    Answer: IAEA did warn in polite language that more independence was needed.
  • Question: What was the Japanese Government’s response?
    Answer: The Japanese Government’s response was, that the regulatory body was sufficiently independent.
  • Question: IAEA promotes nuclear power, and sets safety standards. Is there no conflict of interest between these two roles?
    Answer: The IAEA is not a global regulator. In each country separately an independent in-country regulator is responsible for regulation in that country. IAEA supports, provides training for in-country regulators.
  • Question: Who assesses IAEA?
    Answer: The member states assess, and will end the tenure of the Director General if they are not satisfied.
  • Question: Did IAEA hide nuclear radiation information in the days after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster?
    Answer: The IAEA came on a radiation measurement mission to Tokyo and Fukushima on March 18, 2011 one week after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster, reconfirmed the measurements on March 19, 2011, the next day, and published these data.
  • Question: Japan has 331 kg Plutonium. What is the target?
    Answer: There are three issues: (1) Safeguard: this material is placed under IAEA control, assure that all material is used for peaceful purpose, and short-notice controls by IAEA are included by Japan, (2) nuclear security: is the responsibility of each state under IAEA guidance, (3) transparency, including future use: it is the responsibility of the Japanese Government to provide transparency regarding future use
  • Question: do you think that 30-40 years will be sufficient for complete decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-Ichi?
    Answer: I don’t know. Good understanding of the melted core takes very long time. At present we have no understanding of the melted core. IAEA recommends international cooperation. It is wrong that Japan has all technology. It is IAEA’s recommendation to cooperate internationally. Decommissioning the most difficult nuclear power plant will help to decommission all other nuclear power plants.
  • Question: what about the shortage of workers for decommissioning Fukushima-Dai-Ichi?
    Answer: Shortage of workers in nuclear plants is a global phenomenon.
fukushima decommissioning - Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥)

Copyright 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Corporate Governance Disaster Economics electronics component makers Japan's electronics multinationals Japan's energy sector Leadership

Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera and DDI (KDDI), rebuilds Japan Airlines using Amoeba Management (アメーバ経営)

Kazuo Inamori (稲盛 和夫) one of Japan’s legendary serial entrepreneurs

Japan Airlines (日本航空株式会社) turnaround from bankruptcy

Bad news from Japan’s electronics industry sector makes global headlines this week (I was interviewed on BBC, US National Public Radio etc) – in this newsletter, lets look at some good news from Japan.

Kazuo Inamori (80 years old, born January 30, 1932), Japanese serial entrepreneur, founded Kyocera Corporation on April 1, 1959, founded DDI (now KDDI) in 1984, and turned around Japan Airlines (JAL) during the last two years.

Japan Airlines (JAL) went bankrupt on January 19, 2010, Kazuo Inamori turned around JAL, and JAL went public again on Tokyo Stock Exchange on September 19, 2012, returning substantial profit for the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan Fund.

Serial entrepreneur Kazuo Inamori
Serial entrepreneur Kazuo Inamori

Kazuo Inamori used his “Amoba Management” (アメーバ経営) techniques to rebuild Japan Airlines from bankruptcy

Kazuo Inamori is famous for “Amoeba Management (アメーバ経営)”, essentially Amoeba management means divisional accounting, and has been refined for the management of Kyocera and many other companies.

Today Kyocera is divided into about 3000 “amoebas” – applying the amoeba management methods to Japan Airlines

Applying “Amoeba management” to JAL, Kazuo Inamori installed a real time system, to determine the profit of each route and each single flight in real time, while in the past profits (or losses) at Japan Airlines, were calculated months after the fact.

Kazuo Inamori on leadership: “the leader must have a vision and burning determination to carry out the vision whatever the obstacles”, and must communicate aims and targets to everyone in the company.

On nuclear energy:

Japan’s energy / electricity sector is in upheaval, and given Japan’s respect for seniority, given Kazuo Inamori’s standing in Japan, understanding Kazuo Inamori’s opinion is very important for understanding how Japan’s energy landscape is likely to evolve in the future.

“In the past the problems of nuclear energy were hidden from the public, and in the future must be disclosed”.

