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Japan Technology

Japan Restarts Two of Its 50 Nuclear Reactors 224

Posted by timothy
from the even-numbers-only dept.
Darth_brooks writes "Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restart of two idle nuclear reactors Saturday, amid split public response. The Japanese government is trying to fill a summer power shortfall. According to the article, the two reactors supply power to the Kansai region near Osaka, where local officials were predicting a 15% shortfall in power capacity during July and August."
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Japan Restarts Two of Its 50 Nuclear Reactors

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  • That's good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tarantulas (710962) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:08PM (#40346191) Journal
    They should leave all the reactors offline that have safety flaws common to the Fukushima plants (close proximity to tidal wave hazards, external diesel generator fuel tanks, etc.) and start up all the rest.
    • Re:That's good news (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:25PM (#40346297)
      It's not that simple because Japan has the additional problem that some of the country uses 60Hz like here in the us and some places use 50Hz like in europe.
      • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:37PM (#40346393)
        Why don't they standardize on 55 Hz?
        • by S.O.B. (136083)

          Why don't they standardize on 55 Hz?

          55Hz, 56Hz...whatever it takes.

          (50 geek points to anyone who gets the reference)

        • Most electrical systems will only work on the frequency they are designed for except perhaps a switching power supply because its rectified and filtered anyhow. However for an ac induction motor even a 1Hz difference will cause them to overheat. In fact your power does not even drift much more than +/- .2 Hz and the entire grid is in sync.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by gstrickler (920733)

        Actually, that's not a problem, they use an HVDC line between the two grids.

        • Re:That's good news (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @05:40PM (#40346721)

          You know, do at least *some* research before stating bullshit.

          It is a HUGE PROBLEM. Any interconnect is very limited in size. If a significant portion of one grid is impacted, you can't easily move power from one grid to another. This is exactly the situation in Japan.

        • Re:That's good news (Score:5, Informative)

          by nojayuk (567177) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @05:51PM (#40346779)
          The HVDC links between the two grids have a limited capacity, about 2GW as I recall. They've not needed anything bigger since both parts of the country have adequate generating capacity for each region, or at least they did until the nuclear stations in the Kansai area and points south shut down for inspection and refuelling and didn't restart. The Kanto area (Tokyo and environs) has a lot of older coal-burning and oil-burning power stations that were demothballed after they lost the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini reactors and the other stations shut down due to the quake and tsunami (Onagawa, Tokai and Hamaoka) were refused permission to restart. Kansai (Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima etc.) has fewer fossil-burners available to bring back to use hence the predicted electricity supply shortages in the region this summer.
          • Re:That's good news (Score:4, Informative)

            by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @12:20AM (#40349199)

            after they lost the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini reactors

            The Fukushima Daini reactor was not lost, and didn't even sustain damage. It shut down automatically during the earthquake, and was not restarted due to the unfounded fear/danger/hype that began about nuclear power.

            • by nojayuk (567177)

              The Daini reactors did take some damage to peripherals such as external electrical equipment, the turbine halls etc. due to flooding from the tsunami. A level 4 emergency was declared to the IAEA over Daini reactor no. 3 which lost its backup power systems and took longer than necessary to achieve cold shutdown. All the other reactors on the Tohoku coastline at Onagawa, Tokai and Hamaoka suffered no ill-effects from the earthquake and tsunami.

              The Daini reactors may never restart; the site is significantly

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              Or maybe the fact that they realized there were serious design flaws in all their reactors. For example Daini was only built to withstand a magnitude 7.2 quake, so it was luck rather than design that saved it. Had the epicentre been closer it might have failed catastrophically. Plus no reactor had ever been in such a large quake before so despite limited testing back in the 60s a lot was learned from it.

              The two reactors being restarted have been upgraded to survive a larger quake and to have better monitori

  • Yep... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:09PM (#40346195) Homepage

    Can't survive on renewable energy, and can't built the old coal power plants fast enough even when you're buying up coal as fast as Canada can dig it out of the ground for you. Not a surprise...not a damn surprise. Especially when you've got the idle plants just sitting there.

