Japan says farewell to nuclear; welcomes wind power

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Energy Policy, Geothermal, Nuclear, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article on Green Optimist via New Science:

Japan is planning to switch from nuclear power to renewable energy in the near future. This news probably doesn’t come as a surprise, given the country’s recent nuclear disaster. The population itself is so shaken with the events that two thirds of it are now supporting the government’s project to invest in wind and solar power. The idea is to make Japan rely entirely on renewable sources by 2050, which is a pretty high standard from what it has today.

Currently Japan has a 30% nuclear input and just a 3% clean power generation. The government is putting a stop on any new construction of reactors and is currently reorienting towards other horizons.

Anyone who knows a bit of geography knows that Japan stands very well at the geothermal energy chapter: it has 120 active volcanoes and 28,000 hot springs that go along. So it seems only natural that it should take advantage of nature’s gifts. Because of national parks and spas that block developments in those areas, the government could only come up with 14 GW of geothermal energy.

There’s nothing to worry about, though. Japan’s long coastline and the north-east region have it all going for them in terms of a profitable installation of wind turbines. Up there the wind is strong and there is plenty of land, making it the perfect location for any offshore farms that might venture in the area. Thus, one could see 24 to 140 GW-capacity turbines pop up during the next few years.

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The nuclear option: Safety concerns are only one big reason wind and solar better

Posted on April 4, 2011. Filed under: Hydroelectric, Nuclear, Solar, Wind |

From a commentary by Mark Z. Jacobson in the New York Daily News:

The powerful earthquake and tsunami that caused reactors at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant to shut down – releasing radiation and endangering workers and evacuees – have many Americans asking whether nuclear energy is worth the investment and risk.

I say not. In fact, it should not have taken a disaster of this kind to move us decisively away from nuclear and toward safe, clean, renewable energy. . . .

If the world’s energy needs were converted to electricity for all purposes – and nuclear supplied such energy – 15,800 large nuclear reactors, one installed every day for the next 43 years, would be needed. The installation of even 5% of these would nearly double the current number of reactors, giving many more countries the potential to develop weapons. If only one weapon were used in a city, it could kill 1 to 16 million people.


Why do we need nuclear energy when we have safer, cleaner options that can provide greater power for a much longer period and at lower cost to society? These better options are called WWS, for “wind, water and sunlight.” The chance of catastrophe caused by nature or terrorists acting on wind or solar, in particular, is zero.

During their lifetimes, WWS technologies emit no pollution – whereas nuclear does, since continuous energy is needed to mine, transport and refine uranium and reactors require much longer to permit and install than do WWS technologies. Overall, nuclear emits 9 to 25 times more air pollution and carbon dioxide than does wind per unit energy generated.


Some argue that nuclear is more reliable than WWS systems. This is not true. A nuclear reactor affects a larger fraction of the grid when it fails than does a wind turbine. The average maintenance downtime of modern wind turbines on land is 2%. That of France’s 59 reactors is 21.5%, with about half due to scheduled maintenance.

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Battle-proof wind farms survive Japan’s trial by fire

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Nuclear, Wind | Tags: , |

From an article on Huffington Post by Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of GCCA (Global Campaign for Climate Action):

Despite assertions by its detractors that wind energy would not survive an earthquake or tsunami the Japanese wind industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis.

Colleagues and I have been directly corresponding with Yoshinori Ueda leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association & Japan Wind Energy Association, and according to Ueda there has been no wind facility damage reported by any association members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami. Even the Kamisu semi-offshore wind farm, located about 300km from the epicenter of the quake, survived. Its anti-earthquake “battle proof design” came through with flying colors.

Mr. Ueda confirms that most Japanese wind turbines are fully operational. Indeed, he says that electric companies have asked wind farm owners to step up operations as much as possible in order to make up for shortages in the eastern part of the country.

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Say no to revving up rickety reactors

Posted on December 29, 2010. Filed under: Nuclear |

From a column by John LaForge of Nukewatch, a Wisconsin-based organization, in The Capital Times:

The owners of two 40-year-old nuclear reactors at Point Beach, on Lake Michigan north of Two Rivers, want to increase the power output for each unit by 17 percent — from 1,540 megawatts to 1,800.

