Japan Now Has to Create a Third-Best Option for Energy Generation

I’ve described nuclear power as the second-best option. Just to be clear, I don’t like nuclear power, but, in my opinion, decommissioning nuclear power plants should be the last step on the path to renewable energy, not the first. Well, Japan is demonstrating what that means by taking all of its nuclear power plants offline (boldface mine):

Economist Mitsutsune Yamaguchi at the University of Tokyo says those nuclear power plants are now idle. “Out of 54 existing plants, only two are in operation, and by the end of April it will become zero,” Yamaguchi explained in an interview in Washington, D.C. Yamaguchi has been on several government panels studying what to do about the country’s energy dilemma….

For the first time in decades, Japan’s vaunted trade surplus is gone. The country now spends more on imports than it earns from exports. What is Japan buying? Fuel.

….Japan, says Jenkins, “has increased their use of liquefied natural gas by about 27 percent and relied more heavily on coal as a share of their energy use.

…Jenkins says Japan’s goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is now shelved. In fact, emissions are going up. “They’re swapping fossil fuels for nuclear and that’s driving up their CO2 emissions and the carbon intensity of their electricity supply,” he says.

Most of the new fuel is liquefied natural gas. It’s cleaner than coal or oil. but Laszlo Varro, with the International Energy Agency, says the amount needed if Japan doesn’t return to nuclear power is staggering. “You would need almost 20 percent of the entire global market of liquefied natural gas,” he calculates…

The Japanese government and green groups aren’t happy about relying on fossil fuels, and there’s strong sentiment to adopt a new energy mix that relies mostly on wind and solar power. That will take decades, though. Renewable energy in Japan now provides about 2 percent of the nation’s electricity; nuclear provided 30 percent.

Keep in mind that Japan was already relatively energy-efficient due to living patterns (e.g., dense urban living and apartment complexes), along with other energy-saving efforts. The low hanging fruit have already been picked.

The question no one wants to ask is: is the risk of local or regional nuclear contamination worse than global warming?

When it comes to energy, we live in a world of second-best options.

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