Nuclear Energy: Public Opinion and Distance

by Francis Sugita

Opposition to the usage of nuclear power plants continues to grow in Japan despite government officials and private investors pushing to reinstate Japan’s nuclear power plants. The oppositional increase is obviously closely related to the Fukushima accident. That being said, there are other factors that must be considered when analyzing public opinion, one being distance. One important case study written post-Fukushima explored the effect of distance to a nuclear energy source and public opinion. This study is important not only because fatal nuclear accidents rarely occur, but also because nuclear accidents have caused an increase in opposition to nuclear power plant usage throughout the world (not just in Japan).

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Solar Jobs Explode In California

by Max Breitbarth

The Golden State is leading the United States’ push for more solar energy. Sammy Roth’s Desert Sun article summarizes a recent report from the nonprofit Solar Foundation, which notes that solar jobs are on the rise, and they are increasing the fastest in California.

According to the report, California’s solar jobs have increased almost 40 percent since last year. Their current number now exceeds 75,000 workers, more than enough to lead the country. Roth notes that California actually has more solar workers than the next ten states combined. Continue reading

Benefiting from Nuclear Reactors in Japan

by Francis Sugita

A case study by Kato, Takahara, Nishikawa, and Homma examined the economic incentives and local citizens’ attitudes toward hosting a nuclear power plant post-Fukushima. The study compared local citizens’ attitudes in 2010 and 2011 (pre and post-Fukushima) toward the benefits and drawbacks of hosting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant—Kashiwazaki and Kariwa are nearby towns of the nuclear power plant located in the Niigata Prefecture in Japan. The authors note that the Fukushima accident clearly changed the attitudes towards nuclear energy at a national level, which is shown through a national opinion poll conducted in April 2011 by Asahi Shinbun, one of the major newspapers in Japan (cited in the case study). The poll showed roughly 41 percent of the respondents believed that Japan should reduce or abolish nuclear energy usage, a 13 percent increase from a similar opinion poll conducted in 2007 by Asahi Shinbun. However, the authors also mention the reason they decided to focus on local citizens’ opinion is because they predicted the attitudes of local communities hosting nuclear power plants may differ from national attitudes. Furthermore, the opinions within regions hosting or willing to host a nuclear power plan may have been major factors in nuclear policy decisions because governors cannot simply ignore the regional opinions near nuclear power plants. Continue reading

Japan’s Nuclear Future

by Francis Sugita

Japan has relied on nuclear energy for its electricity since the late 20th century because of its lack of other energy resources. In early 2011, before the tsunami struck, nuclear energy accounted for nearly 30 percent of Japan’s electricity output (World Nuclear). A recent study has shown that “the share of Japanese people feeling ‘very uneasy’ about nuclear power grew from 21% before the 1999 Tokaimura accident to 52% afterward” (Science Direct). Despite this, Japan’s cabinet in April 2014 “approved an energy policy reversing the previous government’s plans to gradually mothball nuclear power plants,” a move perhaps unpopular to the public at large due to the Fukushima accident (Reuters). Furthermore, this heavily contradicts the Japanese government’s initial plans; prior to Fukushima, there were plans to increase nuclear energy usage to 50 percent, but following the accident, the government of Japan published a White Paper in October 2011 proposing that the dependency on nuclear energy largely be cut (World Nuclear). Continue reading

Thailand Has the Necessary Wind Conditions to Reach Renewable Energy Goals

by Tim Storer

Many developing economies are undergoing an energy transformation, and in the face of global warming, there has been a push towards investment in renewable sources, such as wind power. Chingulpitak and Wongwises (2014) review the current status of wind energy development in Thailand. The Thai government has stated goals of increasing its use of renewable fuels to 25% by 2021, and wind energy is a large component of this transformation. In 2012, only 111.7 MW of wind power was generated, but the Thai government aims to increase production to 1800 MW in this timeframe. In addition to its own worth, Thailand’s energy transformation can provide insight into the challenges of other developing nations around the globe. Continue reading

Electricity-Market Price Impacts from the San Onofre Nuclear Plant Shutdown

by Cameron Bernhardt

Since the Fukushima Daichii nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, the future of nuclear power generation has been challenged. A wide range of policy responses to the Fukushima incident have been employed in many countries around the world, varying from dismissal of the accident and nuclear expansion to immediate shutdowns of nuclear plants and the suspension of new plant approvals. In California, the San Onofre nuclear plant was shut down in January 2012 due to the significant wear on over 3000 different tubes in the plant. This policy decision by the California Energy Commission (CEC) naturally had a huge impact on the state of the electricity market in California; the 2160-MW San Onofre plant provided a large share of the electricity to its surrounding region. In light of this decision by the CEC, Woo et al. (2014) wanted to analyze the price impact of San Onofre’s shutdown. Woo et al. used intra-hour prices to compute average real-time market prices from roughly 24,000 observations between California’s three independent operating regions. The regression results led the authors to conclude that a $6-9/MWh increase in wholesale electricity prices occurred from the San Onofre shutdown. The authors also concluded that this price increase could be offset by reducing system load and expanding solar and wind generation. Continue reading

Aftermath of Fukushima: Public Opinion of Nuclear Power in Australia

by Cameron Bernhardt

Deciding the future of nuclear power generation is relatively high on the agenda of many countries around the world. Like all electricity generation technologies, nuclear power possesses notable advantages and disadvantages relative to other generation methods. Some of the most commonly recognized advantages of nuclear power are its low operating costs, security of supply, and the low air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that it produces. Conversely, issues of water use and waste disposal are often deterrents to the development of nuclear generation. In addition, the risk of nuclear accidents is a persistent threat to nuclear support, especially after incidents such as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011. In an effort to characterize the Australian public’s views toward nuclear power in relation to climate change and other alternative energy sources, Bird et al. (2014) analyzed random sample surveys to draw conclusions about these attitudes. These surveys were administered in March 2010 and February 2012, 12 months prior to Fukushima and 11 months following, respectively. Continue reading

Nuclear Power Generation: High Demands for Cooling Water Use

by Cameron Bernhardt

Nuclear power is often praised for its potential to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and power generation. Although nuclear power may offer a promising future in this regard, it is likely to place stresses on the environment in other ways, namely through increased demands on water for cooling and space for waste disposal. Byers et al. (2014) tested six decarbonization pathways to estimate current water use in the UK electricity sector and project water use to 2050 in the UK. The study observed the water use associated with cooling for all varieties of thermoelectric power plants, but nuclear power accounts for over 20 percent of the UK’s electricity mix and is likely to share a large stake in the future of the UK’s power mix. Byers et al. concluded that the pathways with the highest projected proportion of nuclear generation resulted in tidal and coastal water abstraction that exceeded current levels by up to six times. This finding suggests that nuclear power may not be as viable a future energy source as previously thought, especially in areas where water resources are relatively scarce. It seems that the UK should extend its investigations into the merits of nuclear power, and similar studies may be warranted to assess the impacts of nuclear generation in other countries. Continue reading