After the earthquake: A long, hot summer

With some 30,000-50,000 dead, half a million evacuees, and the gravest nuclear crisis in decades (albeit one that Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, Sir John Beddington, has I think rightly characterized as a “sideshow”), the events of 3/11 are in many ways an order of magnitude greater than the Kobe earthquake of 1995 and in all probability the worst natural catastrophe ever to strike a developed nation.

But Japan has bounced back swiftly from natural disasters before—is there any reason to expect this time to be any different? Here I explore one reason to be less than sanguine, the loss of power generation capacity at Tokyo Electric Power, more familiarly known as TEPCO, the hapless operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

TEPCO is one of the world’s largest utilities, with 28.6mn customers, and it serves a population of 44.6mn people, not only in Tokyo, but also in the greater Kanto plain area—specifically the prefectures of Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi, Saitama, Yamanashi, Kanagawa, and a chunk of Shizuoka. The area contains more than a third of Japan’s population and accounts for some 40% of its GDP.  

On Thursday, March 10, TEPCO had theoretical total capacity of 74.9mn kW. How much actual capacity does it have now? To find the answer to that, we have to look in detail at what capacity has been taken out by the earthquake and tsunami.

First and foremost obviously comes Fukushima Daiichi (“number one”). It is reasonable to assume, he writes with considerable understatement, that it is not going to return to frontline service anytime soon (and also reasonable to assume that units No. 7 and No. 8 at Daiichi—I bet you didn’t know about those—will not be built by 2013-2014 as scheduled). 

Fukushima Daiichi
No. 1 – 460,000 kW
No. 2 – 784,000 kW
No. 3 – 784,000 kW
No. 4 – 784,000 kW
No. 5 – 784,000 kW
No. 6 – 1.1mn kW
Total: 4,696,000 kW

Second comes Fukushima Daini (“number two”), the newer cousin of Daiichi, just 10km or so south down the coast.

Fukushima Daini
No. 1 – 1.1mn kW
No. 2 – 1.1mn kW
No. 3 – 1.1mn kW
No. 4 – 1.1mn kW
Total: 4,400,000 kW

While the eyes of the world has been on Daiichi, Daini was also inundated with a tsunami greater than it had been designed to withstand and had difficulties achieving cold shutdown (what experts in all things nuclear we have all become), although this status was attained for all four reactors by the morning of March 15.

If Daini ever resumes service, it will not be by this summer. The template for recovery here is the third of TEPCO’s trio of major nuclear plants—and the world’s largest—Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, on the Sea of Japan coast in Niigata Prefecture, where it might be said TEPCO’s capacity woes really began, with the Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake of July 2007.

No. 1 – 1.1mn kW
No. 2 – 1.1mn kW (down)
No. 3 – 1.1mn kW (down)
No. 4 – 1.1mn kW (down)
No. 5 – 1.1mn kW
No. 6 – 1.356mn kW
No. 7 – 1.356mn kW
Total active: 4,912,000 kW
Total theoretical: 8,212,000 kW

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa was hit by shaking from the earthquake beyond the level it was designed to withstand and although it powered down without too much ado, the government mandated seismic upgrades. It took 21 months before the first reactor, No. 7, returned to operation. Currently reactors No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 are still out of commission. From this we can safely assume, even setting larger political considerations aside, that Fukushima Daini will be out of service for years rather than months.

Finally in the nuclear round-up comes Tokai No. 2 (Tokai No.1, which was Japan’s oldest nuclear power station, was effectively withdrawn from duty in 1998). Tokai is on the Pacific coast in an eponymous village in Ibaraki Prefecture. As with Fukushima, it was hit by a tsunami, albeit a smaller one, which knocked out one of its three diesel generators, and it took until March 15 to achieve cold shutdown.

No. 2 – 1,100,000 kW

So of TEPCO’s theoretical nuclear power capacity of 18,408,000 kW, it lost 10,196,000 kW on March 11 and has just 4,912,000 kW of actual capacity, or 27%, left.

But there’s more bad news to come, for the earthquake and tsunami also took down a large chunk of TEPCO’s conventional power capacity. Hirono, which is on the Fukushima coast about 10km south of Fukushima Daini, was hit by a tsunami, presumably—details are sketchy—one with similar height and power to that which inundated Daini.

No. 1 – 600,000 kW
No. 2 – 600,000 kW (down)
No. 3 – 1mn kW
No. 4 – 1mn kW (down)
No. 5 – 600,000 kW
Total: 3,800,000 kW
Total loss: 1,600,000 kW

Then there’s Hitachinaka, on the Ibaraki coast in the village of Tokai.

No. 1 – 1mn kW (down)
Total loss: 1,000,000 kW

Then there’s Kashima, again on the Ibaraki coast, this time in the eponymous city. Again, details are sketchy, but to judge from accounts of severe damage to the steelworks, which are close to the power plant, the prognosis cannot be that good.

No. 1 – 600,000 kW
No. 2 – 600,000 kW (down)
No. 3 – 600,000 kW (down)
No. 4 – 600,000 kW
No. 5 – 1mn kW (down)
No. 6 – 1mn kW (down)
Total: 4,400,000 kW
otal loss: 3,200,000 kW

Finally in the thermal round-up, there’s Higashi Ogishima, on the coast of Kanagawa in Kawasaki. This is in a relatively elevated location and likely to be stage a full recovery relatively rapidly.  

Higashi Ogishima
No. 1 – 1mn kW (down)
No. 2 – 1mn kW
Total: 2,000,000 kW
Total loss: 1,000,000 kW

So we can put the current loss of thermal power at 6.8mn kW, which is 16% of TEPCO’s total thermal capacity of 42.1mn kW, with 1mn kW likely to be restored fairly soon, but the remaining 5.8mn kW possibly out of action for six months to a year. That takes the total loss of nuclear and thermal power, discounting Higashi Ogishima, to about 16mn kW, or 21% of TEPCO’s theoretical capacity.

But that marks the end of the bad news, right? Not quite, no. Because of the lack of rain over the last six months to a year—it feels as though it has been an exceptionally dry winter, even by Tokyo standards—and a lack of power to fuel the pumps, TEPCO’s current hydroelectric generating capacity is a fraction of its theoretical capacity, just 800,000 kW (5.5%) against 14.6mn kW. That’s another 13.8mn kW missing, and the combined nuclear, thermal, and hydro shortfall mounts to 29.8mn kW, almost exactly 40% of theoretical capacity. There are also the more minor issues of damage to thermal facilities at power companies from which TEPCO buys electricity (estimated at 1.7mn kW) and thermal facilities undergoing routine maintenance, which cannot be restarted on a dime (3.4mn kW). All told, current TEPCO capacity—according to the company early in the week beginning March 14—is roughly 33mn kW, less than half of theoretical capacity.

That then is the hardly encouraging picture on the supply side. How do things look on the demand side? It’s callous, I know, to talk of good fortune in the timing of a disaster, but TEPCO—and by extension, Japan—can at least count itself lucky in that the events of 3/11 happened in March, which together with April, October, and November, is one of the months in which, for seasonal reasons, demand for electricity is lowest. Nonetheless, peak demand in the week beginning March 14 came in at around 41mn kW, which is why Tokyo and the wider Kanto region were subject to rolling power outages all week and a cold snap on March 17 led TEPCO to threaten large-scale blackouts without warning. Peak demand this coming July and August, in a normal year, would be around 55mn-60mn kW (it has peaked above 60mn in six of the ten years from 2000 to 2009, the all-time demand peak was registered on July 24, 2001, at 64.3mn kW, and TEPCO itself projects the three-day average summer peak at 57.55mn kW). With current capacity at least 40% short of that, something has to give, and in a very big way.

What options does TEPCO have to bridge the gap? At the time of the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake, it bought in power from neighboring utility, Tohoku Electric, to the north. That is not going to be possible this time, because much of Tohoku has been laid waste to by the earthquake and tsunami. Tohoku Electric has seen one of its two nuclear plants, Onagawa, crippled by the catastrophe, is desperately short of power itself, and is going to be in no position to help. Hokkaido, further north, has spare capacity, but at an estimated 0.7 kW, it is barely a drop in a bucket, and there may be transmission and distribution issues, too—it’s not as though the electricity can be boxed up, put on a ferry, and carted across the Tsugaru Strait. Turning west, TEPCO is stymied by one of the quirks of Japan’s power distribution system: everywhere west of its operating range runs on a utility frequency of 60 Hz, whereas it, Tohoku, and Hokkaido operate on 50 Hz, a legacy of Tokyo’s 1895 decision to buy 50 Hz generation equipment from AEG of Germany and Osaka’s 1896 decision to buy 60 Hz equipment from General Electric of the US. There are a handful of frequency converter substations, but they can only handle 1mn kW and this is already included in TEPCO’s capacity.

Where else can TEPCO turn? It can—probably within months—fire up thermal plants undergoing routine maintenance (3.4mn kW), resume operation at long-idled, mainly oil-fired plants (2.8 kW), hike operating rates at still running thermal plants (3.3mn kW), and maybe buy in surplus electricity generated by companies (700,000 kW), taking supply capacity up around 43mn kW, still at best 20% shy of peak demand.

So adjustments will have to be made on the demand side to bridge the supply/demand gap. Already station escalators across Tokyo have been cordoned off as if they were strips of contaminated Fukushima soil, convenience stores are discovering that—who knew it—they had dimmer switches all along, and, as the neon fades, some are dusting off their copies of Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1933 essay in celebration of traditional aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows.

Air-conditioning is the sole reason that peak summer electricity demand is a third higher than off-peak spring and autumn demand. So turn off the air-conditioning, I hear you say. Easier said than done: life in a modern office building without air-conditioning when outside the mercury is climbing past 35°C would be about as inimical to humans as life on the surface of Venus. Factories producing silicon wafers and luxury cars cannot cope with wild fluctuations in temperature. It looks as though the long-suffering consumer will be asked yet again to endure the unendurable, to sweat for victory to keep the offices purring and factories humming, although blackouts are necessarily undiscriminating—while TEPCO will no doubt do its utmost to ring-fence central Tokyo from outages, there will inevitably be disruptions to production and consumption.

This, then, is the base-case scenario. It’s easy enough to come up with a best-case scenario, in which incantations for precipitation go answered by the gods (there are no gods in a base-case scenario) and the baiyu plum rains of June and July prove bountiful, at least some knocked-out thermal power is restored promptly and TEPCO scrapes through summer on a wing and a prayer, stretched to the very borders of capacity. And in the worst-case scenario, the rains fail, the government orders Kashiwazaki-Kariwa shut for safety inspections, summer is a scorcher, and massive unannounced blackouts engulf Honshu from Tokyo north to the tip of the Shimokita peninsula.

In the early days after the earthquake and tsunami, the dismal scientists rushed out entirely predictable forecasts of a little dent to GDP in the first half of the year but a pickup, led by reconstruction, in the second half—why, they declared, oblivious perhaps to Bastiat’s broken window fallacy, the disaster would be good for the Japanese economy. Why, they declared, the three most afflicted prefectures, Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate, only account together for about 4% of GDP. The prospect of power cuts stretching indefinitely into the future across half of Honshu may now give them pause for thought. It is at least conceivable that TEPCO and Tohoku Electric will not have sufficient capacity to cope with peak demand for years to come. The limits of electric power capacity are something facing many developed nations, including the US and the UK, although in their cases it stems from decades of underinvestment. Japan has just been catapulted toward those limits first. Welcome—with a magnitude 9.0 jolt—to the future. 

111 responses to “After the earthquake: A long, hot summer

  1. Thank you for this excellent journalism. Nothing in the mainstream press, as far as I have read (and I have read a lot), has hinted at the extent of the power shortages to come.

  2. Superb, as ever. Bloody depressing of course, for those of us denizens of Tokyo who are likely to remain denizens of Tokyo. But forewarned, and all that — I’ll order up a few lovely silk kimono for July. Worked nicely for Anjin-san, right?
    You could be a big-name journalist, sirrah, but they’d never pay ya what yer worth.