The gunning of rickety old nukes is getting a green light all over the region.

The Monticello reactor, 30 miles from Minneapolis, will boost its output to 120 percent of the original licensed limit — from 613 megawatts to 684. Monticello’s been rattling along since 1971, and it rattles badly. In 2007, a 35,000-pound turbine control box (6 feet by 6 feet and 20 feet long) broke its welds and fell onto a large steam pipe that was cut open, causing the loss of so much pressure that an automatic reactor shutdown was tripped. Decades of intense vibration and poor welding were blamed for the crash. The reactor had been operating at 90 percent power. So why not push the limits to 120 percent?

In 2009 the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected claims that the accident record at the two Prairie Island reactors, south of Minneapolis, is so bad that its license extension should be denied. In May 2006, one of them accidentally spewed radioactive iodine-131 gas over 110 of its own workers, who inhaled it. Internal radiation poisoning is the kind for which there is no decontamination. Even so, the NRC could soon OK letting the Prairie Island jalopies run until 2033 and 2034, respectively, rather than shut them down in 2013 and 2014 as the license now requires.

Back in Wisconsin, Point Beach’s “extended power uprate” (EPU) plan was published in the Federal Register by the NRC Dec. 10. The draft environmental assessment and “finding of no significant impact” are hair-raising. The public has until Jan. 8 to comment.

Should we be skeptical? Point Beach has received two of only four “Red findings” — the worst failure warning available — ever issued by the NRC. In 2006, the NRC found that operators had harassed a whistle-blower who documented technical violations. In 2005, Point Beach was fined $60,000 for deliberately giving false information to federal inspectors. In May 1996, it was the site of a potentially catastrophic explosion of hydrogen gas that upended the 3-ton lid on a huge cask filled with high-level radioactive waste. The lid was being robotically welded when the gas exploded.

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Alliant says no nukes and no more coal plants … for now

Posted on May 21, 2010. Filed under: Coal, Generation Plants, Nuclear |

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Alliant Energy is giving up on the idea of building more coal-fired power plants “for the time being,” Alliant chairman, president and chief executive Bill Harvey said Thursday.

In an interview after the Madison utility holding company’s annual shareholders meeting, Harvey said Alliant subsidiary Wisconsin Power & Light will not ask for a new coal-fueled power plant to replace one proposed for Cassville that state regulators rejected in late 2008.

“I think it’s politically … too risky to think about building coal plants until climate legislation gets in place,” Harvey said. “There’s got to be substantial technological improvements before the country returns to building coal plants. That’s certainly true for us,” he said.

Thanks to adequate power available to buy on the electric transmission grid, Harvey said it will likely be two or three years before Alliant proposes building another natural-gas-fired power plant. That could happen sooner, though, if the economy recovers quickly or if climate change rules force the company to abandon its older coal-fired power plants sooner than expected.

As for nuclear power, Harvey said Alliant is not big enough to consider spending up to $10 billion to build a nuclear plant but it might buy part of a new one, if one is built. “We have to consider that. We have to consider all possibilities,” he said.

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The staggering cost of new nuclear power

Posted on November 20, 2009. Filed under: Nuclear |

From an article by Joseph Room on Center for American Progress:

A new study puts the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour—triple current U.S. electricity rates!

This staggering price is far higher than the cost of a variety of carbon-free renewable power sources available today—and 10 times the cost of energy efficiency (see “Is 450 ppm possible? Part 5: Old coal’s out, can’t wait for new nukes, so what do we do NOW?”

The new study, “Business Risks and Costs of New Nuclear Power,” is one of the most detailed cost analyses publically available on the current generation of nuclear power plants being considered in this country. It is by a leading expert in power plant costs, Craig A. Severance. A practicing CPA, Severance is co-author of The Economics of Nuclear and Coal Power (Praeger 1976), and former assistant to the chairman and to commerce counsel, Iowa State Commerce Commission.

