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Nuclear Steam Rising – From Reuters

Politics / Nuclear Power Jul 19, 2013 - 05:24 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop

Politics

ABENOMICS AND THE ATOM
The very same Reuters which rushed to be the first agency to spread the June news about Fukushima that “Tepco is being overwhelmed with contaminated liquids as it flushes water over the three reactors at the seaside plant that had meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami two years ago”, with Strontium-90 levels 125 times above the pre-catastrophe level, now tells us that restarting Japan's nuclear power fleet is seen by “Abe” and his team as the must have to top all must haves. Reuters reported today (18 July) that:


“As Japan's infatuation with the great nominal stock market experiment continues, the government wishes nothing more than to put the great Fukushima nuclear disaster in the past, so it can restart its nuclear power plants”. Reuters' journalists told readers that: restarting the reactors is “the critical, decisive factor if Abenomics has any chance of succeeding, as the country's economy will never recover if it has to rely on foreign sources of energy”.

The Abenomics silver bullet is therefore currency wars-plus-nuclear power, we could say.

What we can say with no possible chance of error is that such poppycock, passing for journalism, leaves more than somewhat to be desired. Take the rather flagrant example of Germany. In Europe it has the special status of not being a basket case economy, at present and unlike (just for example) nuclear obsessed France. Germany is also very actively closing down, limiting and finally abandoning nuclear power, at least according to present policy.

Continuing with “le couple Franco-Allemand” as French presidents like to say, and as German chancellors do not like to say, how and in what way has France's basket case economic status been prevented, or slowed from happening by having roughly 75% of national electricity nuclear-origin?

The Reuters report of 18 July however did note that the Fukushima 6-reactor complex keeps on belching steam from the most-damaged reactors, confirming there is plenty more radioactive garbage under the rug, and will go on emitting gamma radiation for quite some while.

JUST ADD IT TO NATIONAL DEBT
Everybody knows about Japan's sovereign debt. Japan is the top of the hit parade. Adding the possible $175 - $350 billion of Fukushima disaster-related spending in the next 10 years  to its debt could be seen by some as “not really very important”. Such is the size of Japanese national debt.

Recovering Japan's economy – from its debt – can quite reasonably be called as likely as Japan becoming a major oil exporter, which brings us onto the only possible interest of having nuclear power once we have ritually mouthed a slogan or two about “the struggle against global warming, climate change, and freaky weather”. Using IMF and World Bank statistics, Japan in 2008 imported an average of about 4.4 million barrels a day for a total cost of $190.56 billion. What happened in 2009? Japan imported less than 4 million barrels a day but the oil price had fallen so much that the annual cost was $99.90 billion, for a 47.58% reduction in 1 year.

The oil saving was nothing at all to do with nuclear power. It was due to the 2008 crisis collapsing oil prices which in 2008 had reached their highest-ever. The Reuters' journalists, 18 July, are merely gargling the ripe old nuclear myth which dates from the first oil shock of 1973-74, that “nuclear power saves oil”. It also causes Fukushima-type disasters, which are economic as well as other type.

The interlocking myth is that dependence on imported oil is an atom bomb for national finances and the economy. Importing oil is very, very dangerous.

We have no need to compare, for example, Switzerland's public finances and debt, with those of Japan, while noting both countries import more or less 100% of their oil. The USA for example, is still the world's biggest oil importer – but is also a major refiner and re-exporter. The “crack spreads” that are traded, and even inside-traded every day reflect the value added  from refining crude into products. Japan is also a large re-exporter.

NO LOGIC NEEDED – OR WANTED
Re-starting Japan's nuclear power fleet in a country sitting on or very near some of the world's most intense seismic faults and tectonic plates is not only opposed by a lot of Japanese – but is plain stupid. Unfortunately, the 2011 disaster, and the 1923 Great Kanto quake, which killed about 106 000 people, are not freak events like the bad weather that US president Obama is “fighting”. Japan's nuclear power program was always an intensely political decision, never opened to democratic debate in Japan – and insanely risky.

With the Fukushima complex crippled and impossible to repair, or demolish for a long time, it is “simply not possible” for another major seismic or tectonic shock to hit the area. Japanese will have to hope and pray. For years, Japanese will have to watch TV footage of site workers injecting boric acid into the most heavily damaged reactors whenever steam emissions are driven up by radioactive heat. Boron like graphite is a “moderator” slowing down radioactive activity.  The recent jump in levels of radioactive cesium and tritium in groundwater around the coastal complex, and the near-certainty the contaminated groundwater is leaking into the Pacific, merely serves to underline the environmental threat posed by nuclear power.

Extremely high levels of radiation in the now roofless upper sections of No. 3 reactor building — destroyed by a hydrogen explosion in the early days of the 2011 disaster — make it much too dangerous for workers to approach. All site work around No. 3 reactor is carried out by remotely-operated handling equipment. Continued radioactive reactions at the crippled complex, especially among fuel rods and fuel remains, make it possible that under worst-case conditions “criticality” could be attained in the reactor’s damaged fuel. Most of this fuel is thought to have melted and slumped to the bottom of its containment structure, after the hydrogen explosion.

Nuclear reactors are constant and massive Dirty Bomb targets for any type of war – civil, terrorist or other. When severely damage, as in Japan, they are constant threats of huge economic damage and loss of life, until they are completely dismantled and secured. Imagining that re-starting Japan's reactor fleet “can save Abenomics” is worthy of the silly season – and we are well past April 1st.

By Andrew McKillop

Contact: xtran9@gmail.com

Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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