  3. I was worried that you weren’t going to come out with an article for quite some time. Glad to see I was wrong. Another site I frequent is zerohedge; maybe you have heard of it? Tyler was saying how the whole GDP boost is bunk and was mentioning the power outages and such, too. He has some interesting prespective on the whole Japanese situation as well. He seems to be posting the new information a lot faster than any of the other English-based news sites. I don’t know how clear the information is on the Japanese side but I imagine it isn’t much better. Anyways I didn’t intend for this post to plug somebody elses blog. Sorry! I was also wondering if you plan on doing anymore articles about the declining cities/villages/whatever soon or if you are going to start posting more like this?

  4. Did we have the same reading list?

    In Praise Of Shadows is… probably why I am in Japan, and lives next to Alan Booth on my bookshelf.

    Aesthetics has a lot to answer for. Or thank.

    …pro patria mori.

    Best wishes.

  5. You did it! Fantastic!

  6. Greg Hutchinson

    A very fine, informed article, and ever so depressing.

  7. I just wanted to commend you on an excellent article. I have never read a blog post that impressed me with the level or research and dedication to a single topic. I was blown away that I could get 10 pages of information that I have never seen in my life and be fascinated through the entire thing. Most people compare my writing to an abortion. I would compare your writing to the creator himself.

  8. To echo Benn, great as usual.

    The one thing I would have like to have added was why they can’t use any of the excess capacity in the west of the country. I would imagine a lot of readers are not familiar with the fact that Japan has essentially two, incompatible power grids. One of the many topics I am functionally illiterate in is how electricity works. I guess there is no workable “switching” mechanism so that the 50Hz side of things can work with the 60Hz side.

    • Jeffrey,
      I did mention that!

      • TEPCO is stymied by one of the quirks of Japan’s power distribution system: everywhere west of its operating range runs on a utility frequency of 60 Hz, whereas it, Tohoku, and Hokkaido operate on 50 Hz, a legacy of Tokyo’s 1895 decision to buy 50 Hz generation equipment from AEG of Germany and Osaka’s 1896 decision to buy 60 Hz equipment from General Electric of the US. There are a handful of frequency converter substations, but they can only handle 1mn kW and this is already included in TEPCO’s capacity.

        Interesting, given the devastation of Honshu’s major cities and industries, that the Americans didn’t insist that this be rectified during the initial rebuilding phase post-WWII.

      • Funnily enough, the US wasn’t standardized by the end of WWII:
        A fascinating story, I think. I wonder what it would cost to turn Western Japan to 50 Hz? But at some point, smart grids aside, you lose so much power in transmission (please don’t ask me to quantify) that the advantages of a uniform frequency in this kind of emergency are probably severely diluted.

      • The Hertz truth, as it were.

      • Oooh, nice one! My Secret Squirrel is currently forecasting a roughly 40% power supply shortfall in Tokyo and Kanto in July and August, BTW.

  9. Glad to see that you made it through the disaster more or less unscathed! Another excellent post, as always.

  10. Thank you for the superb analysis.

  11. Chris Creighton

    Thank you for your effort. It must have taken a lot to pull all the data together.
    A further blight on our lives may be the powering down of the ubiquitous drink vending machines. To think that we might have to live without instant access to icy cold sugary caffeinated beverages!

  12. Switching all lighting to LED would provide a 50 to 80% decrease in electricity consumption on the lighting side, as well as help with lower aircon need due to the fact that LED won’t emit much heat so it makes it easier to cool down a room.

  13. Excellent article, thank you for the effort and doing plenty of research, something often missing in today’s journalism.

  14. Thank you for this insightful article. Very interesting to someone who works in the US power industry. I’m also glad to see that you’re okay. I hope your friends are also.

  15. …though powering down the vending machines would free up quite a lot of capacity.

    I wonder if the lack of power will spur innovation in alternatives to airconditioning–self-cooling drink cans exist, after all, they just never took off commercially. Faced with the option of paying a little more or drinking Asahi Super Dry warm (in which form it is even worse than when cooled), it might prove to be an idea whose time has come. And the existence of countless types of chemically-based cooling pad designed to combat fevers suggests that similar products adapted to cool for cooling’s sake wouldn’t be particularly hard to come up with. With one of those plastered on every major artery, a foot-powered microfine spray of water on my brow and permission to come to the office in my swimming costume, I’d give summer a go with minimal air conditioning.

  16. Thanks for the post. One thing I wonder: could the government embark on some massive rooftop solar subsidy program? I would think a lot of the equipment necessary is off-the-rack stuff that can be shipped in quickly. It certainly couldn’t replace tens of gW, but I know Italy for instance is way ahead of its renewable energy goals because heavily subsidized solar goes up FAST.

  17. hey pachiguy (and board). I love your ruins blog both for the content and the top-notch writing. an excellent taking of inventory today. thank you! regarding the broken window fallacy, allow me to quote a somewhat lengthy comment by the finance blogger Steve From Virginia, that was left under a recent article in The Independent that softly advocated said fallacy:

    “Disasters are good for the economy because people will have to spend … right? In Japan the national deficit and the savings of the people are the same thing. The recycling of savings to the government and back do not represent new money or the creation of value. The surplus on Japan’s savers national account is the Japanese government’s deficit, both are bookkeeping entries representing the same money. There is no spare or unused money laying around waiting for the green light — or tsunami — to call it into action. Okay, let’s not call it money but what it really is, output. The Japanese cannot create output out of thin air. They can only redirect current (diminished) output from somewhere to somewhere else. The only way the Japanese economy can increase output is for it to become more productive, that is to provide more goods and services with the same levels of inputs. This is not going to happen for many reasons. Like all the other industrialized economies, Japan’s is becoming less productive. Resources are becoming stingier and more expensive and the use/waste of resources is becoming unprofitable. This is why there is a finance crisis worldwide and why it has been ongoing since 2005. Economically, Japan’s industries have been unproductive since the early 1990’s. Japan has a middleman economy. Its output is ‘virtual’, the the product of finance, government recycling of funds, Ponzi schemes and ‘extend and pretend’ rather than farms and factories. GDP that is derived from borrowing and lending to oneself is not output. It’s a fraud and a painful one because much of that GDP represents funds propping up worthless ‘Zombie’ banks and finance companies. Japan invented the ‘Enron accounting model’: the largest banks hold trillion$ in bad loans that have been held off the books since the mid-1990’s. What is more likely than a rebound is long- overdue deleveraging. This deleveraging may not take place today, with the Bank of Japan announcing 20 trillion yen in QE, but deleveraging will inevitably take place. It has to because output that has been servicing trillions in bad loans is now needed to keep a massive humanitarian crisis at bay! The banks represent a ‘second claim’ on Japan’s output with the survivors making a priority claim that without the disaster would not have been made. The estimate of $70 billion to be spent on human needs on the east of Japan is $70 billions that cannot bail out zombie banks for another year. Nothing about this disaster is going to make Japan more productive, in fact is likely to tip that country over the edge into debt deflation. A giant problem is the cost increase for its nuclear sector. Its 48 reactors just now cost twice as much as before the 11th. This leaves out the 6 ruined reactors. By the end of the year, Japan’s plants may cost ten times what it took to build them, depending on outcome @ Fukushima. Pundits are talking out of their anal canals. It really IS different this time, the world is afflicted with too much debt and much more costly resources, too many people and too few with wealth.”

  18. John R. Harris

    Very useful data and analysis of the power situation. Worried by the same issues, I launched a campaign to unplug 1m Coca-Cola machines that draw 1m kW. We have a Facebook group I hope you’ll join: “Japan Earthquake help: shut Coca-Cola vending machines”

    I hope you can train your eagle eye on the vending machine power-use issue.

    Here’s something we sent out to media last night:

    A week ago I started this campaign asking Coca-Cola to unplug its 1 million vending machines across Japan – because we could see the problem. Here in the Japanese Pacific coast countryside, on the edge of the devastation, we’re hit with rolling blackouts and curtailed train service. But we’re surrounded by literally hundreds of drink machines – huge refrigerators – that no one ever uses.

    Coca-Cola was the target because they have more machines than anyone else and they are a smart, global leader in corporate social responsibility. Where Coke goes, rivals will follow.

    We started with informed speculation: memory of news reports that “Japan has so many vending machines it takes an entire nuclear plant to power them.” We went public with the best stats we could find, gathered in haste, to gauge the problem.

    To pass scrutiny of the world’s most scrupulous editorial desks, though, we’ve needed better stats. Now we have them.

    Over the weekend we asked Yasufumi Horie, a Japanese mechanical engineer turned organic farmer, to scour the Japanese web for definitive stats. Here’s what Yasu found.

    Japan indeed has more than 5 million vending machines – 5.2m to 5.51m depending on which source you consult.

    About half are drink machines, with average power rating of about 1-kilowatt. Coca-Cola PR says they have 980,000 machines – but when boasting suited them they used to claim “one million machines” – so let’s assume that figure.

    Electricity being as critical to vending as it is to aluminum smelting, Yasu was impressed by tricks the engineers used to cut power consumption – like “zone cooling” that chills only cans nearest the chute. But you can’t get around the basic fact that 1 million 1-kilowatt machines equal 1 million kilowatts of power demand.

    How do you put Coca-Cola’s Japan power demand in perspective?

    The one million kilowatts needed to run Coke machines is close to the rated capacity of the largest reactor at Fukushima: No. 6, which puts out 1.1 million kW. Especially since half the reactors are usually offline, even the 4.7 million kW total rated capacity of all Fukushima’s reactors is not enough to power all 5 million vending machines in Japan.

    How does Coca-Cola’s power suck stack up against demand from Japanese households?

    The average Japanese household, 2.46 people, uses 4,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The average drink vending machine uses 1,167 kWh. Do the math. At home, each Japanese individual uses only about one-third more power than a drink vending machine.

    So if you want to contest our initial contention that one million vending machines equals the residential demand of one million people, you are arguing over small change off the dollar.

    Here’s the bottom line.

    If Coca-Cola unplugged all their 1 million vending machines, this would free up capacity equivalent to all the homes in greater Sendai, and the capacity of the largest reactor at Fukushima.

    If Coke and its rivals were to free up power on this order of magnitude, we would no longer have rolling power cuts. We would have full train service. Our automotive plants could resume production.

    Coca-Cola is a very smart company with an acute understanding of long-term brand value. So if Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent does not understand the equation on the table here, he should go off to pasture with the guy who signed off on “New Coke.”

    Unplug ‘em Muhtar!

    One last request here: someone in America please arrange for helicopters to drop tons of seawater on CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. His rhetoric is more dangerously overheated than the fuel rods in Reactor No. 4.

    Having been up to the disaster zone with a TV news crew I can tell you, yes, it’s dire up there. But the Tokyo region is absolutely safe.

    Here’s an offer: we will give any serious news organization a guided tour through the stats underlying this issue.

    John R. Harris,
    Onjuku, Chiba, Japan

  19. Thank you very much for the analysis. I wonder if you can reveal your sources—at least the number of dead people is mistaken by far (over 8000 dead, around 12000 about whom there is no information). Otherwise, a nice post.

    • I’ll reply at length to this because I knew someone would call me on it. Here’s the March 22, 18:00 National Police Agency stats: 9,020 dead, 13,561 missing.

