By on May 7, 2011

Yesterday, Friday, the Japanese government ordered requested the shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, 117 kilometers (73 miles) southwest of Tokyo. No accident had occurred, the measure was a precaution.  The plant provided power to the Aichi prefecture where Toyota and many other industries are located.

According to The Nikkei [sub], “chronic power supply troubles threaten Toyota Motor Corp. and the other manufacturers that call the region home. At this point, Toyota has no idea what effect shutting down Hamaoka will have on its operations, a person familiar with the automaker said Friday.”

The plant’s owner, Chubu Electric, will build a seawall of at least 12 meters (39 feet) at Hamaoka. Construction will take until the end of fiscal 2013, about three years.

Currently, 32 of Japan’s  54 nuclear reactors are down. 11 shut down after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. 21 had been down for inspections.  It is now more than likely that these power plants will be down for years.

“Restarting an idle reactor requires the approval of the local community. The government’s abrupt decision regarding Hamaoka is bound to have a widespread impact on public sentiment,” The Nikkei writes.

Last month, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said he will never allow Tokyo Electric Power Co. to resume operations at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

With the closure of the Hamaoka plant, power problems reach the Aichi prefecture. So far, the area had been spared. Aichi is the major production hub for Toyota. Mitsubishi and Suzuki also have facilities in the region.  Nuclear power plants in Japan are usually located by the sea, which provides the necessary cooling water. Although the government has said that no further shutdowns will be requested, protecting all plants from once-in-a-millennium tsunamis can set back power production for years.

Update: The power company held what The Nikkei [sub] called “an inconclusive board meeting Saturday on whether to suspend the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture for safety reasons as requested by Prime Minister Naoto Kan.” The utility decided to continue the talks as ”the contents for consideration are extremely important, are diverse and will significantly impact many people.”


Note: I have changed my location to Tokyo yesterday night and will be reporting from here for the next 4 weeks. Radiation levels in Tokyo are nominal and do not warrant the hysterics in foreign media and blogs.

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22 Comments on “Closure Of Japanese Nuclear Plant Could Affect Toyota, Mitsubishi and Suzuki...”

  • avatar

    When will they learn that seawalls are ineffective?

  • avatar

    I can’t understand that. While the tsunami was a tragedy, practically of biblical proportions, it was also a once in a lifetime occurance. The horse has left the barn. Crippling your infrastructure at this time looks like a kneejerk reaction by the pols.

    Unless, of course, there’s damage there that no one has been told about that needs a shutdown to fix. It certainly looks to me that Japan has to spend copious amounts of money to rebuild their grid again, this time not using the fragile LWR system. I’d look at HWR systems like CANDU. ANd before the antinuke people pile on with rebuttals remember that Japan has no natural resources to feed any power plant, period. They practically have to use nukes to get the greatest bang for the buck.

    • 0 avatar

      It is a nuclear power plant. They sell it on less than 1 in a million change that it goes wrong. Having a once in a 1000 years event does sound a little to often

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Japan has no natural resources to make power, they are just sitting on a geological hot spot and have hot water bubbling out of the ground throughout the country. No, no, there is no imaginable way they could make power with this.

      Of course, the wind blows in Japan as well as everywhere else, but it’s more efficient to use the bloated construction industry to build roads to nowhere and concrete the rivers than it is to put up some turbines. After all, that’s so negligible that we can’t even call that a natural resource!

      Dimwit, I hope you’re detecting my sarcasm here. There are alternatives, perhaps not as flashy and futuristic as the “safe nuke” of fantasy, but they do exist.

      • 0 avatar

        Uhuh. I can’t wait to see your windfarm that can support a car factory. As we’re finding out, wind is unreliable, fragile and most of all, expensive.

        As for geothermal, it’s great if it’s consistent. If either alternatives were economically viable or practical don’t you think that they would’ve been built already?

      • 0 avatar

        Problems w/hydrothermal:

        (1) not enough for a true industrial powerhouse like Japan.

        (2) incidences of geologic instability appear related to areas that are used for power generation.


