back to article Japan lacks the expertise for renewed nuclear power after Fukushima

Japan's decision to reignite its nuclear power industry is facing serious setbacks: 11 years of prohibition has led to a shortage of engineers, a lack of students training to fill vacant positions and a dearth of domestic nuclear manufacturing capability. The Japan Electrical Manufacturers' Association claims the number of " …

  1. Orv Silver badge

    This reminds me of all the people in the US who went into nuclear engineering in the 1980s and 1990s, then got shut out when the industry collapsed. One of my uncles had that as his major, and ended up with a career as a bank teller instead.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The US has a bunch of nuclear engineers in blue uniforms that you can pay to move to the private sector and will, grudgingly, let in foreigners.

      Japan has no nuclear military (for some reason) and will insist on doing nothing until the caligraphy on the logo is perfect

      1. Mark 85

        WWII made Japan very reluctant to do anything nuclear. They were starting to embrace it until the Fukushima disaster. Now they have to rebuild staff basically from the ground up.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >WWII made Japan very reluctant to do anything nuclear.

          Seems rather an odd attitude, they were the first to discover why you really do want to have nuclear toys.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Windows

      Raises finger... yes, I got into the field in the US, worked 2 years, in the 80s, saw the writing on the wall, got out.

  2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Time to switch!

    It's not like there would not be enough wave and tidal power or a lack of sun... And recently some very well working wave and tidal power solutions popped up, where the moving parts are not directly connected to water and rather use the air pushed by the waves. And there should be plenty of heat to extract from earth, when counting those many hot springs Japan is famous for. Wind should not be a problem as well.

    Though some regions could use "snow energy", if such a thing would exist.

    1. NeilPost

      Re: Time to switch!

      … all of the above, inc Nuclear.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Time to switch!

      > It's not like there would not be enough wave and tidal power or a lack of sun...

      What school did you go to?

      - Lack of sun: We have a thing called "nighttime" in much of the world. I know its hard to imagine but during that time there is NO sun.

      - Lack of tidal: Happens at least twice a day for very regular and calculated periods, no tide. Sure it is not for very long but needs something to replace it during that time.

      - Lack of waves. No wind, no waves. Did you know the wind doesn't blow? Also too much wind and wind turbines must be shut down, thus too strong waves = wave power must also be shut down ?

      So what replaces power generation during the night when the wind isn't blowing and the tide is changing?

      I suppose batteries? OK, how do you pay for those then?

      How many battery sites do you need?

      Who's houses do you demolish to build the sites?

      How do you handle fires? Natural disasters?

      What do you do with the unrecyclable toxic worn out batteries you replace constantly?

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Time to switch!

        You are paid by someone! Seems I ticked the other organized paid haters again, like in the pro-nuclear thread a month ago.

        Lack of sun: Quite obvious, needs energy storage. Like water, heat, batteries and so on. Nothing new, you just state the obvious!

        Lack of tidal: As you say, happens twice a day, and in between the water moves either in or out -> this is where the energy comes from.

        Lack of waves: There is never a lack of waves, especially since wind is not the only source for waves.

        Extra here for the waves: WE TALK ABOUT JAPAN and not Switzerland!

        Your "at night" argument: This is what the europe-wide grid is for. There will never be a European-wide lack of wind and waves.

        The target is never a 100% replace as you imply, but forcing the usage of gas as energy as much as possible.

        "houses to demolish" - what, you want to build the storage right where the people live, and not a mile away from them? What kind of barbarism are you implying?

        Battery recycling works better than nuclear waste recycling, and is less toxic than nuclear waste. And there is not just battery storage, other energy storages are well known and tested. Water is well known.

        You are great a WhatAboutIsm, but you don't offer any solution by yourself. As for renewable reality: Look around, for example in Germany, where the renewables, despite the sabotage from the previous government until 2020, is already close to 50% renewable. We had a record export of electrical energy in 2022, giving Germany a new record plus.

        But you prefer to make old outdated points and look at the past instead of looking ahead, or at least on other countries in the world.

        You want to improve? Be better than Germany at renewable energy, 'cause there is the proof it does work.

        Well, I bet I will get 20+ downvotes by those paid haters again, 'cause they hate reality, including and example showing it is possible, being smacked into their face.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: Time to switch!