      Click to access higaijokyo.pdf

      So in both categories, the number has gone up by 1,000-1,500, since you last checked/were informed. In which direction do you think the statistics are going to go? Ten days on, are the 13,561 missing going to be found? That gives us a base 22,500.
      From here, you have to know a little from experience about how conservative Japanese authorities are about death tolls. In let’s say a disaster involving a trawler lost in a monstrous typhoon, the media will always say “six missing”, whereas in my home country they will say “six missing, presumed dead/drowned”. It’s the same in this case. The “dead” are people delivered to mortuaries. The “missing” are people whose relatives have reported them as missing to the authorities. In some small towns, there are *no* authorities left and the survivors have much more important things to worry about than which of their neighbors might have been swept out to sea.
      So, I took a base 20,000 and added some comments by Japanese officials about the likely numbers of the dead in particularly disaster-struck towns and cities. Onagawa: 5,000; Ishinomaki: 10,000; Minami Sanriku 8,000. There’s double-counting there, but excluding that yields 43,000. There are also cities and towns that simply (by their own acknowledgement) have no idea, such as Kamaishi. Add those in and I think I’m in the right ballpark.
      One of my colleagues mailed me on the Friday evening of the earthquake: at least very few people died, he said.

      • I realy like the article, its an important topic, but if your gonna make up numbers for the death toll, it makes me immediately question every other figure you quote.

        Your figure is sensationalist, its as simple as that. Why else publish a figure that you think might be the case, but for which you have zero evidence? Of course the numbers may go up, but guessing as to what they might be is not really helpful (yes, you are guessing, you have an error of 60% in your final numbers!).

        Nothing personal, just my two yen, old chap!

      • Oh dear, do I have to go through this again?
        “Why else publish a figure that you think might be the case, but for which you have zero evidence?”
        Why do you think I have “zero evidence”? Just because I didn’t share it with you? This isn’t Wikipedia, you know, I don’t have to footnote every source. Jeez, you get this for free and you can’t even be thankful, talk about a spoiled world. First, here’s my reply to another doubter. You could have found it easily enough if you had read the comments, but I expect that would have been too much trouble.
        “I’ll reply at length to this because I knew someone would call me on it. Here’s the March 22, 18:00 National Police Agency stats: 9,020 dead, 13,561 missing.

        Click to access higaijokyo.pdf

        So in both categories, the number has gone up by 1,000-1,500, since you last checked/were informed. In which direction do you think the statistics are going to go? Ten days on, are the 13,561 missing going to be found? That gives us a base 22,500.
        From here, you have to know a little from experience about how conservative Japanese authorities are about death tolls. In let’s say a disaster involving a trawler lost in a monstrous typhoon, the media will always say “six missing”, whereas in my home country they will say “six missing, presumed dead/drowned”. It’s the same in this case. The “dead” are people delivered to mortuaries. The “missing” are people whose relatives have reported them as missing to the authorities. In some small towns, there are *no* authorities left and the survivors have much more important things to worry about than which of their neighbors might have been swept out to sea.
        So, I took a base 20,000 and added some comments by Japanese officials about the likely numbers of the dead in particularly disaster-struck towns and cities. Onagawa: 5,000; Ishinomaki: 10,000; Minami Sanriku 8,000. There’s double-counting there, but excluding that yields 43,000. There are also cities and towns that simply (by their own acknowledgement) have no idea, such as Kamaishi. Add those in and I think I’m in the right ballpark.
        One of my colleagues mailed me on the Friday evening of the earthquake: at least very few people died, he said.”

        And I’ll add: on the NHK News tonight, Rikuzentakata is missing roughly 12,000 people, not confirmed dead, not “reported missing” (there’s an important difference), just missing. Half the city. And I did not even include Rikuzentakata in my estimate because the numbers the mayor was reporting at the end of last week–over a thousand dead–and the numbers the media had been reporting earlier last week were so at odds with each other. Add those 12,000 in and we are at 55,000 people.
        And you have the gall to call me sensationalist?

  20. Thank you for this compilation. How much capacity can be brought on-line in all-out efforts from solar installations (they peak when air conditioning demand peaks), how much from wind farms – offshore maybe, and how much by heavyweight geothermal power plants, and maybe tidal energy?

    In Germany, 10 MW geothermal power plants get commissioned after about a year of construction. Knowing the usual speed of construction projects in Germany, I bet the Japanese can complete their projects somewhat faster, especially now that necessity is so high. Sited in colder regions like Tohoku, geothermal plants can also supply district heat, further reducing the burden on the electric grid or gas supplies.
    Many smaller power plants scattered across the land also lend resilience to power generation. If some are taken out by a future earthquake or tsunami, they will be surrounded by a ring of power plants still functioning and ready to share the load once the wiring is restored. Would Tohoku become the new Iceland, energy-wise?

    • “How much capacity can be brought on-line in all-out efforts from solar installations (they peak when air conditioning demand peaks), how much from wind farms – offshore maybe, and how much by heavyweight geothermal power plants, and maybe tidal energy?”
      I have absolutely no idea–one of many things I’m not is an expert in is alternative power–but I can tell you one thing for sure: as far as solving Northern Honshu’s potential power shortages this summer and beyond, alternative energy is a complete non-starter. That’s not because I don’t think it would fill the gap (I don’t, but that doesn’t matter), but because noone in any position of authority is even close to contemplating these things.

      • Good point. They may not be near any solution yet, but maybe they are asking the right questions – for example, OMG, how can we fix that? Bring in the sales people that make each deal win-win for all involved, or no-deal, and they may see the (electric) light.

  21. 30,000 – 50,000 dead? Fuck you! How dare you exaggerate this horror! You sick media whore hyping things up for your own self agenda. You truly are a sick asshole.

    • You jest, surely?

    • The published numbers rose fro a few thousand 10 days ago to 21,000 dead or missing today. If the numbers do not creep up all the way we will be happy, and I think pachiguy may revise this post.

      As for you, Santa, did you donate to disaster relief, recently?

      • Many published numbers at this stage are ridiculous. Just have a look again at the NPA data:

        Click to access higaijokyo.pdf

        So 10,992 houses have been completely destroyed in Iwate but only two half destroyed, while in Miyagi, 454 have been completely destroyed but 1,105 have been half destroyed. Remarkable. Pachiguy won’t be revising his post anytime soon. The only direction for the death toll is to the upside of the parameters I gave, I fear.

  22. As always, reading Spike’s latest piece was revelatory, not least for introducing me to Bastiat’s broken window fallacy.

    On this occasion, however, I cannot help but wonder whether you are being too pessimistic.

    Reading your analysis, it struck me there were four aspects of the power capacity situation you overlooked or underplayed.

    1. On the supply side, there is presumably some latent capacity in private generation facilities, both at an industrial scale and on the individual level. You mention the possibility that TEPCO could buy in surplus power from companies but I guess (it is just a guess) that there exists considerable ‘invisible’ capacity in the form of idle diesel powered generators.

    2. On the demand side, the tsumani must have knocked out quite a bit of peak demand by destroying housing and industry that would otherwise have been deploying air conditioning this summer. Your analysis dissected the supply side of the equation admirably but you seemed to assume that the demand side was unaffected by the tsunami.

    3. Bastiat notwithstanding, Japan recovered swiftly from the even greater damage to its industrial infrastructure caused during WWII. I understand, of course, that a ready-made boom was midwife to Japan’s post-war renaissance and no such boom is likely to provide succour this time but recent examples such as New Orleans’ recovery, post-Katrina (admittedly, hardly a blueprint for an idealised post-disaster recovery, but then Honshu isn’t Louisiana) or Sri Lanka’s, post-tsunami give grounds for cautious optimism.

    4. Finally, at least in your base case (no gods) scenario, the tsunami was presumably indiscriminate in its wrath, in the sense that it did not choose its targets. The post-tsumani economy will not, however, be a smaller but otherwise representative fraction of the pre-tsunami economy. The elderly, the unemployed and the sick will have suffered and will continue to suffer disproportionately (e.g. see—five-years-later/housing-shortage-prices-some-blacks-out-of-new-orleans.php). Businesses that were failing or ailing will never reappear. Capacity in industries that suffered from overcapacity (e.g. hotels) will not be rebuilt for want of funding. Looked at entirely amorally, this ought to mean that the post-reconstruction economy is stronger (and more power-efficient) than the one it replaced. Reading Malthus making a similar point helped Darwin visualise the mechanism behind natural selection and also led to the emergence of social Darwinism. Caveat emptor.

    • the tsunami was presumably indiscriminate in its wrath, in the sense that it did not choose its targets

      actually one would think Triton was going after Tohuko’s fishing and tourism industries with much zeal, and there’s not much other wealth-creation available up there.

    • you provided two unfortunate examples. the new orleans population is down 29pc since katrina. the link you provided must be a joke. many of the remaining citizens of new orleans cannot afford housing it is because public housing has been torn down and replaced with condos. the public school system underwent a forced privatization. the stretches of coastline on which many fishing villages in sri lanka used to sit are now owned by international hoteliers. shanty towns exist where they did not before. these are but a few examples. neither place is anything like what it was before disaster struck and both places will continue to suffer the added ravages of disaster capitalism. spike japan while there’s still time.

    • (I see that I misread the intent behind your posting of the housing link. beg your pardon.)

  23. We are attempting to prod Coca-Cola on the vending machine power consumption problem. Here’s an editorial we posted on the subject:

    Editorial: Japanese Vending Machines Led by Coca-Cola Using Scarce Electrical Power after Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown

    Thanks for the excellent reporting. The American news media coverage is long on hysteria but short on facts and analysis such as you have provided.

    • “If Coke and its rivals were to free up power on this order of magnitude, we would no longer have rolling power cuts. We would have full train service. Japan’s automotive plants could resume production.”
      I have some limited sympathies with your cause, but your conclusion is so obviously daft as not to be worth a second’s thought…

  24. Wonderful post! And chilling as ever.
    Here in western Tokyo the blackouts have been rather uneven, some areas getting them every day, others having virtually none at all. While it`s not terrible in this weather, frequent blackouts during the summer will make summer unpleasant for most people and potentially fatal for the elderly, particularly in Gunma and Saitama.
    (Will this encourage a further exodus of expatriates and business from the greater Tokyo region, I wonder?)

  25. Finally, it’s the epic battle to the death between Cool Biz and corporate standard practices that we’ve all been waiting for.

    • Tokyo Could Face 25% Power Shortage In Summer TOKYO (Nikkei)–The supply of electricity could fall as much as 15 million kilowatts short of demand this summer in the Tokyo metropolitan region, The Nikkei learned Tuesday, amounting to nearly a quarter of projected peak demand.

      Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), or Tepco, is trying to fill the gap through such measures as restarting an idle fossil-fuel power plant and repairing ones damaged by the recent earthquake. The government reckons that these steps would help restore the region’s power supply to 45 million kilowatts by summer. Yet this is still 25% less than the 60 million kilowatts that could be consumed on hottest days, when air-conditioning demand spikes.

      Forecasts of electricity supply and demand are due out Wednesday from the government and Tepco.

      Tepco is conducting rolling blackouts in response to a power shortage. Expecting tight supplies, the government sees additional efforts to reduce power consumption as vital. It will step up energy conservation appeals and could expand the areas subject to rolling blackouts.

      Tepco now supplies about 37.5 million kilowatts. It is scrambling to bring fossil-fuel power plants knocked out by the quake back online. The Higashi Ohgishima plant in Kanagawa Prefecture and the Kashima facility in Ibaraki Prefecture are to restart by the end of April, bumping up supply capacity to around 42 million kilowatts. The firm is also thinking about bringing back its Yokosuka plant, in Kanagawa Prefecture, from a prolonged hiatus.

      Tepco is also receiving some 1 million kilowatts from Chubu Electric Power Co. (9502) and other providers in western Japan, whose power grids operate on different frequencies. This will ensure that Tepco can supply at least 45 million kilowatts of electricity.

      In addition, the government and Tepco are seeking assistance from independent power producers and manufacturers with their own generating infrastructure. But these entities together will likely be able to supply only 1 million kilowatts or so. The government also plans to increase capacity at hydroelectric plants by relaxing rules on water intake from rivers.