        (1) unreliable. Completely. Study after study proves it. Even worse, it may be similar to solar cells —- more energy to make than they will ever produce. Ask the Dutch: they are bringing more fossil energy online yearly.

        (2) noise pollution on a grand scale, noise pollution, dangerous as all get out to service.


        (1) latest reactor accident has proven that radiation isn’t the horrible thing everyone has been led to believe it was.

        (2) people now expose themselves to more radiation from medical testing than they will ever receive from the total background radiation, current nuclear “disaster” included.

        (3) nuclear is virtually free after up front costs covered.

        (4) highest power density available.

        (5) proper fuel cycle can lead to virtually indefinite supply of fuel.

        (6) standardized reactor and plant designs could lower upfront costs and increase safety.


      • 0 avatar

        Nuclear decommissioning costs aren’t exactly zero so it is definitely not near free without upfront costs. But the same is really true of solar power. It is near free without the upfront costs. Sad part is that those are so high.

    • 0 avatar

      It is said in the media here that it is something like an 80% probability of diaster within 90 years for this plant with it’s current defenses. If you lived there, would you vote for the guy that said you can’t have escalators for a year, but won’t lose everything from a low probability but inevitable natural diaster, or vote for the guy that said “let’s get our factories working first and then in a few years we’ll make that nuclear plant next door more secure”?

  • avatar

    I wonder what impact these power shortages will have on quality?

    In my experience*, starting and stopping a production line for hours at a time does not help quality, and if there are rolling power outages they might have no choice.

    As stated before, I can see the power problems contributing to further hollowing out of Japan’s economy as production relocates to “cost to market” regions, or to be closer to major markets. It sounds like it will take years, not months, to sort out the problems with the power infrastructure in Japan.
    *Electronics, not automotive, but I expect the effect would be the same.

  • avatar

    What I understood from other media is that the govt “requested” the utility to shut the plant down, but could not order this action to occur (I found it quite odd for a govt to lack such an essential authority).

  • avatar

    Personally, I think the Japanese government considers that plant to be in too dangerous a position on the Tokaido belt between Tokyo and Nagoya for any disaster, so they’d prefer it be shut down. Remember that the Fukushima disaster did not substantially affect Tokyo only due to favorable winds that blew the contamination to sea.

    At some point, safety comes above power. For the Japanese government, it seems that keeping Tokyo safe is above keeping factories running right now. The power generation can be replaced with natural gas or in the long term possibly sustainable sources, or conservation measures can take away the need, but a nuclear disaster that contaminated those areas significantly is a risk they can’t take. Fukushima was already too close.

  • avatar

    Part of the picture here is that maps of the aftershocks of the March 11 megaquake show clearly that the release of the built-up strain in the subduction zone in NE Japan, has surely resulted in greatly increasing the danger of a similar earthquake farther south along the Japanese coast. The Japanese are very prudent to have noticed this and take what might otherwise look like extreme measures.

    (1) unreliable. Completely. Study after study proves it. Even worse, it may be similar to solar cells —- more energy to make than they will ever produce. Ask the Dutch: they are bringing more fossil energy online yearly.
    (2) noise pollution on a grand scale, noise pollution, dangerous as all get out to service.”

    These reasons are why the Dutch had absolutely no use for stupid things called windmills for many generations.

    Between 2000 and 2007, generation capacity increases in Europe using natural gas and wind dwarfed increases in large hydro and biomass. Nuclear, oil and coal generation all decreased.

    Holland happens to produce lots of natural gas, and so would have reason to use it for generation.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t figure out whether you’re agreeing with Aqua225 or not. How much of the new generating capacity is wind and how much is from hydrocarbons?

  • avatar

    Um. No one power plant has direct effect on any one load as long as that load is part of a wider interconnection. As long as there is enough generation to meet the instantaneous load requirements of the interconnection this should have no impact on Toyota’s ability to have their demand met. In other words, unless this area is still undergoing rolling blackouts due to a lack of generation, the loss of the plant doesn’t matter.

