On Friday I went to the anti nuclear protests outside the prime ministers official residence - more to see what is happening rather than to be an active participant. I have mixed feelings about nuclear issue. On the one hand it has given Japan some stability particularly in the post oil shock era of energy uncertainty, but on the other hand the industry has been built on collusion and corruption. It's partly paternalistic - that they that be know best, but there has also been very cynical manipulation and disregard for the population. World over a lot of people believed in nuclear as a safe clean energy - presumably mostly in good faith. However, a report commissioned by the Diet and released recently has stated plainly that the disaster was man-made - both the government and the regulators knew that TEPCO was stalling on making safety improvments that had been demanded.
Japan survived for several months with no nuclear reactors operating - even though they had been supplying 30% of national energy. The week before last, the Oi plant in Fukui was brought back online, to meet the "serious shortfall" of industry, despite a reaosnable amount of opposition. Opposition has been fuelled by claims that there is a fault line under the reactor. The rationale for the restart doesn't seem to make complete sense.
If the summer energy consumption is so much higher, it seems a no brainer to reduce the summer consumption. And to be fair there are efforts being made, particularly at the government level. The remedies being offered however tend to be increase the temperature of the aircon - the campaigns are not to turn off the aircon. There are still restaurants and coffee shops that feel cold not cool, at uni I've walked into classrooms with the aircon on, the door open and no-one in the room... In our building there were people adding a second aircon, which of course is their right, but I wonder how deeply the idea of electricity saving is seeping in to the public habits. Awareness of the need for electricity savings is there, but I'm sceptical about the degree of personal commitment to energy savings - particularly when someone else is paying the bill...
The argument is always being put that without nuclear there can't be viable industry, but I'm yet to be convinced. Industry seems to have been able to operate without the nuclear facilities.Japan has been built on a presumption of cheap electricity - poorly insulated houses, flippant electricity usage like toilet seat warmers (not such big energy consumers when the seat is left down, but it often doesn't seem to be the case), shops that have been set to 20 degrees, shops with out aircurtains. Is it the availability of energy that has enabled the demand, or increased demand that has necessitated increased supply. It has to be both. There used to be promotional posters to switch over to all electric houses based on nuclear power being cheap. I'll keep trying to dig some up.
|Committment to setsuden: installing a second aircon...|
The graph below is quite interesting and perhaps turns on its head the idea that Japanese industry cannot survive without nuclear.
|Japanese Energy Consumption|
Increased demand corrolates with increased supply - though establishing cause and effect is more difficult.