      (The Nikkei March 23 morning edition)

  26. Probably you have a point and, even if we do not want it to be that way, the death toll would rise drastically—although I doubt it will double, it seems not proper to extrapolate from the case of 6 casualties to the ongoing tragedy (and I think not only Japanese government is conservative about those numbers). But if you are going to advance a forecast, it would be better to make that clear from the outset, so your public is better served.

    (Also observe that according to the data you are posting, the number of evacuees is 264,064; far from the half million you mentioned).

    Anyway, you are right to observe that we better put aside the numbers while needs remain unsatisfied.

    All the best,

    • “But if you are going to advance a forecast, it would be better to make that clear from the outset, so your public is better served.”
      Superbly patronising, I’m very impressed! It should have been obvious to anyone with more than a spent peanut-shell for a brain that a death toll that had been rising by 1,000-1,500 a day was not going to suddenly stop rising. Why do I waste my time…

  27. I estimate 500,000 harmed people @ $500,000 lost capital wealth, for a $250B total loss.

    This does not count the losses due to the energy crisis. I was under the impression that Japan’s GDP/GWhr was pretty good, but obviously there is an immense amount of waste still that can be wrung from demand side.

    I disagree that Fukushima-D1 is/was a sideshow. Beddington was entirely spinning the industry line with that preso and I have yet to see NISA mention the プルサーマル that was in loaded in 3号機 last year. By my math, there were 500 “assemblies” each with 18kg of the magic metal, for a total of 9000kg of fun. There were also 52本 of “new” fuel assemblies, assumedly MOX, for another 900kg, plus of course the ~2000 used fuel assemblies in 3 & 4 that for all I know now have been blown into the Pacific, another 360 tonnes of fissionable material and its byproducts. Until the NISA guy says what amount of plutonium has been blown, burned, or washed out of the reactors, I reserve the right to fear the worst, like tons & tons.

    Additionally, the latest “plant parameters” from NISA show that 1号機 isn’t out of the woods quite yet. Its primary container vessel is at 60% of design pressure and rising, the core (or what’s left of it) is about half-exposed to steam, and while the wetwell is not compromised (unlike #1 and #2), it’s also no longer usable as a steam suppression chamber given the high pressure there.

    Beddington’s thesis that it would be OK if one unit blew itself half a kilometer up into the sky failed to follow the ensuing events, such events including the total withdrawal of all TEPCO and Hyper Rescue types from the site if not the Prefecture.

    This is not just 1 nuclear disaster. It is 4 at once. And one of the 4 going sideways can possibly take the rest with it.

    • Very apocalyptic, in some ways very impressive, although you have to tell me how unlike No. 1 is from No. 1 in this:
      Additionally, the latest “plant parameters” from NISA show that 1号機 isn’t out of the woods quite yet. Its primary container vessel is at 60% of design pressure and rising, the core (or what’s left of it) is about half-exposed to steam, and while the wetwell is not compromised (unlike #1 and #2), it’s also no longer usable as a steam suppression chamber given the high pressure there.
      Please let us all know your nuclear industry credentials. And while you’re at it, please let us know your worst-case scenario.

      • Sorry, meant #2 & #3 that had the compromised primary containment vessels.

        Latest from NIST shows things settling down again.

        D/W in this chart is “drywell” or the primary containment vessel. They list ~0.1MPa (abs), which is another way to say 1 ATM.

        Pressure in #1 drywell hit 101% of design max (but only 90% of max max), looks like they were able to divert enough steam into the wetwell torus to give them some more leeway.

        I’m no engineer (nuke or otherwise) and I’ve been mostly too pessimistic this past week so far about this, but after building #4 burned up I’ve thought that things weren’t going to get worse even if they somehow could — #4’s current 状況 is what I was told what would happen if the fuel storage was allowed to auto-ignite from loss of cooling.

        TEPCO did say a week ago that criticality events were not impossible in the spent fuel pools, but to get that happening requires some rather extreme conditions allowing to obtain along with unlikely distributions of nuclear material.

        Two weeks in, reactor #1’s temp is still 200deg. so the worst case as I see it would be the operators losing control of #1, say by all the seasalt sludge they’ve been making gumming the cooling system up — if they lose the ability to inject water or vent steam then pressure could rise high enough to result in a violent pressure vessel burst event, an explosion similar to #3’s hydrogen boom.

        Current radiation reading in #1’s drywell is 41 Sv/hr, this being distributed all over the plant could force all workers out of the facility, resulting in control efforts of 2,3 and 4 to be halted. #2 is mostly under control now, and #3 is coming under control, but #4’s storage pool is not something they can afford to just abandon yet.

        This guy could be crackpot or oil industry shill but I appreciate having his perspective on the media:

      • Phil,
        Many thanks indeed for your posts, especially as they’re going out to relatively few readers… The worst-case scenario, though, as you paint it, doesn’t sound that disastrous, at least for anyone more than 50km or so away from the reactors. Is that a fair assessment? How has your take changed in the wake of the events of the last couple of days? It seems as though the focus has shifted away from the spent fuel, which might not be wise.
        I may have to travel north to Miyagi in the next couple of weeks on the Tohoku Expressway, so I ask for purely selfish reasons…
        The reports coming through of the living conditions of the TEPCO and subcontractor people dealing with this just stagger me. Bravery in buckets, to be sure, but such subtle and horrifying coercion.

  28. In addition to the escalators out of action and shops dimming their lighting, there have also been a host of other power reductions. The amount of street-lighting – in central Tokyo at least, and I guess elsewhere too – has been severely reduced (it rather reminded me of driving round Shanghai after dark), offices have reduced the amount of lighting – for example, where I work almost half the neon lights have been removed, the number of working elevators has been reduced and some rail networks have reduced their services. As a result, a lot of the threatened blackouts have been avoided.

    I also imagine that some businesses and companies will instal private generators and stagger their working hours so as to spread the electric load. Overall, I think that somehow we will get through the summer with comparatively less of a problem than some are imagining. And, in the worst case, of course, the Japanese are great at gaman.

    On another point, does anyone know how the vending machine ownership situation works? Especially away from town centres, they are often located on private land, for example on an unused corner of a plot. Does the owner of that land take a share of the income from the machine or is he paid a rental fee? It may well not be as simple as asking Coca Cola to stop operating the machines. I would guess that there are others with a financial interest in them.

    Finally, I would not be at all surprised if the final toll of the dead and those whose bodies are never recovered is in excess of 30,000. In disasters of this size, the final figure is inevitably higher than initial estimates. In Haiti (where, admittedly, population records were almost certainly not kept as assiduously as they are in Japan) the initial figure was given as ‘over 100,000’ with the final figure reaching more than 316,000.

  29. Um, sorry to be so un-alarmist, but if it rains they add 14 gigawatts of capacity, did I get that right?

    Two weeks ago central Brazil was 300mm behind normal for that time of year. In the past two weeks they have gotten 300mm of rain. Couldn’t the same thing happen upstream of hydro facilities in Honshu? Hydro facilities operating at 5% of capacity is a pretty huge story in and of itself and I think merits some more discussion. Thanks.

    • Thanks for those interesting points. I was pretty gobsmacked by the hydro data and suspected that rain alone was too simple a solution. I asked my Secret Squirrel source, who must remain anonymous. It turns out that, of TEPCO’s roughly 14 gW (= 14mn kW) in hydro capacity, only 3 gW is conventional, rainfall-dependent hydro power. The other 11 gW is in the form of pump-storage hydro, where TEPCO uses surplus electricity at night to pump water to the top of a mountain and releases it during the day at times of peak demand to generate electricity. Catch is, they don’t have (or don’t think they have) enough spare capacity at night to pump the water uphill. So we could see a virtuous circle unfold, in which, as more thermal capacity is restored, they can release more to feed the hydro pumps. I admit I’m a tad more optimistic, for this and other reasons, than I was on Sunday/Monday when I wrote the post, but that’s the nature of flash-of-the-pants “journalism”, and believe me, the experts are still quite panicky.

  30. It is also important to note that all of your numbers are based on peak total demand – actual usage of electricity is far below this for most of the day, and would almost entirely make up for the shortfall if usage patterns were changed sufficiently.

    Looking at electricity graph for the UK’s national grid (I don’t have data for Japan),

    We see that there is still plenty of unused electricity – but no-one’s using it. Of course the most efficient scenario was if TEPCO/whoever were always running at close to 100% capacity.

    Given this, there are some things that can be done in a short space of time:
    1) Smart meters
    2) Variable pricing based on demand – possibly severe.
    3) Subsidies for more eco-friendly air-conditioners
    4) Cool-biz to be mandatory for businesses
    5) Education as to the best time to use electricity
    6) A change in working hours to avoid the worst of the heat – for example working from 7-4, not 9-6. Hell, you could even change the clocks.
    7) Forcing rainfall (extreme, but…)
    8) Provision of insulation/thicker curtains or whatever means that 35C+ is more bearable without air conditioning
    9) Handing out new remotes for air conditioners with only eco/quiet mode available, and a minimum temperature of 24C, in exchange for a subsidy.

    Just sayin’.

    • You can find a lot of information on TEPCO’s peak demand profile here:

      Click to access 06-e.pdf

      The Japan pattern is interestingly different from the UK one–I was brought up on the belief that the UK peak was in the ad-break between the first half and the second half of Coronation Street, as everyone put the kettle on. That seems to be more or less holding true for the UK from your National Grid link. For TEPCO in Japan, perhaps because we have some industry left and a lot more need for a/c, the peak occurs around 2pm and, as you can see from (the sadly outdated) Figure 3, “peak” demand was above 50mn kW in 2001 from 9am until 9pm. That’s quite some “peak”. Of what you suggest in points (1) through (9), while mostly sensible, only (4) (and not mandatory–consensus will force it into place) and (5) to my mind are going to happen before summer. Indeed, the word on the street is not “cool biz”, but “super cool biz” (超クールビズ), which, translated, means “super hot you”. I did say that it was going to be a long, hot summer.

  31. “Tokyo Electric restarts LNG-fired unit after quake” (Reuters)

    “(Reuters) – Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has resumed operations at the 1,000-megawatt No.1 unit at its Higashi Ogishima thermal plant in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, Kyodo News said on Thursday.”

  32. It has been a long uphill, terrible state of affirs for Japan. Let the “experts” help this electronic giant from the tsunami. Suleiman

    • Unfortunately, the “experts” in many ways caused the trouble. Please don’t comment on things about which you know nothing.

  33. Thank you for breaking your usual measured pace of composition to bring your statistical focus to a problem that has been covered for us in the US mostly by talking heads and camera shots of wreckage.

    As the comments show, the first-report data will change, but you certainly are looking in the right direction in your predictions.


  34. Great post – its something I’ve been wondering about. Interestingly, wind turbines (on and off-shore) survived the quake, although of course their contribution to the overall total is minimal. I’d guess there will be a lot of turbines bought in Japan – they are one of the few forms of generators that can be put up quickly (assuming there is surplus in the market – but there is certainly a huge surplus turbine manufacturing capacity in China as there was a moratorium announced there a few months ago as the number of windfarms was threatening to overcome network capacity).

    If you need power quickly, then really wind turbines and gas turbines are the only two that can be put in place without many years lead in time. One thing I don’t know much about is LPG import capacity in Japan – its the only way they can get major quantities of gas. If they can’t do this quickly, then it really is trouble – as Japan is pretty energy efficient anyway, there isn’t much low hanging fruit available to save really large amounts of energy.

    • Thank you for that. Looks like LNG is the way we’re going. The capacity won’t be ready by the summer, by all accounts, but it might be by winter. There’s something seductively ironic about putting quick-fix LNG turbines on the grounds of your out-of-action conventional power stations:

      Govt, Tepco Turning To LNG To Avert Winter Blackouts TOKYO (Nikkei)–The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) are exploring ways to avoid rolling blackouts this coming winter, focusing on thermal power generation using liquefied natural gas.