    A very rough analogy to what this “story” implies is:

    “One of the six gas stations in my neighborhood will be shut down, therefore I can’t drive my car”

    However, one could argue that shutting down nuclear reactors in Japan may cause the price of power to increase (as it must be replaced by more expensive generation), thus increasing Toyota’s manufacturing costs. That would be an interesting and informative analysis to perform.

    As it stands this “story” is a non starter. I expect better TTAC.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Piste:

      Apparently, our ongoing coverage on the Japanese situation had escaped your attention. If a country is lacking 25 percent of capacity, each powerplant less makes a difference. Especially when 32 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are down. If The Nikkei says that “chronic power supply troubles threaten Toyota Motor Corp. and the other manufacturers that call the region home,” then the story is deemed newsworthy.

      If you expect better, then I humbly ask you to write a better story yourself. I am not clever enough to extrapolate unknown rises in energy costs into future costs of production at Toyota. As you could see from Toyota’s comment, neither are they. Maybe you want to take a stab at it.

      • 0 avatar

        The average plod really doesn’t understand just how fragile the infrastructure is. It doesn’t take much to interrupt and a major disaster can take years to recover from.

        That said, TEPCO has been really quiet about the future. I would’ve thought that they would have the plans out showing their response since the Fuku plants were going to be decommed in 10 years. A new site will have already been picked and would have thought that the designs had already been chosen, if not approved. Perhaps the disaster trashed the site, a distinct possibilty since the damage was so widespread,and also the construction budget might have been spent dealing with Fuku.

      • 0 avatar

        Dimwit – You have that backwards. The average plod doesn’t realize how reliable and durable the system is. Think about the extreme damage Japan suffered and yet they have power still!

        Bertel, it seems my comment came off a little harsh. I’m sorry about that.

        However I would say that you may be missing a key take away from Toyota’s comment:

        “chronic power supply troubles threaten Toyota Motor Corp. and the other manufacturers that call the region home. At this point, Toyota has no idea what effect shutting down Hamaoka will have on its operations, a person familiar with the automaker said Friday.”

        The important bit of that quote is:
        “Toyota has no idea what effect shutting down Hamaoka will have on its operations”

        What this implies is that Toyota is not terribly concerned about this single plant. If they were indeed concerned about a single generating station they would have had a more direct and informed tone to their response.

        The loss of this particular plant does not mean the interconnection in which the Aichi Prefecture is part of has generation capacity problems to the point in which it disrupts Toyota’s manufacturing capability. It very well could be suffering from disruptions, but that isn’t stated clearly.

        In fact, power companies are very conscientious about restoring power to their key accounts. That is, the big high dollar accounts. Safety (Auxillary power to nuclear generators, hospitals, police stations) then profitability (Big high paying customers) then residents (you and I, the little peoples).

        Obviously my comments are my own opinions.

      • 0 avatar

        I talk to Toyota on a regular basis. I will be at their Tokyo HQ tomorrow. When they say ““Toyota has no idea what effect shutting down Hamaoka will have on its operations” then that is simply because they have no idea. They don’t know.

        Implying that “Toyota is not terribly concerned about this single plant” is dangerous. They are very concerned about the whole situation and about supply lines that are held together with bailing wire. Before, they had told me that they are not experiencing power outages in Aichi, but their suppliers elsewhere do. I will possibly know more tomorrow. But most likely they will again say that they don’t know – because they don’t. The final decision to shut down the plant came yesterday.

        You should be here to witness how a nation saves power. The neon lights are all switched off. Tokyo, the city of lights, turned into the city of darkness. The stores have their outside lights turned off. Japan is preparing for a summer without A/C. Not that anybody will break down your door if your A/C is on. You just won’t turn it on. Still, life goes on without drama.

        PS: The Nikkei, while not infallible, but closer to Japanese politicos and power companies than you and me, writes today: “Chubu Electric Power Co.’s decision to idle its Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture means that now the Tohoku and Kanto regions will probably not be the only areas hit by power supply shortages. Indeed, over 70% of Japanese cars are produced in central Japan and regions to the west. Possible power shortages in western Japan would deal a major blow to auto production.”