    • Re:Yep... (Score:5, Funny)

      by mweather (1089505) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:18PM (#40346263)
      Building coal plants fast enough isn't a problem unless you simultaneously shut down all the nuclear reactors.
    • Re:Yep... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:23PM (#40346291)

      If people get pissed about nuclear reactors and see building coal plants as a good alternative, I wouldn't care about the time it takes, those people are bloody idiots.

    • Can't survive on renewable energy, yet,

      ftfy
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Can't survive on renewable energy, yet,

        I'll bet that we won't in our life time. Not unless we put giant solar arrays in orbit or built them on Mercury to beam energy back to earth in the form of microwave energy. Nuclear will be the wave of the future for us, our children, our children's children, and probably the next 6 or 8 generations.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      The plan is to run them over the summer and then perhaps idle them for the winter again. For the next few years Japan could run like that while other energy sources come on line.

      Coal is seen as a stop-gap at best with massive opposition to the building of any new plants and a strong desire to run down the existing ones, which was the plan until Fukushima happened.

  • and this time they picked no disasters in the menu

  • For successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

    No matter who you are, that's true for any technology.

  • by Ichijo (607641) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:38PM (#40346405) Homepage Journal

    There's another way to fix the shortfall: simply raise the price of peak hour electricity until demand falls to the level of supply [wikipedia.org]. We've known for hundreds of years that prices set below the going rate determined by supply and demand [wikipedia.org] is the cause of shortages.

    The increased peak hour revenue could be used to lower off-peak electricity prices so that people pay on average the same as before.

    • The increased peak hour revenue could be used to lower off-peak electricity prices so that people pay on average the same as before.

      So if the power is used for cooling then people can sit in +40C during peak and at -4C off-peak to make the average temperature a comfortable 18C?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fredgiblet (1063752)
      You're an idiot.
    • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @07:30PM (#40347563)

      There's another way to fix the shortfall: simply raise the price of peak hour electricity until

      ...until industrial production is affected by the skyrocketing costs and the whole economy of Japan faces a recession caused by the increased production costs and lack of ability to compete in the economic field.

      In alternative, they can simply turn on a couple of the 50 power generators they have just sitting there, that never exhibit a single problem in their entire existence.

      I wonder what's the best option.

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        ...until industrial production is affected by the skyrocketing costs...

        All they have to do is shut down a few production machines during times of peak electrical usage. The workers can take a nap during that time, or that time could mark a shift change. It wouldn't destroy the economy.

        • Machine are usually run as long as possible (assuming the people who run the factory are competent, and dont have too much unused machine time). There would definitely be an impact on productivity if they had to shutdown a few machines for few hours a day. The result would affect the company and country economically.

        • I am an industrial engineer, and I would like to point out to you you are talking rubbish. Very few processes I have seen lend themselves to that sort of thing. Heck even the food industry here uses steam/coal/electricity at about the same rate 24/7. Almost all heavy industry runs 24/7 simply because it would be too expensive to shut down. At best places like this (normally on a notified maximum demand tariff) can barely avoid exceeding their NMD, let alone reducing it. Demand control on any significant po

    • by sjames (1099)

      In the case of shaving the peaks, it is possible through variable pricing provided that theer is sufficient elasticity in demand. Certainly people can put off laundry and such, but in some climates, heat/ac are not really optional.

      In the more general case, hiking prices prevents the condition of markets having no stock when customers want to buy. That doesn't mean there isn't actually a shortage, it just means that economists hammered on the square peg of reality until it fit the round hole of theory (or pe

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @09:22PM (#40348311)

      There's another way to fix the shortfall: simply raise the price of peak hour electricity until demand falls to the level of supply [wikipedia.org].

      Yes that works quite well if you're an all consuming nation that has no industry and produces nothing. Quite the opposite is true for Japan. The real fears were that rolling blackouts would start to affect their manufacturing industry and that it would give rise to a second major crash in their economy.