      Tepco, hit hard by the March 11 earthquake, hopes to boost its power supply capacity by more than 10 million kilowatts through a variety of steps. The government is helping out, initially arranging an emergency shipment of 100,000 tons of LNG from Russia.

      Tepco plans to acquire gas turbines using LNG and has started sounding out domestic and overseas manufacturers, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011), Toshiba Corp. (6502), IHI Corp. (7013) and U.S. firm General Electric Co.

      The utility will then install 10 or so gas turbine facilities on existing thermal plant grounds, hoping to secure about 2.6 million kilowatts as early as possible. These facilities can be built and brought online relatively quickly. Although environmental impact assessments must be conducted before thermal power plants can be set up or expanded, relevant ministries and agencies have begun considering simplifying the procedures.

      Mitsubishi Heavy has already begun preparations to boost annual production of gas turbines at a Hyogo Prefecture factory to 36 from about 20.

      Efforts to procure LNG are under way. Tepco is set to receive several hundred thousand tons from Chubu Electric Power Co. (9502) by the end of the year. The government is calling on gas-exporting nations to expand shipments to Japan. Russia has indicated that it can double exports to Japan this year from roughly 9 million tons in 2010. Australian and some Middle Eastern countries are said to have shown a willingness to increase shipments as well.

      Tepco’s output capacity had plunged to 38.5 million kilowatts as of Thursday since the temblor and tsunami knocked out its Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power stations. The firm intends to raise its capacity to more than 42 million kilowatts by the end of April by bringing some thermal plants back onstream. Plans call for boosting the figure to more than 45 million kilowatts through summer by taking such steps as restarting idled thermal plants and buying electricity from others.

      Once the new gas turbine facilities begin operations, Tepco is expected to have a total output of nearly 50 million kilowatts. With corporations and households encouraged to save energy, the utility hopes that the rolling blackouts it is now conducting can be avoided this coming winter.

      (The Nikkei March 25 morning edition)

  35. Dead/missing has now been moved up to 27,000 so far.

  36. There are probably others in the mountains but Tepco has two dams in the Kita Alps that will be partially filled by snowmelt. Nanakura and Omachi Dam, in Omachi. The famous one nearby, Kurobe Dam, sends power to Kansai.

    The Japanese environmental website yasuienv had an article earlier this year about energy consumption of vending machines. It’s the industry’s own data, but they reckon about a third of a megawatt nuke plant for the entire country. They’ve got the power per machine down about a third since 2005. About 4yen of power per drink, they say. Having a hot drink on a cold day is about the easiest way to warm your body and the opposite may well be true in the hotter days that await us. 4 yen of power for a cold drink probably beats 4 yen of airconditioning.

    I guess it was primarily an inventory clearing/stimulus measure, but the eco points campaign on fridges, tvs, and air cons (i.e., heat pumps) in the last couple of years could prove to be money very well spent.

  37. Thanks for the reply (and yes, i meant to write ‘LNG’, not ‘LPG’, sorry!. You might be interested in this post in theoildrum blog about general energy issues – looks like liquid fuels might be a big problem too:

    This article takes a somewhat biased view of the assumption that LNG is the way forward:

    And this is one of a series of articles (from people I think know what they are talking about – I’m not an engineer, so I have to trust the sources quoted) about the current state of the power plants – not very optimistic I’m afraid:

  38. Oh, just so no-one gets the wrong idea, I’m no big fan of vending machines either, especially the light pollution from them. If the campaign mentioned is going to get anywhere though, getting the facts straight is the first step.

    Out of tokyokarakuchi’s ideas, restarting eco points for air cons could be done very quickly surely. The “Provision of insulation/thicker curtains or whatever ” point is easiest done quickly using a “sudare” shade placed outside the window. The typical cost of a patio door sized one is 600 yen at your local home center. I’m sure someone could rig up a way of bodging one onto an upstairs window too. If that fails, IR reflecting films onto existing windows have the same effect as “low-e” glass. For the time being, the government should force Tepco and Tohoku Denryoku to stop all promotion of all-denka houses. I doubt many will be in a rush to fit an IH cooker or an eco-kyuto water heater (which uses overnight nuke power) at this very moment, but they should be discouraged all the same. Landlords in particular like them because the fire risk of IH in particular is much lower than gas.

    • All very sensible ideas. Yes, I overlooked eco-points, although I wonder whether the short-term demand spike they cause at the likes of Panasonic are not more power-draining than the incremental installed capacity, but as I have no evidence either way, I leave that as a “wonder”. Let’s sudare and go back to the 18th century. Again, I have no hard data, but I suspect there’s an easy 20%-30% saving to be made in the domestic sphere. Whether I’m happy to do that while icemakers for fish markets whirl their water for 48 hours to free it from “impurities”, as featured on NHK last night, is another matter. I do love Tokyo in its present state, dressed down with the lights dimmed, although I realize that is a perverse preference.

  39. I actually lived in Japan (the South, too!) sans air conditioning for years…It CAN be done! It’s just very uncomfortable…but then again…that’s what nearby MALLS are for! Thank you, JUSCO.

  40. John R. Harris

    Re: Vending machines — in reply to Stew’s posts, and Pachiguy’s odd comment that turning them off was “daft.” Coca-Cola and other vending machine industry players are far from transparent about their energy use. My first aim in starting a campaign to unplug them is to get transparency on this. Sure, they like to boast about new efficient machines, solar, etc. But we have yet to see independently verified stats on actual power use — particularly during summer peak when, as Spike notes, TEPCO needs more than 60m kW. In summer, millions of refrigerators (how many in TEPCOland? 1m?) sit in full sun at 35+ temperatures. I’d love to see independently verifiable stats on summer peak drink vending.
    Underlying issue is the ridiculous over-proliferation of drink machines. It’s like a game of checkers or something where each player tries to surround his opponents’ men. We’ve heard that many, many sell less than 35 cans (tins, if you prefer) a day — barely enough to pay the power bill. It’s hard to argue anyone would suffer if Coca-Cola unplugged the lowest volume 50% of their machines. The remainder would certainly yield a better return to operators. And we are certainly not lacking convenience stores.
    So why, Pachiguy, is it “daft” to put Japan’s 5.2m vending machines on the agenda? Oh, and in response to your snide quip at Ken Zino’s post: the UK media has no call to cock its nose at US media. See who get honoured on the journalist wall of shame: — not to mention Clive James. We don’t need anyone’s snide nationalism right now.
    Full disclosure: I’m Canadian, and have a foot in two camps: freelance journalism and executive speechwriting for corporate PR depts. From PR work I know large PR agencies now have regiments of social media participants who covertly weigh into any online discussion that threatens client interests. I’ve heard Edelman PR is big on this. There’s nothing wrong with PR interests participating — but it should be overt.

    • I think our host was calling out the specific claim that unplugging the vending machines alone would solve the power shortfall. They are a marginal drain in the scheme of things.

    • Who on earth is giving you “snide nationalism”??? Not me. This is what increasingly disturbs me–you make these accusations without a scintilla of evidence. I have not taken anyone’s nationality into account in any of this, and I challenge you to find a word I have written otherwise. And I have nothing to do with the PR industry, believe me. The “underlying issue”, if you could get outside your single-issue fanaticism for a just a moment, is far more important than bloody vending machines–first, it’s how we get through the summer, then it’s how Japan (and all who sail in her, like you and me) can possibly transition to a post-nuclear society. Please try and see the wood for the trees.

  41. John R. Harris

    No one claims that unplugging vending machines alone would solve the power shortage. But right now the vending machines are running full blast here in rural Chiba while our train service is curtailed. That irks me.
    What we need to know is how much the drink machines in TEPCOland draw during summer peak: it may well be over 1m kW. If, as Spike contends, we are shy 20m kW then vending machines may be 5% or more of the answer. I say we need to call the vending machine industry to account and I began speaking up because no one else was. First shot was prodding my friend Eric Johnston to do a piece in The Japan Times. Everyone’s always taking the piss out of the Yanks — after hockey it’s Canada’s 2nd sport — but then I don’t see Royal Navy helicopters off Miyagi-ken.

    • Are all your vending machines running at full tilt? They’re not in Tokyo, at least to judge from my limited experience. Half of them have been switched off in my office building and almost all of them on the Toei lines. This is the right response, surely: people who don’t need the revenue are switching them off, people who do, like many a mom ‘n’ pop retailer, are not. I sense a whiff of single-issue fanaticism here that I don’t like, because I find it fundamentally illiberal. We Westerners might find the plethora of vending machines a cultural curiosity, but clearly they’ve grown up to service a perceived need. There are many more effective ways of saving huge amounts of power without the economic distortions you propose. So, I don’t support your campaign, because it’s condescending, illiberal, and irrelevant.
      “Everyone’s always taking the piss out of the Yanks — after hockey it’s Canada’s 2nd sport — but then I don’t see Royal Navy helicopters off Miyagi-ken.”
      Get any cheaper and they’ll be selling your ass in the Y100 shop.

      • “Everyone’s always taking the piss out of the Yanks — after hockey it’s Canada’s 2nd sport — but then I don’t see Royal Navy helicopters off Miyagi-ken.”

        In Nov 2000, Japan held $340B of US treasury debt, 10 years later they held $875B.

        They paid for those helicopters.

    • “They paid for those helicopters” – neat trick eh? You get your money back,with interest, you keep your currency undervalued vs the USD, and you get some helicopters in the bargain, which you then claim you “paid for.”

  42. One point that requires care is that the lighting in a lot of vending machines has been shut off in a nod to saving energy, but the refrigeration/heating is still on and presumably using up a good deal more power. I did see one estimate, which may have been mentioned above, that the yearly power consumption of Japan’s nearly-5mn vending machines potentially exceeds the output of all six Fukushima Daiichi reactors, though there are a few assumptions involved. This page has more detail than I could possibly get into at the moment:

  43. Pachiguy,
    No time for “single-issue fanaticism” out here in the countryside, we’re too busy preparing to receive 400 refugees from Minami-Soma.

    Re: observations on your comment to Ken Zino about “the American media.” What a revealingly English response. You cheerfully dish it out to foreigners and colonials all day long, but go apoplectic at the slightest whiff of blowback.

    If you want “cheap shots,” tune into the BBC (‘quality’ end of UK media) for a lighthearted look at Hiroshima & Nagasaki on QI (a quiz show, Dec. 17) or to watch Top Gear’s hilarious characterization of Mexicans as “lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight” (Jan. 30).

    Finally, regarding one of your earlier posts. If you’d actually lived in the Japanese countryside you might understand why “doing up a kominka” remains the exclusive preserve of toffy urban poseurs with more cash than common sense. But you’re clearly wiser than that.

    Anyway, pax and sayonara. Your initial post on TEPCO was brilliant.

    • “Re: observations on your comment to Ken Zino about “the American media.” What a revealingly English response. You cheerfully dish it out to foreigners and colonials all day long, but go apoplectic at the slightest whiff of blowback.”
      I made no comment on the American media whatsoever. Am I missing something? Are you? All I said was that to conclude that:
      “If Coke and its rivals were to free up power on this order of magnitude, we would no longer have rolling power cuts. We would have full train service. Japan’s automotive plants could resume production.”
      Which is what the post at Autoinformed said (it doesn’t say it anymore). It was daft and remains daft. You are the one dragging the “debate”, such as it ever was, down to the level of crude national sterotypes.
      “Finally, regarding one of your earlier posts. If you’d actually lived in the Japanese countryside you might understand why “doing up a kominka” remains the exclusive preserve of toffy urban poseurs with more cash than common sense. But you’re clearly wiser than that.”
      Funnily enough, I lived in the mountains in southern Nagano for 18 months; many of my mates lived in dilapidated (ko)minka with drop toilets, and the nightsoilmen were their best friends. But it’s so wonderful to have more cash than common sense. Good luck with the Minami Soma refugees, and I do mean that. Where are you?