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting. I look forward to your future articles. It sounds like the public is making an effort to conserve power. It will be telling to find out if the manufacturers are undertaking similar efforts.

  • avatar

    Cost Should Scrub Nuclear Power !

    The nuclear industry had succeeded in convincing the public and policymakers that nuclear power was a cheap and effective means to reduce global warming. However, when exposed to open scrutiny, the numbers just don’t add up that way.

    Set aside its escalating, staggering cost trajectory, as for Japan, nuclear energy production costs must include these :

    Plus, the cost of waste disposal.
    Nobody is considering the cost of storing radioactive waste for 100,000 years. If that is considered, no electric company could make a go of nuclear power.

    Plus, the trillions worth of unlimited liability costs. (Tepco had no disaster insurance)

    Plus, massive costs to defend against tsunami including sea wall, new backup power.

    (Worse still, most nuclear reactors in Japan would fail to achieve a stable condition in the event that all regular power sources are lost, even though plant operators have prepared new backup power sources as well as electric generators amid the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to utility industry sources.

    The possibility of a failure to secure the safety of the reactors is because the backup power sources do not have enough capacity to operate all of the devices needed to keep the reactors cool.

    Many reactors still effectively have no alternative power source should emergency diesel generators fail to work, as was the case at the Fukushima plant after it was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11.)

    Plus, the added costs for new designs to require ever more stringent safety features. (The tremors that shook the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant during the March 11 earthquake exceeded plant’s quake-resistance standards, meaning that that quake-resistance measures currently in place at nuclear power plants throughout the country are insufficient.)

    Plus, huge lobbying costs for politicians, academies, media…

    Plus, in exchange, huge subsidies for nuclear industry from the govt.

    Plus, subsidies for hosting the nuclear plant.

    Plus, Nuclear’s history of cost overruns.
    Another major business risk is nuclear’s history of construction delays. Delays would run costs higher. No nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.

    Plus, the cost of eye-popping costs for transmission upgrades.
    For instance, Florida Progress will require $3 billion in transmission upgrades to accommodate its new nuclear plants.

    Plus, the waste of premise :
    Time to build the plant, 6-8 years.
    Time to completely depreciate the plant: 20 years.

    In the U.S., power purchase agreements for wind power are currently averaging 4.5 to 7.5 cents a kilowatt hour, including the federal wind tax credit,
    but, the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants stand at from 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour —triple current U.S. electricity rates!

    It might be worth noting that worldwide, there is not a single private investment in a nuclear power plant. No private investor wants to put his money into nuclear energy! ( at least as of 12 September, 2008)
    Why? Simply because the risks are too high and the return on investment is much too low.

    • 0 avatar

      You forgot a big issue

      After a big earthquake it takes 3 months to get online again because everything has to be checked. A conventional plant can be checked in a week and if necessary run without first being checked.

    • 0 avatar

      There is so much misinformation and plain garbage here I don’t know where to start.

      I’ll just pick one:

      “In the U.S., power purchase agreements for wind power are currently averaging 4.5 to 7.5 cents a kilowatt hour, including the federal wind tax credit,
      but, the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants stand at from 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour —triple current U.S. electricity rates!”

      You are comparing apples to oranges.

      The rate which you refer to for wind power purchase agreements is low by 50%. Reality is most PPA’s for wind are around $80-$100 dollars per MWH.

      Secondly you are comparing a rate to an install cost. The wind power purchase agreement rate is dollars per megawatt supplied – NOT construction costs. The nuclear figure you quote is the Installed cost!

      Rate: Dollars per MWH supplied after plant construction. Like dollars per gallon when you fill up at the pump.

      Installed cost: Dollar cost per MW for CONSTRUCTION of installed capacity. Example: Plant X has a capacity of 100MW and cost $100 to build, therefore has a install cost of $1 per MW capacity. Like dollars per horsepower on a new car purchase. “I paid $100 per horsepower on my new WRX STI!”

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