Fukushima in Context

April 1, 2011 | Breakthrough Staff,

The Fukushima Disaster in Context:




  • The final death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is expected be 20,000.




  • The natural disaster left 4.4 million homes without electricity in Japan and 1.5 million without water.




  • A dam in the province of Fukushima burst the night of the tsunami, washing away a reported 1,800 homes and leaving several people dead.




  • A bullet train on a coastal line was washed away by the tsunami, its 400 passengers are missing and presumed dead.




  • The Cosmo oil refinery, near the city of Ichihara, Chiba, experienced a massive blaze after the earthquake hit. The fire at its natural gas storage tanks took 10 days to fully put out.











Energy Risks in Context:








  • Over last 100 years, coal mining has caused 100,000 deaths in the US.






  • A peer-reviewed scientific analysis by four academics, Krewitt et al, in 1998 and 2002, found years of life lost per TWh of energy as:

    • Coal: 138

    • Gas: 42

    • Oil: 359

    • Nuclear: 25.1

    • Solar PV: 58

    • Wind: 2.7


    Other estimates place the disparity between deaths per unit of energy provided by nuclear and other energy sources as even greater.


Energy Production in a Climate Context:

Global energy consumption will double or triple by 2050. To cut global emissions in half, the world will need one GW of clean energy brought on line every day between now and 2050.

This is equivalent to the construction of:




  1. One 2 GW nuclear plant roughly half the size of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, every other day.

  2. All of Germany's solar panels, which the country has spent more than a decade installing at a total cost of more than $86 billion, every other day. Or...

  3. Eighteen Cape Wind farms, which has struggled to get built over 10 years, every other day.



In 2010, Japan got 30% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Japan's 2050 climate goal requires the country to double its generation of nuclear electricity to 50% of overall electricity.
 


  • To replace just the electricity generated by Japan's current nuclear fleet with solar photovoltaic panels, the country would have to put solar panels on about one-third to one-half of its land mass.

  • In 2009, Japan got 2.4% of its electricity from non-hydro renewable sources.

  • In 2009, 0.2% of Japan's total electricity was from solar.

  • All of Germany's solar PV installations could supply 1% of Japan's electricity, or roughly half of the electricity provided by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex

  • Replacing Japan's nuclear fleet with imported LNG (liquefied natural gas) would cost an extra $17.51 billion dollars a year in imports, decreasing the country's average annual trade surplus by 37.6%. It would increase the country's overall carbon emissions by 10%.