          I love how you flip from "Japan has loads of tidal options" to "Europe wide electrical grids"

          Do you have ANY clue how things work? How do you get all the electric from the western side of Europe to the Eastern side (and vice versa) without

          A) losing so much in electrical resistance that you need a huge amount of extra of generating capacity to compensate.

          B) Not starve the local supply to such an extent that the whole of Europe suffers rolling brown outs?

          How do you cope with Winter months, when winds tend to be lower, light reduced and demand is increased?

          You are one of these conspiracy nuts that claim people are paid by the oil / nuclear/ big pharma when ordinary people look at annoying things such as facts, to point out the flaws in your arguments.

          I presume when you praise tidal, you have looked at the issues with interruption to marine and coastal life?

          Or using water storage, I e. dams the ecological damage this does?

          There is no magic panacea and we are a very, very long way from 100% renewable for 100% of the time.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Time to switch!

            > A) losing so much in electrical resistance that you need a huge amount of extra of generating capacity to compensate.

            You mean like, transforming the voltage up to 100 kv or 400 kv to minimize the losses?

            > B) Not starve the local supply to such an extent that the whole of Europe suffers rolling brown outs

            You mean like, disconnecting regions with problems?

            > How do you cope with Winter months, when winds tend to be lower, light reduced and demand is increased

            You could ask the professionals instead of pointing around in a forum.

            It is like we need a European wide electrical grid, which uses the 50 hz freuqency as measurement to keep whole continent in power, even when a whole country, like france, has to turn off 80% od their nuclear power for either revisions or due to other problems.

            But wait, WE ALREADY HAVE THAT UNION! All your points are moot, since they are already solved and were in operation for several decades now since somewhere the 1960s or 1970s. You are, at least, 50 years behind reality. Welcome to 2023!

            1. Filippo Silver badge

              Re: Time to switch!

              You're confusing issues, I don't know whether deliberately or not.

              You've started out by claiming that Japan can run on renewables. DuncanLarge then pointed out that there can be times when renewables are producing very little power over a large region, such as the whole of Japan. Also, that it is extremely difficult to store enough energy to power a country through these times.

              You then replied by pointing at the European electrical grid. This is a thing, and it works - but we were talking about Japan. So this is a non-sequitur, which led IGotOut to assume that you were suggesting to hook up Japan and Europe. That would be exceptionally difficult, as the poster points out.

              You are now replying by talking about Europe again, but IGotOut's points are in the context of Japan.

              This confusion makes the discussion pointless.

              The original challenge to your post is: there are times when renewables alone cannot power Japan, storing energy at the scale required to power a country is amazingly difficult, as is shipping power directly from regions far enough that they have a different renewable power generation "schedule".

              Pointing at the EU grid is not addressing any of those points, because we were talking about Japan. It's also worth noting that there are times when renewables are producing very little power over the entirety of Europe, so interconnection alone is not even solving the problem for Europe.

  3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I'm surprised

    well not I'm not.

    But looking over here at the dearth of skilled engineers, you do begin to wonder who's going to be keeping the lights on in 10 years time...

    But I suppose its like a lot of skilled technical jobs that require a lot of knowledge and a hons degree level education, those who are capable of doing it are put off by the cost, the lack of pay , and the lack of chances for advancement. so only those than can afford to take the chance sign up to the course.

    So it falls the government actually do something about it (removing university fees for STEM courses and sponsoring people who cant afford to take 3-4 years out for uni for a start )

    But I have no hope that any government will do that........ even though it would help stop the 'crisis in the NHS' stories currently running(hint: train more staff, and build capacity for more beds.. although thats too bleedin obvious for any of the current lot of politicians)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      >build capacity for more beds.. although thats too bleedin obvious

      And probably wrong.

      Politicians love building new hospitals, it looks very good to be cutting ribbons. Plus if you're a conservative it's nice for your chums in the PPI business and if you're Labour it's nice for your chums in the PPI business.

      But the beds will inevitably fill with old people who could be better cared for at home if you had spent anything like as much on social services as you did on your magnificent new edifice

  4. theOtherJT Silver badge

    Who'd have thought...

    ...that making reactionary policy decisions based on populist fearmongering could have long term negative consequences?

    1. NeilPost

      Re: Who'd have thought...

      Same in Germany.

      Hey my many Toshiba Nuclear will end up being a golden goose, and not the current black hole.

