Thursday, February 23, 2012

How Germany and Japan dealt with reduced nuclear power


Writing for the American Solar Energy Society Paul Gipe wrote in Sep. 2011 that despite shutting down its nuclear plants Germany is managing without increasing use of coal and other fossil sources.  On this blog (Oct. 14,2011), I commented that it was perhaps premature to make that judgment since the electricity production data covered only the first half of the year during most of which period the nuclear plants were fully operational.

I have been waiting for the 2011 numbers to be reported by various sources (BP, IEA etc.).  The latest numbers I have from IEA's Monthly Electricity Statistics, but they cover through Nov. 2011.  In Nov. 2011 there was 77% less nuclear power produced in Japan compared to Nov. 2010.  In Germany, the decline was not as steep, only 31%.  What surprised me was that in contrast to the impression given in media articles, in neither country is the contribution from nuclear power zero.  

To enable comparison with total electricity productions in 2010, I estimated the 2011 numbers by adding the Nov. 2011 production figures to the year-to-date figures (essentially asserting that production in Dec. 2011 will be close to that in Nov. 2011).  With this assumption nuclear plants in Japan and Germany would generate 274 and 133 TWh respectively out of an estimated total power consumption of 1000 and 548 TWh.  In 2010 the two countries produced 1038 and 566 TWh of electricity.  Somehow, despite nuclear power shutdowns in 2011, both countries have managed to generate over 96% of the power they generated in 2010.


Japan
Germany

2010
2011 (est)
2010
2011 (est)
Total Electricity
1038
1000
566
548
Nuclear
274
154
133
102
Combustion sources
673
747
374
359
Hydro
82
75
25
28
Wind, Solar, Geo
9
23
49
62
Net export
0
0
15
2






To deal with the shortfall from nuclear power, Germany drastically reduced its power exports and increased imports of electricity. Germany's net exports in 2010 amounted to 15 TWh, but in 2011 that number is likely to be 2 about TWh.  Couple this change with an increased production from wind, solar, and geothermal sources of 13 TWh and about 2 TWh additional from hydropower, and you have made up 28 of the 31 TWh lost from nuclear power.  Germany also reduced combustion-based electricity by about 15 TWh, such that in 2011, it is estimated to consume about 18 TWh less in 2011.

Japan does not export or import electric power.  The estimated loss of 120 TWh from nuclear has been made up in part by increased generation from combustion sources (74 TWh), and in part from increased wind, solar and geothermal resources (14 TWh).  Hydropower production has gone down in Japan in 2011 by about 7 TWh (I am not sure why), and so the total shortfall for the year could be as much as 39 TWh (ca. 4%). 

Further nuclear plant closures are scheduled in both countries, and in 2012 the contribution from nuclear power will be substantially less.  How they manage these deeper cuts, remains to be seen. 


***********
The IEA published the final numbers for the year, and so although it does not make any substantive difference, here are the electricity production numbers.  One reader pointed out to me that by focusing on net exports I am missing the marked changes in the imports.  With that in mind, here is the updated breakdown in TWh:


Japan
Germany

2010
2011
2010
2011
Total Electricity
1038
1010
566
548
Nuclear
274
153
133
102
Combustion sources
673
747
374
354
Hydro
82
75
25
28
Wind, Solar, Geo
9
22
49
67
    Exports
-
-
58
55
    Imports
-
-
43
51
Net export
0
0
15
4

3 comments:

  1. Great analysis. It is a little surprising to see that Germany is producing twice less energy than Japan.

    It is rather frustrating that there are decisions made in the energy policy that are dictated by political agenda and public fear. Does it look like we are following our primordial fears?

    Nuclear is an important component of the energy "pie" being one of the cleanest, if not THE cleanest, and cheapest form of energy. Its role has to be expanding if we want something reliable that can sustain us until significant breakthroughs have bean made in "alternatives", if that ever happens.

    It does look like a natural swing of the pendulum and hopefully will bounce back.

    If natural disasters or terrorism is the concern, how does the closure of a few - not all - nuclear plants - help? Until they are all down, the danger remains about the same.
    Another thing, how natural disasters are a concern for Germany that is safely residing on the Western European tectonic platform, if I am not mistaken?

    Also, who else is pulling back? The same as in the case of carbon capping, will it help unless all other owners of nuclear power do the same? Let us keep in mind that certain nation have older equipment and lower standards.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I agree it is a bit surprising that Japan with about 50% greater population than Germany uses almost twice as much electricity.
      Fear is a major obstacle to developing nuclear power. Good information can help allay the fears and allow one to focus attention on the truly significant technical and political challenges. But the information must come from sources that are trusted. Mainstream media therefore has a responsibility to provide accurate information about the true nature of the risk. The real tragedy in Japan was brought upon by the earthquake and the tsunami. About 20,000 people lost lives. Unfortunately most of the media reports dwell on the nuclear accident, which has yet to claim one life! I was following the radiation levels around Japan as published by Japan Times. Inasmuch as high as those levels were shortly after the incident in the neighboring prefectures (roughly 0.1 micro Sieverts per hour), a steady exposure to those levels over 100 years would increase the risk of cancer by 0.3%; from 20% to 20.3%! Did you read my post of October 14 on this blogsite?

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