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2011年12月30日 (金)

社説:原発コスト 「安価神話」も崩壊した

renewable energy 再生可能エネルギー(=自然エネルギー)

(Mainichi Japan) December 29, 2011
Editorial: Gov't should promote renewable energy as myth of nuclear power's cheapness shattered
社説:原発コスト 「安価神話」も崩壊した

"The cost of nuclear power generation is cheap" -- we have repeatedly heard such a line as part of the reasoning for promoting nuclear energy.

The myth of the cheapness of nuclear power generation collapsed following the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

A government panel set up in the wake of the nuclear disaster estimates that the cost of nuclear power generation now stands at a minimum of 8.9 yen per kilowatt hour -- 1.5 times higher than the figure presented by utilities and the government before the disaster.

If the costs for decontaminating areas affected by radioactive materials, decommissioning the damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and compensating for damages emanating from the nuclear crisis soar further, the cost of nuclear power generation would be even higher.

Considering the fact that the costs of coal-fired power generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled power generation stand at somewhere near 10 yen per kilowatt hour, respectively, the superiority that nuclear power generation had enjoyed in terms of "cost performance" can be said to have been shattered.

Even wind power generation and geothermal power generation could rival with nuclear power generation in terms of cost performance depending on conditions, while the cost of solar power generation is likely to become cheaper in 20 years time.

The government should take this opportunity to proceed with full-scale measures to invest in and promote renewable energy sources, which had previously been shunned for their "high costs."

What makes the government panel's latest estimation significantly different from previous calculations is that the panel took into consideration the social costs emanating from nuclear power generation, such as accident risks, on top of the expenses for the construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants as well as their fuel costs.

In hindsight, it was a mistake that we failed to take into account accident risks involving nuclear plants.

It shows that the myths of the safety and the cheapness of nuclear power generation were closely intertwined with each other.

The government panel has also indicated that energy savings per household are tantamount to generating power and pointed to the potential of a dispersed power system, to which we should pay renewed attention.

The panel's estimates should be indicating the feasibility of the government's policy of cutting down on nuclear power generation.

In the meantime, we should take heed of the fact that the figures currently presented are highly uncertain.  

Experts were sharply divided in their opinions over how nuclear accident risks should be evaluated when they were discussing how they should calculate the latest estimates.

While some experts projected that the odds of such a serious accident as the Fukushima disaster happening were once every 100,000 years, their opinions are way too different from ordinary people's feelings considering the fact that we have seen three major nuclear accidents across the globe -- Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011 -- over the past several decades.

It should be noted that the government panel has given minimum estimates because it excluded accident probabilities from their estimates for nuclear accident risk-related costs.

The panel has also indicated that the cost of the nuclear fuel cycle -- which the government describes as the core of Japan's nuclear energy policy -- is almost twice that of direct disposal.

The nuclear fuel cycle program, albeit the large amount of money spent on it, should be reviewed from square one.

The panel's estimates should be examined by people from various quarters in order for Japan to come up with the best mix of energy policies.

Those estimates should serve as the first step toward achieving such diverse energy policies.

毎日新聞 2011年12月26日 2時31分


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