      That doesn't even take into account what happens to a nation which is unable to run cooling or heating. Treating people suffering a condition is many times less efficient on resources than preventing the condition from taking place in the first place. You only need to look to Europe to see what happens when gas supplies are suddenly removed from people, which is exactly what happens when you price heating or cooling out of reach of people who may suffer heat stroke / hypothermia.

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        The real fears were that rolling blackouts would start to affect their manufacturing industry...

        Yes, and that's what setting the price just high enough so that demand falls to the level of supply would prevent.

      • by Solandri (704621)

        Quite the opposite is true for Japan. The real fears were that rolling blackouts would start to affect their manufacturing industry and that it would give rise to a second major crash in their economy.

        That doesn't even take into account what happens to a nation which is unable to run cooling or heating. Treating people suffering a condition is many times less efficient on resources than preventing the condition from taking place in the first place.

        This is going to sound heartless, but given Japan's popu

    • by khallow (566160)

      There's another way to fix the shortfall

      Normally, I'd agree, but this was an artificial shortfall caused because the Japanese government took all of the nuclear reactors offline. My take is that they shold bring those reactors back online, then let the price float.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      This is exactly what California power companies (well, PG&E) does. They "artificially" set power availability low, and as a result, you're paying over $0.50/kwh during much of the winter months due to heating - despite the fact that you're really not using all that much power to begin with.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      There is no need in Japan because Japanese people and businesses act responsibly and save energy when asked to. Last summer people avoided using air-con and went to work in casual clothing. They don't keep the TV on in the background. Train companies reduced non-essential services at peek times and turned off half the escalators when passenger numbers were low. Shops turned off much of their non-essential lighting and displays. There has actually been an economic boost due to sales of new energy efficient p

  • by Trepidity (597) <.gro.hsikcah. .ta. .todhsals-muiriled.> on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:39PM (#40346411)

    While restarting any nuclear reactors is currently quite unpopular in Japan nationally, the decision to restart this particular plant's two reactors was actually made with local input and approval. Local councils aren't normally required to approve such matters, but due to the current controversy, Japan's government de-facto made restart contingent on approval from the local government. After several months of safety studies and deliberation, the municipal council voted 11-1 in favor of restarting the reactors [japantimes.co.jp] in mid-May, which gave the national government some cover to go ahead with it.

    • by Kalidor (94097) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @05:03PM (#40346529) Homepage

      Agreed. I also like how 32% opposed to the restart, and 38% with no opinions in public polls (numbers in the the same NHK feed they sourced) is "widespread public opposition".

      • by sjames (1099)

        Naturally, they meant 2 people objected and they were as far apart as possible without one of them living on the water.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      Exactly. They need the power to keep their toilets online. My wife, who is Japanese, and most of the ex-pats I've talked with believe nuclear is the best option given the requirements of their society. They just want to make sure there is more oversight on controlling the plants.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I think a better method would be to give the public the power to make the choice: have a referendum, with questions being something like "with summer coming, there is greater demand for power than we can supply without the nuclear reactors. please choose: 1) restart the newer-design reactors to provide this needed power, or 2) don't restart the reactors, and accept rolling blackouts during peak demand times".

      If the public chooses #2, then just go ahead and have rolling blackouts. That'll solve the problem

    • by sjames (1099) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @07:52PM (#40347747) Homepage

      In general, nothing trumps NIMBY quite like a threatened return to the dark ages.

  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bazorg (911295) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @05:03PM (#40346527) Homepage

    When you can't have everything your way, having some electricity is not a bad start.

  • Japan now has an excellent, large nucleotidebrownfield, national sacrifice area for nuclear power development. Might as well build a dozen modern plants there like AP2000+. Next time, please build the reactors 10 meters higher and use the coal clinkers to build bigger, higher seawalls. Thank you.

    And hire a 3rd party nuclear regulatory state like US NRC for consulting and oversight.

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