A recent Bloomberg article reported that electric power utilities in Japan are now emitting record levels of greenhouse gases because they are forbidden to restart nuclear plants that were taken off-line in the hysteria over the casualty-free Fukushima meltdowns of March 2011.
Japan’s fifty-odd reactors represent nearly 49,000 megawatts of generating capacity, and have historically generated over 290 billion kilowatt-hours annually. All the generators in Japan produce collectively between 900 billion and 1 trillion kWh; the amount has inched upward over the past decade.
But now that almost all of the country’s nuclear generators are offline, Japanese utilities have dramatically expanded electricity generation from their fleet of fossil generators, which mostly run on oil or natural gas.
The Bloomberg article says that Japanese utilities belched an extra 65.7 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the year following the earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima meltdowns. That would mean that those utilities generated only around 113 billion kWh with fossil generators (113 billion kWh x .6 kiligrams of CO2 per kWh = roughly 65.7 million metric tonnes), where prior to the nuclear shutdown they generated over 290 billion.
In other words, Japan is not only making do with less electricity, it is dumping more CO2 into the atmosphere by making do with less. That is the difference between nuclear and fossil.
Note that none of the “green” lobby’s fond predictions of increased wind and solar generation have made a bit of a difference. The Washington Post just reported that electricity shortages and rationing are causing severe strain in Japan. Japanese residences and businesses are already among the most energy efficient in the world. Any further reductions in electricity consumption are now coming at the cost of convenience and foregoing of the basic amenities and necessities of modern life. There comes a point where energy efficiency becomes demand destruction. Keep that in mind next time you hear “green” activists talking about energy efficiency.
So Japan faces a stark choice. To get the electric power its businesses and citizens require, it can build new CO2-belching fossil generators running on imported liquefied natural gas. Or it can restart the nuclear fleet, which has proven itself over decades to be a safe and reliable source of CO2-free power.
Doing the latter would require backing off Japan’s fondness for nuclear hyperbole. The country has milked the Hiroshima horse for decades: pointing up the alleged injustice of the U.S. bombings during the Second World War. That annual milking has begun to wear thin on observers like Ian Baruma, who told CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel how the annual Hiroshima ceremonies are a sentimentalized commemoration of blameless victimhood, though some tepid acknowledgement of Japan’s atrocities against Chinese and Koreans has recently emerged in the form of another museum. But generally the victim myth pervades the ceremonies. Pearl Harbor is rarely acknowledged as a legitimate casus belli for the U.S. Pearl Harbor, for those who have forgotten, occurred as the result of the American oil embargo against Japan. Why did the U.S. slap an oil embargo on Japan? Because of Japanese atrocities against Chinese and Koreans, and because the Americans learned that Japan was planning the general military conquest of all of southeast Asia.
The Hiroshima ceremonies are much loved by some here in the west, who ignore the far-greater casualties inflicted by conventional chemical explosives during the war. To acknowledge that fact would introduce nuance into their moralistic positions, and nuance only ruins the self-righteous rush that simple-minded moralism produces.