This important new analysis is being published by Climate Progress because it fills a critical gap in the current debate over nuclear power—transparency. Severance explains:

All assumptions, and methods of calculation are clearly stated. The piece is a deliberate effort to demystify the entire process, so that anyone reading it (including non-technical readers) can develop a clear understanding of how total generation costs per kWh come together.

As stunning as this new, detailed cost estimate is, it should not come as a total surprise. I detailed the escalating capital costs of nuclear power in my May 2008 report, “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power.” And in a story last week on nuclear power’s supposed comeback, Time magazine notes that nuclear plants’ capital costs are “out of control,” concluding:

Most efficiency improvements have been priced at 1¢ to 3¢ per kilowatt-hour, while new nuclear energy is on track to cost 15¢ to 20¢ per kilowatt-hour. And no nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.

Time buried that in the penultimate paragraph of the story!

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Nuclear power is a false solution to climate change

Posted on November 6, 2009. Filed under: Nuclear |

From a guest column by Al Gedicks in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

The argument that nuclear power can contribute to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change (“Ban on new nuclear power plants should be lifted” Oct. 16, Green Bay Press-Gazette) is flawed for three main reasons.

First, nuclear power is not carbon-free electricity. At each stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining, milling, enrichment to construction, decommissioning and waste storage, nuclear power uses fossil fuels and contributes greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate global climate change. Compared to renewable energy, nuclear power releases four to five times the CO2 per unit of energy produced.

A recent study of solutions to global warming by Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University concluded that over its entire lifecycle, nuclear electricity emits between 68 and 180 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilowatt hour, compared to 3 to 11 grams for wind and concentrated solar.

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Coalition releases final policies to boost economy, reduce greenhouse gas

Posted on April 28, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Nuclear, Wind |

From a news release issued by the coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE):

MADISON, Wis. – The coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) today released its final three policy papers—Biofuels, Nuclear Power and Wind Development— which include recommendations that would spur economic development, reduce greenhouse gas reductions and create jobs.

Last week, CREWE circulated its policies on Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Energy Efficiency in conjunction with Earth Day.

“We feel that Wisconsin is poised for a transition to a sound economy powered by new, good-paying, green jobs,” Thad Nation, executive director of CREWE, said. “These papers are the culmination of months of hard work amongst our members who bring a wide variety of expertise from the business and energy sectors of Wisconsin.”

Key points from the Biofuels paper include:
+ Using biofuels can reduce our dependence on out-of-state energy sources and thus keep energy dollars invested in Wisconsin’s economy; and
+ Producing biomass can sequester carbon and may be compatible with the tourism industry and wood products industry if the incentives are targeted the right way.

Key points from the Nuclear Power paper include:
+ Changing the state’s “nuclear moratorium” should take place in conjunction with the enhanced 25 percent by 2025 renewable portfolio standard; and
+ Following certain criteria in construction and storage can make nuclear energy a credible way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Key points from the Wind Development paper include:
+ Taking advantage of the $54 billion stimulus package passed by Congress for green projects. Clean projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create good-paying jobs;
+ Strengthening and extending the RPS will signal to wind energy developers that Wisconsin is committed to renewable energy growth.

CREWE members include Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls, Xcel Energy, C5•6 Technologies, Madison Gas and Electric, Orion Energy Systems, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin Energy Corp., Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, American Transmission Co. and WPPI Energy.

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Nuclear should be part of state energy solution, PSC chair says

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Generation Plants, Nuclear |

From an article by Brian E. Clark posted on

MADISON — Eric Callisto, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, predicts the Legislature will soon open the door to building new nuclear power plants in Wisconsin.

Speaking Monday at an energy conference organized by, Callisto said the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate will enact the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommendations. And that includes modifying the language on the long-time moratorium on building nuke plants.

“It will be part of the package to reduce our carbon emissions,” said Callisto, who added that certain conditions would have to be met before the nuclear option could be considered.

Tia Nelson, who co-chaired the task force and participated in one of the conference panels, noted the task force didn’t recommend lifting the moratorium.

“It will happen only if stringent conditions are met,” she said. “I don’t believe nuclear plants are a near-term option. We should be pursuing the low-hanging fruit at this point, and that is conservation and energy efficiency. Right now, nuclear is a distraction.”

