Japanese PM Noda just announced that he is restarting the Oi reactors in that country, as what is likely part of a plan to restart more “undamaged” reactors in his country. Noda claims this is necessary to protect jobs, the economy, and the “survival of society,” Despite 30% of his own party calling for him to wait and only 29% of the public wanting reactor restarts.
Let’s investigate these claims for a moment. With almost all of the countries potentially functioning 50 reactors shut down the Japanese economy grew over at over 4% annualized in the first 4 months of this year, over twice the first quarter GDP growth in the US.
TEPCO (which owned and operated the melted down Fukushima reactors) is just now, over a year after the meltdowns, implementing a variable rate program to shift demand. Thus largest utility in Japan and the 4th largest in the world had not implemented even the most basic market mechanisms to reduce demand. Before the meltdowns, TEPCO has heavily marketing the “all electric home” including the use of some solar panels. Which might sound good, but in fact reduces the efficiency of energy use, by taking out fossil fuels for heating and cooking locally and moves them to a more remote and expensive electricity generating stations. TEPCO’s Switch! program convinced over 850,000 customers to go all electric. TEPCO can be credited with opening the largest solar electricity facility in the country which would provide electricity for only 3,800 of those customers.
For over a year Japan has not had blackouts resulting from closed reactors. Despite repeated claims from the media that they were pending. These 2 of 50 reactors will not even be at full power until most of the summer is over. They take 6 weeks to reach full power and are expected to restart within a week. Japan can again avoid blackouts (as it did last summer) without nuclear power.
Nuclear power is the most capital intensive form of power generation, requiring more machines than humans to produce electricity when compared to other methods. Renewables create jobs.
Japan still has no nuclear regulator, having closed the old hopelessly corrupt one on April 1st and having failed to inaugurate a new one because of political deadlock. Some of the most basic safety upgrades for the Oi reactors will not be completed until 2016, yet the Noda government is pushing ahead with restart.
So it is clearly not about jobs, or the economy or the survival of society that is why these reactors are restarting. Nor are they restarting to avoid black outs, or because their safe operation has been insured. They are restarting because the nuclear utilities in Japan want the estimated US$1 trillion of electricity these 50 reactors will produce and they control the government. At least for now.