  44. Excellent writing, research, and analysis on the situation facing all of us in Japan. I did wonder whether you had considered the potential increase in power demand due to recovery and reconstruction work in Tohoku, and the potential offset from the (hopefully rapid) return to operation of plants operated by Tohoku Electric, and TEPCO outside of Tohoku. But I agree with your basic premise: a long, hot, hard summer ahead.
    Also, love the articles on Ugly Japan and shopping arcades.
    Keep it up.

    • Thank you!
      “I did wonder whether you had considered the potential increase in power demand due to recovery and reconstruction work in Tohoku, and the potential offset from the (hopefully rapid) return to operation of plants operated by Tohoku Electric, and TEPCO outside of Tohoku.”
      I wasn’t able to factor everything in, I’ll admit. Tohoku Electric is a bit of a closed book to me–I was taking a look at lunchtime and can’t figure out whether they’ll be OK or not. It is very difficult to get data on how many households are still without electricity, for instance; Tohoku has managed to avoid blackouts completely for now, which is impressive, unless they still have 10%-20% of their service area to reconnect.
      I was talking to an auto industry analyst today, apropros of nothing. He reckoned Japan’s auto output in April will be close to zero. Automakers are going to get hit by the supply chain first and then by summer power outages. Back to normal by late autumn, perhaps, but in the meantime a nasty little recession that’s going to hurt.

  45. Sorry, I do promise to shut up after this — really I do. But Pachiguy, look back, you did toss off a comment to Ken Zino about “the American media,” and it got up my nose.
    Credit where it’s immensely due, I know many truly excellent British journos in these parts: Henry Tricks, Justin McCurry, Julian Ryall, Tim Kelly, Richard Lloyd-Parry, Jon Watts, Peter Nunn and good-old Henry Scott Stokes, to name a few. I count several as good friends. I could name a couple of wankers, too, although I won’t. But you should hear them talk about pressure from London editors (Isle of Dogs is so much more apt than Fleet St.) about pressure to convey a distorted image of Japanese as twisted perverts. Look back to Nick Leeson “fleeing on his yacht” (Evening Standard) to see how they will outright lie to get a headline for the news agents.
    As for kominka, yeah, I too have lived rough at times here over 25 years. But a kominka will teach you why women’s battle against kabi (mould) explains more about Japanese society than all that bushido bullshit. Kominka are freezing cold in winter; dark, dank and moldy in summer. Forget having artwork or nice books if you live in a kominka — even a done-up one. You’re much better off starting from scratch.
    Whether illiberal to say so or not, vending machines do deserve to be on the agenda. I live in Onjuku on the Chiba coast and we are surrounded — literally — by hundreds of them that I’ve never seen anyone using. At the same time, the Ltd. Express train to Tokyo that I depend on has still not been restored. In my mind, at least, there is a valid connection.
    As for the refugees, I put the hard word on our mayor right after the quake to commandeer all the surfer accommodation in our town for refugees. At first he was aghast and said he couldn’t act without instructions from on high. But he dropped by my house Friday to say he’d reconsidered. Now we have 5 buses waiting to go and he’s in touch with Minami-Soma’s mayor. There’s a lot of confusion, both bureaucratic and among the hinansha, but we hope to welcome 150 to 400 by Saturday — which looks set to be our cherry blossom day. 400 is a significant number for us because 402 years ago our local ama-san (divers) rescued 279 drowning Mexicans from a galleon that foundered off Onjuku. As a result, we get many Mexican visitors here (most neither fat nor flatulent).
    The radiation does not worry me. It will be messy for awhile but all that Kanto will experience is panic. The ongoing damage to our economy from the power shortage is what scares the flatulence out of me.
    Again, pax. We all need to stick together through this.

    • “But Pachiguy, look back, you did toss off a comment to Ken Zino about “the American media,” and it got up my nose.”
      Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where, where, where? You’ve got the wrong guy. I feel like Josef K. Please, find it for me.

    • “Sorry, I do promise to shut up after this — really I do. But Pachiguy, look back, you did toss off a comment to Ken Zino about “the American media,” and it got up my nose.”
      Still waiting and waiting and waiting for any evidence of this…
      Ooh, and I have to add, just to really piss you off: Onjuku, the center of the gaijin meeja mafia, why that’s mighty hardcore Japanese inaka, isn’t it? I hear you’re as far as an hour from a department store and central Tokyo. That’s terrifying darling, how DO you cope? They tell me the temperature sometimes falls as low as ZERO degrees and sometimes there’s as much as an INCH of snow outside your doorsteps. How frightful! I’ve also heard on the grapevine that the caviar is only delivered twice a week (quelle horreur!) and that the local Lexus dealer doesn’t have the clout to get you right to the top of the list for new models. Really, how do you SURVIVE, you poor, miserable, half-starved things?!?
      And you have the sheer gall to accuse someone that wants to rescue a minka that would otherwise die in some forsaken corner of the Gunma/Nagano borders, where I can guarantee neither your nor your pals would ever venture, of being a poseur? What a joke you are.


  46. There are numerous special fund-raising benefits blossoming all around where I’m at (an undisclosed major North American city) – some scrupulous, others…. What I don’t understand is why Japan, 3rd richest country in the world, eclipsed only by countries with 3 to over 10 times the population, requires fund-raising. Haiti, certainly. Japan? So Japan doesn’t have enough scratch to supply the displaced with food and medicine? I have to send in my 200 bucks to red cross, like one does to some godforsaken African faminewarzone?

    • “What I don’t understand is why Japan, 3rd richest country in the world, eclipsed only by countries with 3 to over 10 times the population, requires fund-raising.”
      Japan is not the third richest country in the world, it has the third largest economy in the world. For third richest, try Qatar, or Luxembourg, or Norway. There’s a difference.
      “I have to send in my 200 bucks to red cross, like one does to some godforsaken African faminewarzone?”
      No, not at all. But if a tornado, flood, or hurricane ever hit your city, you might be grateful.

      • .. so we are saying that there is nothing odd about Japan not being able to afford to buy supplies?

        I would be grateful for the sentiment. My country has the eight largest economy. I fail to see how we should need private donations to get by, were the worst to happen. Particularly when you consider the federal govt bailed out the banks post-2008 with $241 billion. On a per capita ratio, that is almost thrice what the American taxpayer contributed to the US financial bailout. Perhaps you can tell me how much the Japanese govt donated to the local banking “disaster”.

  47. Perhaps in a form of double irony, it seems that drink vending machines may be providing some people with their only source of bottled water these days (whether they need it or not is of course another question). In a highly unscientific survey of half a dozen local vending machines (necessitating a detour of perhaps 30 seconds, given the plethora of machines) all had run out of their usual stock of 500 ml bottles of mineral water.

  48. Great article with useful facts. Thank you for gathering and compiling all this information.

    You can see the current electricity usage on Yahoo Japan’s dedicated page:
    TEPCO’s total capacity is at 38 million as of March 31st.

    I’m hoping convenience stores, supermarkets, electrical appliance stores and drugstores will learn to reduce lighting from this experience. You almost needed sunglasses in some convenience stores!

  49. I read with interest in the Japan Times recently that the average power consumption at any given moment in March in the TEPCO region used to be about 47 mill KW. After the earthquake, with people threatened by potential power cuts and cajoled to use less electricity, this dropped to a shade over 30 mill KW (90%of the 33.5 mill KW then available) in the high-consumption critical 6-8 pm time slot on the Thursday 6 days later (which was particularly cold in Tokyo). Admittedly, all factories and offices were not back to 100% operation by then, but it does show how much can be done if people make a real effort. Total capacity is apparently now up to 39.5 mill KW, with further increases due to raise this level within the not too distant future, and current usage at 10 am (thanks to Tokyo KK’s reference) about 31.5 mill KW.

    I remain optimistic that the summer will not be too much of a disaster.

    • Not too much of a disaster, of course, unless you take into account the huge hit to GDP that will come from this:

      Saturday, April 9, 2011

      METI Eyeing Framework To Help Firms Meet Power Cut Quota TOKYO (Nikkei)–The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is mapping out ways to make it easier for volume electricity users to meet their obligation of reducing power consumption by 25% this summer.

      The government decided Friday to stop rolling blackouts in principle during that season, when power demand spikes for air conditioning. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) and Tohoku Electric Power Co. (9506) have conducted the blackouts in recent weeks after suffering damage to power plants from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

      METI hopes to avoid rolling blackouts in the summer.In place of the staggered power outages, the government has decided to have factories and other volume electricity users cut their maximum instantaneous power usage by 25% in the summer. For these purposes, volume electricity users are defined as those whose maximum monthly power consumption comes to 500kw or more. The requirement affects an estimated 15,000 or so factories and office buildings in Tepco’s service areas alone.

      Under the framework being considered by METI, a company with multiple facilities can meet the requirement if it cuts their overall power usage by 25%.

      This would help a company served by Tepco or Tohoku Electric for its headquarters, a factory and a data center, for example. Rather than cutting power usage at the data center, undermining its operations, the firm could meet the reduction target by skimping on air conditioning and other power usage at headquarters and the factory.

      The system will also let multiple companies satisfy the 25% reduction goal by pooling their efforts and lowering their combined power usage. This will accommodate an auto industry proposal under which automakers would shut down production in turns.

      The government hopes to lower electricity demand during the summer, when supply shortfalls reach as much as an estimated 15 million kilowatts. Steps by volume users are expected to account for slightly more than 4 million kilowatts in reduced consumption, with the total coming to 10 million kilowatts when conservation measures by smaller users and households are included.

      (The Nikkei April 9 morning edition)

      • Well, the title of your piece is ” . . . A long, hot summer”, so I was assuming you meant that TEPCO customers would be forced to go without electricity from time to time and sweat without their air-conditioning. But now I realise you meant that it would be a long (and hot) summer for those who get hot under the collar worrying about effects on GDP. I’m not one of them.

      • Well, we’re (ie, household consumers) expected to do our bit by cutting electricity consumption by 10% to 15%. And if you don’t worry about the GDP effect, I can only assume you’re a university professor or retired!

  50. Thank you for the detail report on the issue, i can foresee the problem but didnt have a detail report on the energy capacity of Tohoku .

  51. Pachiguy, I’m not an economist (nor retired, nor a university professor), but this is what Goldmans said on the subject:

    “Q4: What impact will earthquake damages have on GDP?

    A4: No direct impact will be seen in GDP data.

    Damages from the earthquake do not have a direct impact on GDP, which is a flow concept that measures added value. Instead, they will impact capital, through damage to existing facilities, in a stock concept. The GDP impact is indirect rather than direct, including the impact on capex and personal consumption from reconstruction demand. For more details, see page 4 “Box: Stocks and Flow – Earthquake impact on GDP” in the March 15 Japan Economics Analyst.

    As a result, real GDP movement differs from recurring profit movement. As seen from the Hanshin earthquake, the decline in fixed-asset value due to the earthquake leads to real GDP growth, but recurring profits are dragged down by losses and do not grow as much as real GDP (see Exhibit 1).”

    Can’t say I have much idea what they are talking about, but it could be that they are splitting hairs of an economic variety. Other estimates I have seen about the negative effect on Japan’s GDP (among those who agree that GDP is actually involved) vary from 1% to 3% this year, but with a positive effect from next year. In the overall context of things, I don’t see a huge problem (although I won’t be desperately happy if the government raises consumption tax to cover the costs!).

    • I guess you got that from here or hereabouts:
      A lot of supposedly reputable Wall Street banks are coming to regret (I hope, at least) what they fired off too fast and too glibly in the first week after the quake. Everyone tried to anchor themselves to Kobe (and these are almost without exception Japanese economists writing, and Kobe was their only reference point), as Goldman does here. I also love the purposeful ambiguity of “no direct impact will be seen in GDP data”. So tell us about the indirect impact then. But anyway, the statement is simply wrong, or at best misleading, as you can easily tell by imagining a 50-meter tsunami that wipes out central Tokyo. No “direct” impact to GDP from that? I could go on and on, but this is just a very sad example of Pavlovian cheerleading by an investment bank that is long past its prime, at least here in Tokyo. As we say at my shop, Goldman Sucks. The proof of the pudding, anyway, will be in the GDP numbers for the next three quarters. I’ll wager you a bottle or two at the bar of your choice that they come in below Goldman’s quarterly forecasts on March 10.

