In paper published today in Energy Policy, we analyze the nature and implications of energy, electricity and CO2 emission changes in Japan and Germany after Fukushima. We also examine how emissions and mortality would have been impacted had these countries reduced their coal and natural gas power output by the same amounts as they reduced nuclear. Lastly, we analyze the potential effects of a complete phaseout of nuclear power in the near-future (2018-2035) for Germany, the U.S., and the rest of Western Europe, where economic factors as well as public policies and sentiment are currently unfavorable toward nuclear power. Consistent with prior studies, we found that the drastic cuts in nuclear power in Japan and Germany led to increased CO2 emissions in the first three years after Fukushima due to higher fossil fuel usage to compensate for lower nuclear power output. This phenomenon has received widespread international media attention.
However, the good news (which has received less attention) is that since 2013, both countries have achieved an overall reduction in their emissions. This was somewhat surprising, as nuclear power was a major non-fossil electricity source in these countries. We suggest that this result stems from record-high renewable power increases and lower or steady total energy use. We also note that although Japan's electricity sector emissions remain higher than in 2010, i.e. before Fukushima, the government plans to bring the share of electricity from nuclear back to pre-Fukushima levels and reduce the share from fossil fuels, both of which will help lower emissions.
Fossil fuels still get 4 times the subsidy of renewables from G20 nations.
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Now the not-so-positive news: Our hypothetical scenarios show that if Japan and Germany had reduced coal instead of nuclear after Fukushima, they could have together prevented about 28,000 air pollution-induced premature deaths and 2.6 billion tons of CO2 emissions between 2011 and 2017. Thus, these countries' post-Fukushima energy choices have resulted in major levels of avoidable impacts of the accident.
These lost opportunities will make it even more difficult to achieve national climate change and air pollution mitigation goals, which are already demonstrably inadequate. However, useful lessons can be learned from them—most notably, the prime importance of targeting fossil fuels for reduction instead of (or at least, before) a major non-fossil source like nuclear. For example, Germany can still avoid up to 16,000 premature deaths and 1.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions if it curtails coal power instead of eliminating its remaining nuclear power as planned. Likewise, the United States and the rest of Western Europe can each avoid over 100,000 premature deaths and about 7.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions if they, too, focus on reducing coal rather than nuclear.
Unlike fossil fuels, non-biomass renewable sources of energy (hydropower, wind and solar) do not directly
Nuclear energy may see role wane, UN agency saysMore information: Pushker A. Kharecha et al. Implications of energy and CO2 emission changes in Japan and Germany after the Fukushima accident, Energy Policy (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2019.05.057
Journal information: Energy Policy Provided by Earth Institute, Columbia University This story is republished courtesy of Earth Institute, Columbia University http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu.
Biomass is presently the largest U.S. renewable energy source with more than 200 existing biopower plants now providing electricity for 1.5 million American homes; manure-to-energy biogas projects are expanding and could power up to 3% of North America’s electricity needs.
Citation: How energy choices after Fukushima impacted human health and the environment (2019, June 18) retrieved 18 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-energy-choices-fukushima-impacted-human.html
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