“It is not possible to maintain the current sophisticated society without nuclear power”. He thinks that nuclear power is a necessary evil.

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Natural Gas, LNG

Japan natural gas import costs sky rocket

Japan switched 30% of total electricity generation from nuclear to LNG

Japan natural gas import replaces all nuclear energy

Japan switched about 30% of electricity capacity from nuclear to mainly natural gas powered thermal power stations within 13 months. We have analyzed Japan’s natural gas imports, which have skyrocketed to almost 2% of Japan’s GDP. Graphics and more details below in this newsletter. Find detailed analysis of Japan’s oil, coal and gas imports in report on Japan’s Electricity and Energy Landscape.

Japan's natural gas imports skyrocket
Japan’s natural gas imports skyrocket

Natural Gas (LPG and LNG) imports skyrocket to 2% of GDP

Since Financial Year 2010 (ended on March 31, 2011, a few days after the March 11 disaster) Japan’s natural gas imports have skyrocketed to almost 2% of GDP – while gas imports were around 0.5% or below of GDP until 2003.

There are two reasons for Japan’s skyrocketing payments for LNG imports

  1. increased import volumes to replace nuclear energy by LNG fired thermal power stations, and
  2. a “Japan premium” on the LNG prices, Japan has to pay above world market prices because of Japan’s special situation, and relatively weak bargaining position.
    Japan is of course under big financial pressure to reduce the payments for LNG imports.

Our report on Japan’s energy sector includes detailed analysis of Japan’s oil, gas and coal imports, and many other data on Japan’s energy and electricity sector, which we continuously update.

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

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Japan’s new energy strategy: much more than nuclear exit

Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”

Japan’s new energy strategy

Last Friday, September 14, 2012, Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”, which the Cabinet is required to produce by law, and which actually contains much more than the plan to work towards a future nuclear power free society.

We have analyzed the full official “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” in the original Japanese version, and we have prepared a 19 page English language summary which you can find on pages 5-23 of our “Japan Electrical Energy Landscape” report

Most English language press reports have focused on the three principles to work towards a nuclear free society

  1. strictly limit the operation of nuclear power plants to 40 years age
  2. restart those nuclear power plants, where the safety has been assured by the Nuclear Safety Commission
  3. no new construction or expansion of nuclear power stations

These principles – if maintained – may lead to the last nuclear power station in Japan to be switched off around 2052, ie about 40 years from now.

However, Japan’s new energy strategy framework paper contains much more

  • five policy packages concerning: the nuclear fuel cycle, human resources and technology development, cooperation with the global community, regional measures, the nuclear industry system and system for compensation of damages
  • measures for reducing electricity and energy consumption with targets until 2030 for two different economic growth scenarios
  • measures for promoting investment in renewable energy, with renewable energy generation targets until 2030
  • targets for electricity cogeneration until 2030
  • electricity power system reform, including unbundling of generation, transport and retail with the promotion of vibrant electricity markets
  • opening, strengthening and neutral electricity grid network, fair and accessible to all electricity producers
  • and most of all, a planned transition from passive electricity bill paying consumers to aware and active market participants who as much as possible generate their own electricity, and who instead of paying electricity bills, earn money from electricity they generate

In particular, the strategy plan states explicitly:

“…. it is indispensable, that electricity grid networks can be used by anyone, and to have competitive electricity markets”.

When trying to predict the far future, whether Japan will actually go completely non-nuclear or not, keep in mind that Sweden has decided to go non-nuclear in the 1980s, and has reversed this decision around 2010.

Currently only two of Japan’s remaining 50 nuclear reactors are in operation. It will be interesting to see if and when the safety of additional reactors are approved, and how rapidly the announcement dramatic deregulation and structural reform of Japan’s electricity system will be implemented, and how much of the announced policy steps might be reversed – or accelerated – by future Governments.

The strategy plan announced on September 14, 2012 has not yet created any irreversible facts.
Subscribe to our report series on Japan’s electricity industry landscape and our report on renewable energy in Japan.