    • I should add one more thing:
      “I don’t see a huge problem (although I won’t be desperately happy if the government raises consumption tax to cover the costs!).”
      Agreed, I don’t foresee a huge multi-year problem for the economy as a whole, just to set the balance straight, only that the recovery will in all probability be slower and more painstaking than it was after Kobe–this has been a much bigger supply chain shock than Kobe. The total bill will be at the worst around 1% of GDP, I’d guess. But the disaster will delay the recovery from the global financial crisis, there are still many unknowns, from how long it takes key component suppliers to get back on track to how much global supply chains will shift away from Japan, and we won’t know the final impact for at least a year or two. Finally, someone has to pay for the disaster–is it going to be you and me now in higher consumption or other taxes, or future generations? The answer is the latter, but is that wise?

      • Morning, Pachiguy . . . .

        Thanks for your clarifications. I guess I imagined that when you mentioned a ‘huge hit to GDP’ you meant more than the ‘at worst around 1%’ that you are now talking about!

        Certainly the long term effects on the supply chain are something to be concerned about. My local Yamaya is fast running out of wine (although they seem to get bottled water on a regular basis), apparently due to the fact that the warehouse which housed all their imported wines was in Tohoku.

      • Yes, perhaps a “huge hit to GDP” was a bit of an exaggeration, although the difference at Japan’s potential annual growth rate of 1%-1.5% is definitely not to be sneezed at. Yamaya running out of wine, however, now that is a disaster!

  52. To John Harris:

    I think your figures are inconsistent at best.

    “About half are drink machines, with average power rating of about 1-kilowatt….The average Japanese household, 2.46 people, uses 4,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The average drink vending machine uses 1,167 kWh. ”

    You say the drink machines have a power rating of 1kW each. In one year, the total power consumed is 1kW x 365 days x 24 hours = 8760 kWh.

    But then you later say that drink machines use 1,167 kWh vs. the 4,500 kWh used by a home during one year. The 1,167 kWh is far too low to be correct if the drink machines have a 1kW power rating. I think you or your source had incorrect data or misunderstood the difference between power (kW) and energy (kWh), which is power multiplied by time.

    “Do the math. At home, each Japanese individual uses only about one-third more power than a drink vending machine.”

    I did and you are wrong. One drink machine consumes roughly the power of two homes during a year.

  53. Can that possibly be right? A drinks machine is basically a glorified large fridge, in fact not much bigger than the one I have at home (and without the addition of a freezer), but with some complicated electrical components (presumably consuming only very minimal power unless actually dispensing a drink), some fairly minimal lighting and possibly a heating function. Can one such machine possibly consume the equivalent of the power consumption of 2 homes, which are of course using electricity for a host of functions – TV/entertainment, lighting, heating (in some cases), PC’s, microwaves, toasters and many many other pieces of equipment, including of course a fridge (which is also working 24 hours a day)?

    By the way, surely we don’t need to talk about a year. We can equally well say a month or even a day.

    • Seems implausible, doesn’t it? But as we know, the debate has moved far beyond the sideshow of drinks machines (which I think in some people stir a visceral hatred of consumerism and what we’ve become out of all proportion to their power consumption) and we are by hook or by crook going to make it through this summer using 15%-25% less power than we did last summer. I do find it sobering that you can take out 75% of Japan’s nuclear capacity (there’ll probably only be 14 reactors out of 54 left operating by the end of summer) (annoyingly, I can’t find the original Bloomberg article)
      and somehow we’ll muddle through. Looked at another way, you could say without too much of a stretch that all the entire nuclear programme in Japan has achieved has been to provide summer air-conditioning to sweaty office workers.

  54. Yes, if one good thing comes out of the whole disaster, it could be a realisation that we can survive quite happily (well, fairly happily) and maybe even more healthily (climbing stairs rather than taking escalators, for example) without using as much electricity as we thought we needed. When people look at the power generation versus power consumption equation, in the past I think they have tended to look at ways to increase the former rather than reduce the latter. A 20% odd saving is pretty substantial.

    I heard from a Japanese fund manager yesterday that some of the wind power industry in Japan has links to the yakuza (I think they were threatening to sue for noise pollution unless they got a pay-off?), so perhaps that is not an industry to invest too much in. On the other hand, I guess it could be a good time to buy shares in companies making deodorants. It could still get quite sweaty.

  55. Just want to say a big thank you to pachiguy for his very well written, although necessarily somewhat depressing, writing on this disaster and the effects yet to be felt from it, and also to everyone here (with the exception of the usual trolls who only wished to attack pachiguy or discredit his writing with their own self important, and generally unproven or proven plain wrong, opinions) who has contributed well thought out and researched opinions. And to everyone in Japan I’d just like to say good luck, both with everything thus far and with whatever is yet to come.

  56. I hesitate to say “I told you so” at this early stage, but we managed to get through the first potential crisis earlier this week when temperatures in Tokyo rose to 33C, albeit with power usage up to 93% of available capacity (45.6 m kw out of 49 m, I think). Now, just a couple of days later, the total generating capacity is up to 51 m, and forecast to reach at least 55 m by mid-summer.

    Coupled with the staggered working hours at some companies, I still think we should be able to struggle (stagger?) through without power cuts.

  57. Cool blog with great info

  58. James C. Bartel


    The Tears of Sanriku (三陸の涙)

    The Japanese government is many years away from declaring a final death toll for the Great East Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災). More bodies are found every day, but the search effort is currently being hampered by lack of personnel and other resources (especially in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi) and extremely difficult conditions in some other coastal localities. The statistics (based on the home pages of Japanese prefectures as of August 9, 2011) that I have obtained for extremely hard hit Coastal Areas (North to South) and Inland Areas do not tally with National Police Agency (NPA) statistics. However, the NPA has already acknowledged that their statistics for Fukushima Prefecture do not reflect many bodies left on the ground and unrecovered due to radiation. Virtually none of the estimated 376,000 tons of rubble in six towns (Namie-machi, Futaba-machi, Okuma-machi, Tomioka-machi, Naraha-machi, and Hirono-machi) in the “Off Limits” Zone has been cleared to date.

    The collection and reporting of statistics by prefecture has actually served to obscure many important facts, and the statistics presented by the NPA simply do not conform to reality. The NPA statistics (deaths, missing, injuries, and property damage) appear to be the most complete and reliable for Ibaraki Prefecture. However, NPA statistics for Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures remain incomplete and unreliable because the NPA is dependent on other government ministries and agencies for almost all of their statistics. The multiple, non-standardized, and unconsolidated lists of evacuees, which total over 700 pages for Iwate Prefecture alone, are completely disorganized and have substantially hindered searches for missing persons. The daily reports of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures present information using different methods and formats, and there are no discernible standards for reporting by the prefectures.

    The Japanese government failed to intervene with Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) until Fukushima Dai-Ichi (福島第一原発) was in full meltdown, and cold shutdown of that plant might not occur until January 2012. Apparently, 150 of the subcontracted workers who have worked at Fukushima Dai-Ichi cannot be located (or contacted). While the exposure of these workers may be minimal, this is further evidence that TEPCO does not properly maintain records and is out of control. Some hard-line, no-nonsense administrators need to be brought in to restore order. Despite an extremely long history of earthquakes off the coast of Miyagi, there were few contingency plans and the government was totally unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude. The Japanese government has been playing it by ear and making it up as they go along in a reactive mode. There has been no coordinated response to this disaster as Japanese public officials work in a vacuum without competent leadership and effective direction. The Japanese government’s response to this disaster is a case study of poor judgment, lack of planning and preparation, and critical errors that should be carefully studied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because similar scenarios can be envisioned for Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States. Many localities had only 30-40 minutes of advance warning before the tsunami breached 30-foot seawalls and inundated the Eastern coast of Honshu. However, the United States is even less prepared for a huge earthquake and tsunami than Japan.

    The NPA is not reporting statistics on the number of “Confirmed Missing, Declared Dead.” The Ministry of Justice has jurisdiction over that final adjudicative procedure. A simplified, expedited procedure for a Declaration of Death (死亡届) without a body was adopted so that the proceeds of life insurance policies and survivor benefits could be paid to survivors 90 days after March 11, 2011. According to the Ministry of Justice, at least 2,830 Declarations of Death had been filed as of July 29, 2011. Nevertheless, the procedures to accept these filings were not in place until June 25, 2011. However, many citizens have not been able to file Missing Person Reports or Declarations of Death due to the lack of fully functioning local government entities in many coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures.

    Coastal Areas
    Hokkaido Prefecture
    Hakodate City – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Aomori Prefecture
    Misawa City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Hachinohe City – 1 Death, 1 Missing

    Iwate Prefecture
    Kuji City – 2 Deaths, 2 Missing, 2 Missing – Declared Dead
    Noda-mura – 38 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Fudai-mura – 0 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Tanohata-mura – 14 Deaths, 19 Missing, 16 Missing – Declared Dead
    Iwaizumi-cho – 7 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Miyako City – 420 Deaths, 134 Missing, 96 Missing – Declared Dead
    Yamada-machi – 597 Deaths, 257 Missing, 175 Missing – Declared Dead
    Otsuchi-cho – 796 Deaths, 653 Missing, 440 Missing – Declared Dead
    Kamaishi City – 881 Deaths, 299 Missing, 76 Missing – Declared Dead
    Ofunato City – 330 Deaths, 118 Missing, 86 Missing – Declared Dead
    Rikuzen-Takata City – 1,546 Deaths, 576 Missing, 264 Missing – Declared Dead

    Miyagi Prefecture
    Kesennuma City – 1,003 Deaths, 414 Missing, 229 Missing – Declared Dead
    Minami-Sanrikucho – 550 Deaths, 437 Missing, 100 Missing – Declared Dead
    Ishinomaki City – 3,153 Deaths, 890 Missing, 518 Missing – Declared Dead
    Onagawa-cho – 535 Deaths, 414 Missing, 280 Missing – Declared Dead
    Higashi-Matsushima City – 1,044 Deaths, 106 Missing
    Matsushima-cho – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Rifu-cho – 1 Death, 1 Missing
    Shiogama City – 20 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Shichigahama-cho – 66 Deaths, 6 Missing
    Tagajo City – 188 Deaths, 3 Missing
    Sendai City – 704 Deaths, 33 Missing
    Natori City – 911 Deaths, 82 Missing
    Iwanuma City – 183 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Watari-cho – 256 Deaths, 5 Missing
    Yamamoto-cho – 670 Deaths, 23 Missing

    Fukushima Prefecture
    Shinchi-machi – 107 Deaths, 3 Missing
    Soma City – 454 Deaths, 5 Missing
    Minami-Soma City – 605 Deaths, 68 Missing, 71 Missing – Declared Dead
    Namie-machi – 141 Deaths, 43 Missing
    Futaba-machi – 29 Deaths, 6 Missing
    Okuma-machi – 73 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Tomioka-machi – 19 Deaths, 7 Missing
    Naraha-machi – 11 Deaths, 2 Missing
    Hirono-machi – 2 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Iwaki City – 308 Deaths, 39 Missing

    Ibaraki Prefecture
    Kita-Ibaraki City – 5 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Takahagi City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Tokai-mura – 4 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Hitachinaka City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Osaki-machi – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Kashima City – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Chiba Prefecture
    Asahi City – 13 Deaths, 2 Missing
    Yamatake City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Shirako-machi – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Inland Areas
    Iwate Prefecture
    Tono City – 0 Deaths, 3 Missing
    Sumita-cho – 0 Deaths, 1 Missing