  5. Blank Reg

    Canadian high speed rail is non-existent so how about a trade, we build Japan some reactors and they build us some high speed rail. We can even supply the uranium

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      I don't think Canadian Pacific would go for that.

      Remember Canada is a dynamic capitalist country it couldn't operate a national railway like those backwards communists

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Japan is communist?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Are their railways owned by the people or Warren Buffet ?

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Railways_Group

            Japan has private railways.

            " JR, consists of seven for-profit stock companies that took over most of the assets and operations of the government-owned Japanese National Railways (JNR) on April 1, 1987"

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              So the government built them, spend $Bn then transferred them to their friends in the private sector who fired all the workers and operate them with subsidies.

              That could work here

  6. Auntie Dix
    Mushroom

    Stop Listening to "Green"-Hippy Morons

    Such drop-in-the-ocean BS: Wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, magic beans. Dream on, hippies.

    Japan will import the oil and LNG that it needs.

    Nuclear will continue, but it will be painful, given the shortage of talent.

    Aging Japan cannot afford another prohibition, especially one advocated by the screwballs who "count carbon."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

    That spent fuel will continue to remain active for eons.

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

      > That spent fuel will continue to remain active for eons.

      It's not spent fuel if its active is it?

      What it is is a ready made, ready packaged fuel supply for the next generations of reactors.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

        “Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor (usually at a nuclear power plant). It is no longer useful in sustaining a nuclear reaction”….

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

          An incomplete, unattributed, and incorrect quotation, posted anonymously. Wow, that's some compelling evidence. With research skills like that, I'm surprised you have time to post here.

    2. Blank Reg

      Re: Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

      The amount of used fuel is actually quite small and can be stored safely.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

        > The amount of used fuel is actually quite small and can be stored safely.

        The amount on TNT required to blow of your hand is actually quite small and can be stored safely. Thank Nobel for making nitroglycerine safe to use, else a singe drop could blow of your hand and the "store safely" would be difficult. Nuclear stuff is actually from the latter variant, else they would not be so damn careful when handling those little pellets!

    3. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear power is fantastically reliable

      Not exactly, but nevermind.

      The issue here isn't nuclear-vs-renewables. We all want to use as much renewables as is feasible.

      The issue here is nuclear-vs-fossil. CO2 is also a very-long-term problem, and it's far more difficult to contain than nuclear waste.

      Sure, CO2 is not poisonous, but so what? It's still killing people. I can't live on irradiated ground, but I also can't live underwater, or in a region that gets multiple high-category hurricanes per year, or with regular worldwide crop failures. And, at least, nuclear pollution can in principle be contained, will only be released in accidents, and we can slowly get better at avoiding accidents. CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, OTOH, are an integral part of the process.

  8. Roger Greenwood

    "..has declined by 45 percent.."

    Losing nearly half your skilled workforce in 11 years, that is a heck of a churn. I suspect one of those numbers has been exaggerated - some may be coaxed back.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: "..has declined by 45 percent.."

      When there's no jobs, people do something else.

      They won't hang around for 11 years waiting, they'll retrain or emigrate.

      And nobody is going to study for a job that doesn't exist, so the professors lose their posts or switch to teaching something else instead.

      It doesn't take long to destroy an industry.

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: "..has declined by 45 percent.."

      It's not just Nuclear Engineering -- the whole Boomer engineering workforce has reached End-Of-Career. In 'normal' times they try to balance workforce reduction by new hires and encouraging people to stay. Every thing that triggers a 'temporary' workforce reduction - COVID, Fujushima actually enacts a total workforce reduction.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Stop

    "an intermediary power source until the wider adoption of renewables like wind and solar"

    No. Just no.

    Wind and solar are stopgaps at best. They're unreliable, don't produce enough energy and they create spikes on the grid.

    If we are to replace all ICE vehicles with electrical ones, the only power source that can provide the energy to do so reliably is nuclear.

    That does not mean that we need to continue with the dangerous reactor needing constant surveillance that we have now. Nuclear can ba safe, especially if we push for Thorium reactors which we should.

    But nuclear will not be intermediary. It is the only future.

    1. theOtherJT Silver badge

      Re: "an intermediary power source until the wider adoption of renewables like wind and solar"

      .Well, until the next thing. Fission is only an intermediate step to fusion. I don't know what comes after fusion because I don't think we have even got a theoretical framework for that, so any guesses I might make would be pure science fiction, but there's always a "next" even if we can't imagine it yet.

