Oh dear

Japan has turned off its last nuclear reactor.

I’m wondering, how many people will die because of this decision? How many people will die directly because of pollution from fossil fuel sources?

How many from lack of power at some crucial point, like their birth? Or the elderly?

How many in the long term because Japan won’t advance as quickly, advancement being the best way to pull people out of poverty and illness?



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10 responses to “Oh dear

  1. Federico

    I might agree with you (to a certain level) but you should put in count also this voice:

    “how many would died with the next tsunami and the next nuclear power plant explosion?”


    “how many will suffer from contamination in the decades after the explosion”

    I believe it was not an easy decision for them and it is just impossible to say it was 100% right or 100% wrong, however, for what it’s worth, I think it was more right than wrong, altough I also see the negative effects you are talking about.

    • rich

      We don’t need to wonder about questions like those. We already know from similar examples, and it’s not going to be many people. Chernobyl was completely mishandled and may kill 4,000 people in the end. Coal plants may kill thousands annually.

      The right way to deal with this was to say: Let’s not put the diesel generators underground. Let’s make sure there’s enough battery backup at each station to handle much longer outages. Let’s certify new plants that they have to be able to run safely when completely underwater for, let’s say 24 hours. Cost: millions in incremental upgrades for sure, but saving thousands of lives in the process.

      • SILENCE! -- the free market has spoken!

        >> The right way to deal with this was to say: Let’s not put the diesel generators underground. Let’s make sure there’s enough battery backup at each station to handle much longer outages.

        Apparently, Tepco and/or predecessor operator corporations — which were free to initiate these kind of design changes — couldn’t justify the cost to shareholders. Who are you to second-guess the MBA/suits??

        Besides, newer technology is available: clean coal!

      • rich

        Yeah, I don’t want to appear to be the apologist for the massive regulatory capture and mismanagement of TEPCO. Ever since this happened (and probably before) it’s been obvious that regulation needs to get serious. Unfortunately that’ll also require all the corruption to go out of Japanese politics, ie. not any time soon.

  2. pixelbeat1

    The Chinese are building many modern nuclear reactors, and electricity is very exportable. Fingers crossed.

  3. Benjamin Otte

    Chernobyl made 2,600km² of land permanently uninhabitable. That would be equivalent to 1/150th of the landmass of Japan or, assuming an even distribution, the home to roughly 1 million people.
    If you are fine with permanently losing the ability to settle area of West Virgina or permanently moving the population of San Jose to a different place every time a serious desaster happens in one of your Power Plants, you might have a different view on this topic, too.

    Just FYI, there are 3 nuclear power plants 50km or closer from where I live (Hamburg, Germany). If any of those had a Chernobyl- or Fukushima-like reaction, I wouldn’t live here anymore. I don’t care about the amount of people that die as a direct effect from these things. I care abut the effect on the area I want to live in.

    Yes, maybe nuclear power is a good idea. But not in my country.

    • rich

      You do know that non-nuclear power also lays waste to vast areas?

      The Three Gorges Dam has made 1,045km2 permanently uninhabitable. That’s about half of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and it sure ain’t the only dam in the world.

      And how about the effects of strip mining, slash and burn, fracking, river pollution from oil extraction, Deepwater Horizon (up to 180,000 km2!) etc. Add these up and there is hundreds of times more land out of use than at Chernobyl.

    • Foo

      LOL 1/150th of Japan is going to be nothing compared to 1-5m sea level rise that will destroy Tokyo by the end of the century.

  4. And remember, kids: Coal Cares!
  5. on a more serious note

    >> regulatory capture and mismanagement of TEPCO

    FWIW, because “the corporation” occludes personal responsibility and encourages more-than-optimal risk-taking ultimately at public expense, I personally recommend eliminating “limited liability companies” entirely. There’s nothing a corporation can do that a partnership can’t — except externalize long-tail costs onto the public. (E.g., consider that Wall St. firms functioned better with partnerships. If Wall St. can operate that way, any company in any industry can.)

    Thanks for the blog, Rich, and for the work you do for RH and on virtualization.

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