Nuclear Energy Harmful to Grid Stability

The Japanese Renewable Energy Foundation has organized an international symposium “Towards YR2030 and Beyond”. It was held on Thursday, September 6.

Unfortunately, I had a conflicting schedule and was unable to attend.

But all the presentations and discussions have been broadcast on UStream, and a recording is available here (English version) and here (Japanese version).

Discussion 3 from 14:00 on featured Hiroshi Takahashi, a leading Japanese expert on power grid issues. One point he made: The blackouts immediately after the March 2011 earthquake were caused by big nuclear and oil power plants going down.

Have a look at slide 3 of his presentation. That is a summary of TEPCO generation assets and those that were out after the earthquake, adding up to 28.4%. The largest chunk of that was Fukushima 1 and 2 going down.

Supporters of nuclear power like to point out that renewable energy is intermittent and therefore unable to provide for grid stability.

Actually, it is the other way round. The only way to get a blackout is to have very large assets disappear on very short notice, since the system always has much more generating capacity than needed for almost all of the time.

Nuclear power plants usually are the largest assets in the system. Knock them out one way or another (for example for lack of cooling water in a drought) and you might have a chance of getting your blackout.

In planning for network stability, one routinely assumes the worst case. The worst case is your biggest asset going down. The biggest assets are nuclear power plants.

Therefore, without nuclear in the mix, the worst case for network stability becomes much less destabilizing.

I personally have been affected by exactly one blackout in over fifty years of living in Germany and Japan, and it was the March 2011 blackout in Japan. That one was clearly caused by depending on nuclear power in the first place.

Amory Lovins makes the same point here.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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