But Callisto said he is “optimistic (lawmakers) will take it up and move this issue forward. … Nuclear needs to be part of the solution.”

Three nuclear plants currently operate in the state — in Kewaunee, Point Beach, and on the UW-Madison campus.

Former Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, a longtime champion of exploring the nuke option, said he was pleased with Callisto’s comments.

“This is the first ray of sunlight in dealing with our need for power without adding to our greenhouse gas emissions,” Huebsch said. “There is nowhere else to go.

“Still, I’m concerned the moratorium will be lifted too late and that we’ll be 15 to 20 years behind,” said.

The task force report says new nuclear could be considered only if: recommended policies for conservation, efficiency and renewable energy are enacted; the PSC finds that a new nuclear power plant is “safe, economic and in the public interest;” the electricity is either generated by or sold to a Wisconsin utility; and the power is sold to electricity customers in the state.

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Suggested comments on Global Warming Task Force proposals

Posted on December 7, 2007. Filed under: Carbon, Energy Policy, Global Warming, Nuclear, Solar, Vehicles, Wind |

Ryan Schryver from Clean Wisconsin drafted suggestions for comments on the proposals made by the workgroups of the Govenor’s Global Warming Task Force. Comments can be made online at through December 14.

Work group: Electric Generation and Supply Policies

Enhanced Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard
This draft policy calls for between 15% by 2020 and 25% by 2025 renewable electricity. The electricity would come from imported renewable electricity as well as Wisconsin-produced electricity.

• Comments should focus on supporting renewable electricity goals of 20% by 2020 and 25% by 2025, which would agree with the goals in the “Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest” (“Midwest Energy Platform”), signed by Gov. Doyle and other Midwest Governors on Nov. 15.

• The renewable electricity goals should be achieved without reliance on hydro electricity from dams larger than 60 megawatts, which would exclude large Canadian hydro power.

Incentives for Combined Heat & Power
This draft policy encourages replacement of old, non-utility steam boilers with combined heat & power systems.

• Comments should encourage the strengthening of this policy to include replacement or repowering of utility power plants into combined heat and power plants. This option was deemed infeasible by the utilities, although it has been suggested for study in the “Policy Forum” policy proposal.

Relax Restrictions on Construction of New Nuclear Power Plants
This draft policy would repeal §196.493, Wis. Stats., the so-called “nuclear moratorium law,” which states that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) may not authorize the construction of a nuclear plant unless it finds that a facility will be available for the disposal of high-level waste from all Wisconsin nuclear plants, and that the proposed plant is economically advantageous to ratepayers based on specified factors.

This law should not be repealed. Comments on this policy could include the following concerns:

Cost: A new nuclear plant would be extremely expensive. Standard & Poor’s recently estimated the cost of a new nuclear plant at $4000 per kW; and Moody’s recently suggested $6,000 per kW. Nuclear plants currently being built in other countries continue to experience massive cost overruns and delays in completing the projects.

Safety: New nuclear plants would increase the risk of a serious reactor accident, which could threaten thousands of people and cost billions to deal with.

Nuclear Waste: For the foreseeable future, there remains no safe means of disposal for nuclear waste. Building additional nuclear plants in Wisconsin would only add to the problem in which thousands of tons of waste are sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan and along the Mississippi River.

Wisconsin as a Nuclear Waste Dump: The failure of the federal government to open Yucca Mt. in a timely fashion, if ever, increases pressure to find an alternate site for disposal of nuclear waste. The Wolf River area was studied in the past, and could be studied in the future as a disposal site for the nation’s nuclear waste.

Nuclear Does Not Help with Global Warming Pollution: While the operation of a nuclear plant may not directly produce GHG emissions, GHG emissions are released at various points throughout a plant’s lifecycle (construction, uranium mining and enrichment, spent fuel disposal, decommissioning, etc). According to MIT researchers, it could take nearly 1,000 additional nuclear plants to make a significant contribution toward reducing global warming pollution, whereas other strategies such as energy efficiency and renewable energy would be much less costly.


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