Nuclear Was One Quarter of Japan’s Power Supply, Not “One Third”

*** UPDATE October 1, 2013 ***
A well recognized energy analyst based in Japan and I had a fairly in depth discussion in the comments of this post. Here is a quick summary of my take away on this issue. Please see the comments section for the details:

1. Nuclear was in fact only about a quarter (25.4%) of Japan’s total electricity generated for the five years up to the Fukushima catastrophe. Nuclear was not “about one third,” nor was it “about 30%.”

2.  One reason that the share of nuclear power has been inflated is due to calculations which fudge the math to show an exaggerated share for nuclear. Some people are dividing the IEA’s Production from nuclear number into the Final consumption number instead of the Total production figure without subtracting any of the transmission/distribution and other losses. This calculation alone inflates the nuclear percentage by about 12% for 2010 alone.

3. Another reason is that some analysts are neglecting to count power generated by non-utilities such as TEPCO and the other regional monopolies. There are various reasons why specialized analysts may want to do this based on their definition of the electricity market, however, this discounts much of the electric power actually generated in Japan and further exaggerates the importance of nuclear power.

Unless a journalist, blogger, or others in the media are describing specific and clearly defined subsets of the Japanese electricity situation, the correct approximation to use is “about a quarter.”

*** End of UPDATE ***

Journalists are consistently misreporting the amount of electricity that nuclear power provided the Japanese market prior to the Fukushima nuclear radiation catastrophe in 2011. Many reports falsely state that nuclear energy provided “one third” or “30%” of Japan’s electricity before Fukushima’s reactors devastated the nation. This is simply not true. In fact, nuclear was only providing about a quarter of Japan’s electrical power in the years prior to the catastrophe.

Here are some examples of inaccurate reporting:

“used to provide almost a third of the nation’s electricity”
Reuters story by Linda Sieg

“plans to raise nuclear capacity from one-third to over half of total demand”
AP story by Elaine Kurtenbach (published on Huffington Post)

“no firm date for bringing back an energy source that had covered about a third of the country’s electricity needs”
Reuters story by Tetsushi Kajimoto

“nuclear reactors provided close to a third of the electricity to keep the $5-trillion economy going before the Fukushima disaster”
Reuters story by Osamu Tsukimori

“until three years ago provided 30% of the electricity to power the world’s third largest economy”
The Guardian story by Phillip Inman & Terry Macalister

There are numerous similarly incorrect statements in other reports.

In 2010, the year prior to the horrific catastrophe, Japan only generated 25.8% of its electric power with nuclear according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) statistics. Here are actual production numbers from the IEA for the five years leading up to the Fukushima radiation disaster:

Japan's Nuclear Production

Obviously, nuclear never got even close to a third of Japan’s electricity production, nor was it even thirty percent.

Why then do journalists consistently misreport this information? Well, the nuclear industry can be to blame at least in part. A friend on twitter pointed out that the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA) profile on Japan makes claims that could confuse journalists. The WNA is, however, a public relations arm of the nuclear industry and can be expected to exaggerate nuclear’s importance – it is in their vested interest.

My twitter friend also pointed out that Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) also makes a similar “about 30%” claim. The FEPC is also highly vested in promoting nuclear power and can be expected to similarly “spin” atomic energy in a positive light.

Further, another friend on twitter who is a prominent and respected journalist pointed out to me that the confusion over the numbers could possibly be since the nuclear portion of total demand, rather than total supply, might be seen as higher than 25%. This would be since actual demand or consumption of electricity is generally smaller than supply due to various losses such as transmission loss. This explanation does not make sense to me for several reasons.

One glaring reason is that neither Japan nor the IEA publishes consumption of electricity by source, only as a part of total production. It is not clear which source, nuclear or other, is being consumed. So it is very difficult, if not impossible for a journalist to report that “nuclear is X% of consumption.”

Another reason is that nuclear suffers more from transmission loss than other forms of electric power generation. Due to the very real risks that nuclear poses, atomic energy plants are necessarily located far from population centers where the bulk of electricity is consumed. As a portion of electricity consumed, nuclear would suffer more from losses than other forms of power and therefore it seems unlikely that the Japanese power industry would want to show that off.

