JAPAN’S POWER PROBLEM
As a developed and densely populated country, Japan requires vast amounts of energy. It is the third largest producer of electricity in the world, after the USA and China, and the per capita electrical consumption of Japan is the 18th largest in the world. Japan lacks significant fossil fuels, however, and in 2010 it was the world’s largest importer of coal and natural gas. In 2009, Japan generated a total amount of electricity of 1041 Terra-Watt hours; its average generating capacity was 120GW. 27% was from coal and natural gas, 9% from oil, 27% from nuclear, 8% from hydroelectricity and 2% from other sources, including solar, geothermal and burning waste and biofuel.
Following the Tohoku Earthquake and resultant tsunami, amid concern that Japan’s nuclear reactors could not survive future earthquakes and growing public pressure to phase out nuclear power, the Japanese government shut down all 54 nuclear reactors, and began restarting them after safety checks in June 2012. This has created a loss of generating capacity of approximately 30 GW (GigaWatts or 30 000MW), which is currently being made up for mostly by existing thermal power stations, however this results in them running at a higher capacity than normal and should not be maintained indefinitely (in case there is another accident or problems with other power stations). Increased use of fossil fuels will further contribute to climate change, and were also cited as one cause for Japan’s first balance of trade deficit in decades.
Kawagoe Power Station (4802MW), Mie (image from Wikipedia)
Your task is draft a plan for how Japan can generate the 30 GW of power needed to make up for the shortfall left after the nuclear power plants were shut down. You must be specific about how the power will be generated and where the power generation facilities will be located. You may also choose to replace some or all of the remainder of Japan’s electricity generation system (for example, you may wish to replace its current fossil fuel production with renewable energy sources, or with nuclear power.) It should be presented to the class in a two to five minute presentation to the class. By the end of that time, the audience should have an understanding of
1) where and how the electricity will be produced (or saved).
2) why your solution is the best solution to Japan’s power shortage.
The Japanese government announced in May 2011 that it had set a goal of having 20% of the nation’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by the early 2020s, however it is your choice whether or not to meet this claim, or to exceed it. Assume that all of Japan’s current nuclear power stations are deemed unsafe in light of recent earthquake predictions and need to be replaced (even though this is quite unlikely and some are already operating again).
Nunobiki Pleateau Wind Farm, Fukushima (image from wikipedia)
As an alternative, you may choose to partially or wholly make up for this loss in electricity production by reducing demand for electricity, however you must be specific in how the government will ensure that Japan’s electricity consumption is reduced by 30GW.
Facts and images here come from Wikipedia and Sustainable Energy – without the hot air by David JC MacKay, an excellent resource which is available for download from www.withouthotair.com.
Energy source / Reduction
Approximate Energy Capacity and Notes
|Reduction of demand||No harm to the environment.||Requires a lifestyle change of citizens, and can be difficult to enforce.|
|Hydroelectric Dams||Minimal maintenance once built.||Destroy river eco-systems.||Depends on the height of the dam and the volume of water which flows over it.|
|Wind Power||Minimal environmental impact.||Alternative or storage system needed for when wind isn’t blowing.||On-shore wind: 2 W/m2
Windmills must face incoming wind.
|Solar||Minimal environmental damage.||Higher power output than wind. Alternative or storage system needed for when sun isn’t shining.||22W/m2 (photovoltaic cells; other methods are cheaper but produce less electricity.)|
|Wave and Tidal Power||Minimal maintenance once built.||Damage to marine eco-systems and loss of shoreline.||6kW / metre of shoreline3W/m2 tides (requires an estuary, harbour etc)|
|Nuclear||Very little fuel required.Produces no CO2.Waste products can be isolated from the environment.Produces large amounts of power.||Waste products are radioactive for thousands of years, however this may change with newer nuclear power plants.Nuclear plants can be used to produce weapons grade plutonium (again, this may change with new plants).Political issues.||1kg of coal can produce approximately 80 TerraJoules of energy (but most power stations don’t reach this.) The largest nuclear power station in Japan has a capacity of 8000 MW.|
|Coal||Coal is abundant.||Produces CO2– greenhouse gas.Produces lots of waste, including heavy metals (mercury, arsenic etc) which can enter the food chain.||1 kg of coal contains approximately 24 MJ (megaJoules) of energy. Don’t forget that most thermal power plants are less than 50% efficient. The largest coal-fired power plant in Japan (Hekinan) is 4100MW.|
|Oil and Natural Gas||Produces few pollutants other than CO2.||Produces CO2– greenhouse gas.Limited supply, with gas predicted to run out within our lifetimes.More expensive than coal.||1kg oil can produce 46.3MJ of energy, and natural gas about 54MJ. (Usual thermal power station efficiency limits apply.) The largest oil-fired power station in Japan (Kashima) produces 4400MW and the largest gas-powered power station (Kawagoe) produces 4800MW.|
Present an overview of an energy issue from another country. Your presentation should be about half explaining the issue, and about half your opinion on it, but this may of course vary.
Should France continue to be the most nuclear-reliant country in the world?
Are Germany’s renewable energy targets realistic? Should they be more ambitious?
Should Taiwan continue construction and use of the fourth nuclear power plant, or should the project be cancelled?
Is Denmark’s plan of generating 50% of its electricity by wind power in 2020 realistic, and if so should it go ahead?
OR another topic or country of your choice.