      This above all is my objection to the push for "renewable" power. Not that it's bad in and of itself, it clearly isn't, but that its just so unambitious. There's a mindset that most people who are most vocally for it seem to have that doesn't see that there has to be something that comes after. Wind power won't be taking us to the stars.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: "an intermediary power source until the wider adoption of renewables like wind and solar"

        Working fusion would increase the "accessible" energy reserves of the world per capita to an astoundingly large level. Think, the very worst-of-the-worst consumers multiplied by several thousands, for several thousand years worth of reserves.

        Cost effectiveness for domestic use (and especially third world consumption) is the next major headache. For western economies it absolutely makes sense to go Fusion if it can be made to work. I'm not so sure the woop-woop islands or deepest darkest africa will it ever be viable no matter fuel ubiquity (because Capex, skills, etc.)

        1. theOtherJT Silver badge

          Re: "an intermediary power source until the wider adoption of renewables like wind and solar"

          Working fusion would increase the "accessible" energy reserves of the world per capita

          Still thinking too small. You're looking at "The world". We need to be thinking about the whole solar system, because that's what's going to be at stake in the next couple of hundred years and it will require planning at those sorts of timescales if we're not going to end up going extinct on this little blue ball.

          Fusion isn't even going to be enough once we go properly interstellar.

    2. annodomini2

      Re: "an intermediary power source until the wider adoption of renewables like wind and solar"

      Thorium is no safer than Uranium.

      There are reactor designs that are safer than the current stuff, but the fuel has little to do with it.

      Also if we can reprocess the existing spent fuel we've enough to power the planet for hundreds if not thousands of years without the need to transition to Thorium.

      1. sitta_europea Silver badge

        Re: "an intermediary power source until the wider adoption of renewables like wind and solar"

        "Thorium is no safer than Uranium."

        Well it depends how you look at it.

        It's a lot harder to make nuclear weapons if you start with thorium (Z=90) instead of uranium (Z=92).

        However you *can* make a serviceable weapon with just the uranium that you dig out of the ground (and then process).

        Admittedly you have to process it quite a bit, and it costs a fortune, but you can do it. "Little Boy" used processed uranium.

        It's easiest with plutonium (Z=94) but you have to make all of that yourself since there's none found in nature.

        But with just thorium, you can't make a weapon at all. It won't work. First you have to make something that's a little bit heavier.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    just ask the french !

    Yeah, 2 decades of prohibition, not a single renewable energy project, only one year (2012) when solar energy was resold to EDF at a very sexy price (almost double if I recall, that is, before EDF lost the plot the next year and started crying foul and obtaining this price lowered to the point where any solar panel would never pay back).

    And no-one in the country able to solder 2 pipes together !

    Just like french youngsters, japan youth should really start learn soldering and nuclear energy. Their carrier path and employability would be assured !

  11. Binraider Silver badge

    This isn't unique to Japan.

    Nuclear programmes tend to be very long lived; 40 years not unusual for major assets. The people that do the design and build are long gone by decommissioning, by default.

    The result of this is either you commit to nuclear and the supply chain around it, or you don't. You cannot have it both ways and slash costs periodically for whatever reason.

    But to be fair, this is not unique to Nuke either. Cost slashing by any means has become ubiquitous in all utilities (e.g. ill-thought out Risk based maintenance, part of the subject of the RMT's current disputes).

    It's almost as though having some central planning over important capabilities to look after them in the long term; as opposed to tossing them to the free market has benefits. Cough, cough.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Renewables" are not renewable

    Wind, solar, tidal/wave, even classic hydro -- all derive from energy from the sun, right? Can the sun itself be "renewed"? I think not; it's just much longer lasting and consistent.

    The industry needs a more accurate and less ungainly and political term. "Natural" and "eco" (ecological) are out since coal/oil/gas (even wood, which is also as "green" as its leaves) are "natural" sources from the same "ecology" also.

    (Anyone remember "Coffee Talk" on "Saturday Night Live" starring Mike Meyers as New York Jewess Linda Richman? Imagine that voice now... "I'm all verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves... I'll give you a topic... <read the subject line> -- discuss!")

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: "Renewables" are not renewable

      When the Sun does run out, it will do so by cooking the planet first. So, lack of energy transmitted by the Sun is quite literally never going to be a problem while we're alive on Earth.

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