My own best guess at this point is that the industry spinmeisters have been exaggerating the importance of nuclear power for a long time, and unfortunately, some journalists are not taking the time to check their sources or the math.

In any event, nuclear is now zero percent of Japan’s electric supply. Hopefully it will stay that way for a very long time.

Former Prime Minister Calls For Elimination of Nuclear Power In Japan


Popular former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi has called for the elimination of nuclear power in Japan. More information is available at various news stories including:

Japan Daily Press, “Ex-PM Junichiro Koizumi pushes for a ‘zero nuclear power’ Japan, “Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes, “Junichiro Koizumi’s Zero Nuclear” (Japanese)

This is quite a big event as Mr. Koizumi is still an immensely popular and respected figure in Japanese politics, even though he is retired.

Mr. Koizumi’s comments could not be more timely as the situation at Fukushima is spinning wildly out of control.

I’ll try to add more information and comments as I learn more.

“Yarase” Is Astroturfing Propaganda In Japanese

The Japanese government has begun a series of formal public forums ostensibly to gain consensus on three proposed medium-term energy scenarios.  The first two meetings were held last weekend and have led to public outrage over alleged astroturfing propaganda, called yarase (pronounced yah-rah-say if you’re American) in Japanese.

Two forums held in Sendai and Nagoya included high level power industry employees that were supposedly chosen at random from the public to speak out on the energy scenarios in the public forum. The forums are supposed to be fair and represent general public opinion.

At the Sendai forum one of the panel members announced his employer’s outlook on nuclear power – his employer is Tohohoku Electric Power. Another panel member was from a nuclear power association. The revelations lead to understandably extreme outrage from the members of the audience and the discussion had to be cut short.

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The SmartScarecrow Show: Thorium Myths – Renewable Realities

The SmartScarecrow Show is a fun weekly live streaming video show and podcast about alternative energy. I was interviewed today regarding thorium myths and renewable energy realities.

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How Many People Died From Chernobyl? Probably More Than A Million

Nuclear industry pundits, propagandists, and astroturfers would like you to believe that the health and environmental effects of catastrophes such as Chernobyl are insignificant. Reality is that the health effects are much larger than the industry and its supporters will admit.

The New York Academy of Sciences published a study by renowned scientists that compiles thousands of studies completed mainly in Slavic that the UN’s groups ignored due to politics and a lack of independence from nuclear industry influence. It’s a landmark work that I recommend everyone interested read.

The authors show that to date more than one million deaths have occurred due to the Chernobyl nuclear radiation catastrophe. This is far more than the tiny numbers claimed by the nuclear industry. Further, the other health effects are enormous. Childhood disease, birth defects, and numerous other health effects have devastated vast areas in the Ukraine and Belarus.

The health effects of Chernobyl and, unfortunately, Fukushima will haunt the world for generations to come.

Here is the PDF of the book for your convenience:

Professor Karl Grossman interviewed the consulting editor, Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger regarding the study on his excellent television program. If you are not up to reading the entire study, I do recommend you watch this video:

Think nuclear is safe in the USA? Think again.

Thom Hartmann has a great show and personally I find it ironic that it’s only on the Russia Today (RT) network. This segment with Paul Gunter from Beyond Nuclear is excellent. Thanks to this tweet from @kenshimada for pointing it out.

See the video after the jump and let me know what you think!

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Nuclear Charges 10X More Than Renewable Fees In Japan

Some vested interests want you to think that Japan’s new renewable energy feed-in tariffs (FIT) are really expensive! Well, their sort of right – everything costs money, but are the FITs really expensive?

The Japan renewable energy feed-in tariffs system, after its launch in July, will be paid for by electricity consumers. Everyone who buys electricity will have some additional amount tagged onto their bill each month to pay for the renewable deployment.

A typical household with a 7,000 yen (about €68 or US$88 per month) electric bill will be charged an additional renewable energy fee of 70 to 100 yen (about one Euro or US dollar)  per month. These fees will be collected from everyone and used to pay for the FITs for renewable energy deployed.

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