    Miyagi Prefecture
    Tome City – 0 Deaths, 5 Missing
    Wakuya-cho – 1 Death, 2 Missing
    Misato-machi – 0 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Osato-cho – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Tomiya-cho – 0 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Osaki City – 4 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Ohira-mura – 0 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Shibata-machi – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Shiraishi City – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Yamagata Prefecture
    Obanazawa City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Yamagata City – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Fukushima Prefecture
    Fukushima City – 3 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Kooriyama City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Iitate-mura – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Katsurao-mura – 6 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Tamura City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Aizu-Wakamatsu City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Sukagawa City – 10 Deaths, 1 Missing
    Shirakawa City – 12 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Nishgo-mura – 3 Deaths, 0 Missing

    Tochigi Prefecture
    Nikko City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Nasukarasuyama City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Haga-machi – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Ibaraki Prefecture
    Hachiota City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Mito City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Tsukuba City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Ushiku City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Shimotsuma City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Joso City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Ryugasaki City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Namegata City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing

    Gunma Prefecture
    Tatebayashi City – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Chiba Prefecture
    Noda City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Kashiwa City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Yachiyo City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Narashino City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Tonosho-machi – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    Tokyo Prefecture
    Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Koto-ku, Tokyo – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Tama City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Machida City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing

    Kanagawa Prefecture
    Kawasaki City – 1 Death, 0 Missing
    Yokohama City – 2 Deaths, 0 Missing
    Fujisawa City – 1 Death, 0 Missing

    The above figures are a fairly complete listing (as of August 9, 2011) based on multiple Japanese language sources. Precise conditions are extremely difficult to determine in many coastal localities due the extent of flooded areas, volume of rubble (less than one third of the estimated 22,600,000 tons of rubble in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures has been cleared), nuclear radiation, and harsh conditions in evacuation centers. Most of the evacuation centers are “makeshift” facilities (former schools and other old buildings that had not been used in many years). There were influenza epidemics, poor hygiene, malnutrition, food poisoning, and lack of heat in some evacuation centers in March 2011, but the current danger is the high heat and humidity with no air conditioning. “Temporary” housing units are being constructed, but thousands of people will be forced to remain in evacuation centers for the foreseeable future. As of mid-June 2011, only about 44 percent of the completed units were occupied as bureaucrats dithered over the criteria to be used in determining priority in allocation of units to evacuees.

    According to Kyodo News, Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate and other localities are now developing statistics concerning at least 570 persons who died in evacuation centers or after transport to hospitals. Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital alone identified 127 such cases in response to an April 2011 survey conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun. These deaths, which are not included in the NPA death toll, are expected to balloon as hospitals are thoroughly audited and more information becomes available. About 80 percent of the hospitals in the coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures were damaged or destroyed, and there are cancer patients in evacuation centers because of a shortage of hospital beds. Japan’s system of public health has virtually collapsed in many coastal areas heavily impacted by the tsunami. Many doctors who had clinics and hospitals are now providing medical treatment in tents.

    At least 600,000 people resided in the flooded regions of Japan (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Chiba Prefectures). Aerial photography, satellite images, and onsite surveys were employed to map the flooded regions of Japan. However, information concerning injuries and hospitalizations is particularly difficult to obtain, and very few of the Miyagi cities devastated by the tsunami have reported any injury totals to date. The injury total (186 persons) for Iwate Prefecture is not even within the realm of possibility. No injury totals have been reported for the Iwate’s Rikuzen-Takata City, Ofunato City, Kamaishi City, Otsuchi-cho, or Yamada-machi to date. Japan’s evacuation centers housed nearly 470,000 evacuees at the peak, and it is very well known that many elderly evacuees died in evacuation centers. All of these “earthquake related deaths” (震災関連死) will eventually be added to the final death toll, and I expect that these “earthquake related deaths” will account for at least 15 percent of the final death toll. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare will have much to say about the final total of “earthquake related deaths,” which will be in the thousands. Additionally, there were more than 15,000 suicides in Japan in the first half of this year, and the number of suicides has increased continually in the three months since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident.

    According to the Geographical Survey Institute (国土地理院) of Japan, flooding in three wards of Sendai City totaled at least 52 square kilometers. Higashi-Matsushima City also experienced flooding of 37 square kilometers, which accounted for over 80 percent of that city’s households (approx. 40,331 residents in the flooded area). At least 28,000 residences were completely destroyed or swept away, and more than 73 square kilometers were flooded in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi. According to the Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (総務省統計局), approximately 70 percent (112,276 citizens) of Ishinomaki’s total population resided in the flooded area. Although the daytime population of that area was unknown, I await updated statistics from Ishinomaki City with increasing dread. The more than 5,000,000 tons of rubble remaining in Ishinomaki City probably cannot be cleared in accordance with the government’s plan (by March 31, 2012).

    Conditions are horrible in six coastal localities of Iwate Prefecture (Miyako City, Yamada-machi, Otuschi-cho, Kamaishi City, Ofunato City, and Rikuzen-Takata City). A 15.8-meter tsunami coupled with ground subsidence of 84 centimeters completely ravaged Rikuzen-Takata City. It seems unlikely that Otuschi-cho will be rebuilt or even survive. The Iwate Prefectural Hospital in Otsuchi-cho was destroyed by the tsunami. The future of these six coastal localities is very much in doubt. Iwate Prefecture simply does not have the resources, and there is no confidence that Japan’s national government will devote any more resources to Iwate’s coast.

    The remarks and behavior of Mr. Ryu Matsumoto have already led to severe political repercussions. The selection of a Diet Member from Fukuoka City to oversee the reconstruction of Tohoku was an extremely ill advised choice and an insult to Tohoku. His suggestion that sorely needed funds might be withheld from Tohoku was heartbreaking and absolutely unforgiveable. His successor, Mr. Tatsuo Hirano, is a Member of Japan’s House of Councillors from Kitakami City, Iwate. However, the person to watch is Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, a Diet Member from Mizusawa City, Iwate. Mr. Ozawa is one of the most powerful and influential politicians in Japan, and he might eventually accrue the power to force funding of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in order to revitalize Tohoku. In any event, Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Yamaguchi Prefecture, will be leaving office soon.

    Many citizens (64,329) of villages, towns, and cities in Fukushima Prefecture are subject to Mandatory Evacuation Notices (避難指示), and the administrative functions of many villages and towns have been transferred to other cities and towns in Fukushima and Saitama Prefecture. Many others have already left “voluntarily” as people are effectively being forced out of their homes without compensation. There also have been numerous reports of arson, vandalism, and looting of vacated residences. Additionally, the NPA announced on June 15, 2011 that it would henceforth cease to tabulate statistics on the number of evacuees. If you can control access to data and information, then you control the press.

    Transfers of the Administrative Functions of Some Villages and Towns in Fukushima Prefecture
    1. The administrative functions of Namie-machi have been transferred to Nipponmatsu City. Some of the citizens (9,765) of Namie-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    2. The administrative functions of Futaba-machi have been transferred to Kasu City, Saitama Prefecture. All citizens (4,906) of Futaba-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    3. The administrative functions of Okuma-machi have been transferred to Aizu-Wakamatsu City. All citizens (11,507) of Okuma-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    4. The administrative functions of Tomioka-machi have been transferred to Kooriyama City. All citizens (14,280) of Tomioka-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    5. The administrative functions of Naraha-machi have been transferred to Aizumisato-machi. Some of the citizens (2,525) of Naraha-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    6. The administrative functions of Hirono-machi have been transferred to Iwaki City. Some citizens (2,354) of Hirono-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    7. The administrative functions of Katsurao-mura have been transferred to Aizusakashita-machi. Some of the citizens (594) of Katsurao-mura are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    8. The administrative functions of Kawauchi-mura have been transferred to Kooriyama City. Some of the citizens (2) of Kawauchi-mura are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    9. The administrative functions of Iitate-mura have been transferred to Fukushima City. Some of the citizens (1,707) of Iitate-mura are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice. There has been continuing detection of radioactive materials in the soil of Iitate-mura. The mayor of Iitate-mura, Mr. Norio Kanno, is absolutely furious about the transfer.

    10. Some of the citizens (13,871) of Minami-Soma City are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice. All other citizens (approx. 57,000) of Minami-Soma City are subject to a Recommended Evacuation Notice (避難勧告). Additionally, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (日弁連) has criticized the cutoff of public assistance to 219 households in Minami-Soma City.

    11. Some of the citizens (1,517) of Tamura City are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    12. Some of the citizens (1,233) of Kawamata-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    13. Some of the citizens (30) of Kagamiishi-machi are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice.

    14. Some of the citizens (38) of Fukushima City are subject to a Mandatory Evacuation Notice. Dosimeters are being issued to school children.

    15. All citizens (approx. 67,129) of Date City are subject to a Recommended Evacuation Notice.

    Many villages and towns will probably cease to exist even though some Recommended Evacuation Notices have not yet been upgraded to Mandatory Evacuation Notices. Some citizens of Fukushima Prefecture have been relocated as far away as Okinawa Prefecture, and there is increasingly strong resistance to forced relocation. At least 966 square kilometers of Fukushima Prefecture are now in an “Off Limits” Zone, which will most likely be uninhabitable long into the future. It also has been admitted that at least eight employees of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have been exposed to at least 250 millisieverts of radiation. Cancers and other maladies from low-dosage radiation over an extended period will take years to develop. Any radiation-related deaths also will be counted as “earthquake related deaths,” the number of which is my greatest fear. Cesium has been detected in the food chain (vegetables, beef, and mothers’ milk) numerous times, but I doubt that a soil decontamination project will be attempted due to the huge expense. It appears that there will be a whole new class of hibakusha (persons subjected to nuclear radiation). Part of TEPCO’s “risk management strategy” was to locate their nuclear power plants as far away from the Tokyo metropolitan area as possible. Unfortunately, the people of Fukushima Prefecture are now paying a horrible price for that decision. Therefore, there is suspicion that much of Fukushima Prefecture will soon be designated as a Special Administrative District (特別行政地区) under the direct control and administration of Japan’s national government.

    The real story is the many thousands more who were swept out to sea and have not even been reported as missing. Japan’s National Tax Agency (国税庁) will eventually assist the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (another repository of Family Registers) in identifying many more missing persons. I am also extremely concerned about Japan beginning to reduce its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities and that the Chinese government will follow suit. Tens of thousands of citizens remain “housed” in evacuation centers scattered throughout 37 prefectures in Japan, and there are now more Japanese on welfare than at any time since immediately after World War II. In the United States, physician Janette Sherman, MD, and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano have published an essay about a 35-percent spike in infant mortality in northwestern cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, which may be the result of fallout from the failed nuclear plant. The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise. The international media has been complicit as the Japanese government and TEPCO have continued to withhold information vital to the public.

    One receives the distinct impression that the Japanese government is treating the release of information as a national security matter. This failure to communicate has only fueled public anger, palpable distrust, and a complete lack of confidence in the Japanese government. The Japanese love their country, but many of them now hate their government. Much more could have been done to cut bureaucratic red tape, waive unnecessary procedures, and eliminate excessive documentation so that evacuees could quickly receive funds, leave evacuation centers, and rebuild their lives. Although the ministry of Finance would prefer to ignore Tohoku and work on repairing Japan’s extremely fragile public finances, this is not the time for unyielding government at the expense of the people (官尊民卑). The callous response of Japan’s central government to the Tohoku disaster only underscores the long-standing prejudice against that region of Japan.

    The NPA has an excellent, well-deserved reputation for professionalism in law enforcement. However, the NPA, which has no particular expertise in communicating information to the public, was set up to fail. Enforcement of Mandatory Evacuation Notices and reporting of information to the public should not have been assigned to the same agency. Reporting on the Great East Japan Earthquake is an outrageous example of “news management” on many levels. A country is dying when their old men start committing suicide, and the tears of Sanriku continue to flow.

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