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Japan’s PM Noda hints at new energy policy: Phasing out nuclear power by the 2030s

Develop as soon as possible a society which does not rely on nuclear power

Eliminate nuclear power according to three principles

By law Japan’s government must prepare a national energy strategy plan. The currently valid plan provides for an increase of nuclear power from 30% to 50% and is vehemently opposed by public opinion following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and much loss of public trust in nuclear power in Japan – while at the same time many Japanese traditional industry leaders promote nuclear power as a necessity.

Decision on the new energy plan has been postponed, but is likely to be announced later this week. However, Japan’s public Radio and TV NHK reports, that Prime-Minister Noda yesterday at a Press Conference hinted at the content of the new energy policy plan. Some sources say that the new energy plan has already been approved by the cabinet.

NHK reports the following about Japan’s new energy policy

  • Develop as soon as possible (translated word by word from Japanese: “one day earlier than possible”) a society which does not rely on nuclear power
  • use all political means to enable zero nuclear power in the “2030s” (which might mean 2040 depending on the interpretation)
  • promote renewable energy in order to enable zero nuclear power
  • eliminate nuclear power according to three principles
    • no nuclear power station older then 40 years
    • restart only those nuclear power stations, for which safety has been approved by the Nuclear Safety Commission
    • no new power stations
  • operate nuclear power stations, for which the safety has been assured, as an important power source

We expect Japan’s new energy policy plan, which is required by law, to be announced later this week.

Regarding nuclear phase-out keep in mind that:

The Swedish Parliament in 1980 decided that no new nuclear power stations shall be built and that Sweden should complete shut-down of all nuclear power stations by 2010.
However, Sweden reversed nuclear phase-out, and on June 17, 2010, Swedish Parliament decided to replace the existing reactors with new nuclear reactors starting from January 1, 2011.

Therefore, if in the future Japan reverses the nuclear phase-out, Japan would not be the first country to do so.

Japan’s current nuclear near-shut down:

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs - how could Japan manage?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs – how could Japan manage?

Detailed statistics, analysis and frequent updates – in our report on Japan’s energy sector.

Copyright (c) 2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

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Japan energy dilemma

Japanese law requires the government to have an energy strategy plan in place

Keep nuclear power off – or restart nuclear?

Japan’s current energy strategy plan provides for nuclear power to provide 30% of the electricity, rising to 50% in a few years by building additional nuclear power stations.

However, contrary to the current strategy plan the figure below shows, that Japan essentially switched off all nuclear power over the last year, with 2 exceptions.

A new energy strategy plan is delayed, but could be announced in the next few days. The Cabinet is in a dilemma to decide between the interests of the pro-nuclear business association Keidanren and the pro-nuclear electrical industry and considerable anti-nuclear movements in the general (voting) population.

One major problem is that Japan’s energy architecture and electricity industry is regulated by laws and regulations established in 1952. Essentially, Japan’s energy and electricity architecture has been frozen in 1952, and has not been changed until the Fukushima nuclear accident now forces change. The contribution of “new” renewable energy to Japan’s energy mix is so minute (except for water power), that it would be too small to be seen on the figures below. Our Japan-Energy report explains the major issues facing Japan’s energy architecture and its structure.

Japan’s energy peak is in summer (because energy consumption in Japan for air conditioning in summer is higher than for heating in winter), there were no black-outs, or brown-outs – how did Japan manage successfully despite the sudden unplanned exit from nuclear power? Read below…

How did Japan cope with the sudden exit from nuclear power?

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs - how could Japan manage?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs – how could Japan manage?

Japan's survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production
Japan’s survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production

How did Japan cope with the sudden shut-down of nuclear power?

Japan’s peak power consumption is in summer, all nuclear power (with 2 exceptions) was switched off since this spring, and there were no black-outs, no brown-outs, and no major problems. How did Japan achieve this?

As the lower figure shows, traditional caloric energy production was increased by installing new power plants, and by bringing back old caloric power plants which had already been switched off, and by reducing the summer peak compared to recent years through energy savings. It has been estimated that the additional costs for imported fuel are on the order of US$ 40 billion.

Expect Japan’s new national energy strategy plan to be announced in the next few days.

Japan’s energy architecture is maybe a victim of its pre-Fukushima success: because Japan’s electricity supply was working so well, nobody felt motivated enough to change the existing monopolies, grid, energy mix, or to develop renewable energies. More in our Japan-energy report.

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