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Japan Building 22 New Coal Power Plants

December 8, 2021

By Paul Homewood


The BBC – where “news from Japan” means talking to a 70 year old eco-activist!


It’s a glorious autumn afternoon and I’m standing on a hillside looking out over Tokyo Bay. Beside me is Takao Saiki, a usually mild-mannered gentleman in his 70s.

But today Saiki-San is angry.

"It’s a total joke," he says, in perfect English. "Just ridiculous!"

The cause of his distress is a giant construction site blocking our view across the bay – a 1.3-gigawatt coal-fired power station in the making.

"I don’t understand why we still have to burn coal to generate electricity," says Saiki-San’s friend, Rikuro Suzuki. "This plant alone will emit more than seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year!"

Suzuki-San’s point is a good one. Shouldn’t Japan be cutting its coal consumption, not increasing it, at a time of great concern about coal’s impact on the climate?

So why the coal? The answer is the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In 2010 about one third of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear power, and there were plans to build a lot more. But then the 2011 disaster hit, and all Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down. Ten years later most remain closed – and there is a lot of resistance to restarting them.

In their place Japan’s gas-fired power stations have been doing a lot of overtime. But, as Britain has found out recently, natural gas is expensive.

So, the Japanese government decided to build 22 new coal-fired power stations, to run on cheap coal imported from Australia. Economically it made sense. Environmentally, not so much. Japan is now under intense pressure to stop using coal. 

The BBC is still spitting its dummy out over Japan’s intention to carry on building 22 new coal power stations in the next five years, with combined carbon dioxide emissions of 74 million tonnes, about a quarter of Britain’s total emissions.

There is talk of eventually producing blue hydrogen from coal, and converting the plants to burn that instead. However that really is pie in the sky, as it would need carbon capture in the hydrogen process. If you have that, you might just as well use it in the coal plants themselves and carry on burning coal.

The reality is that CCS can only capture a proportion of the carbon dioxide. Meanwhile blue hydrogen will always be horribly expensive.

Of course, the BBC’s preferred solution is renewables:

"Japanese companies need cheap electricity to be competitive and they need clean electricity to be internationally acceptable. That means they need renewable electricity. Delaying this development will harm the Japanese economy."

However, there might be one slight snag with that!


  BP Energy Review

It might not have occurred to the BBC, but Japan cannot simply import electricity when wind and solar are not working flat out. It has no interconnectors, and I doubt very much whether it would want to be totally reliant on Russia or China for its power.

With the shutdown of nuclear power, Japan has little alternative to using fossil fuels, regardless of what the BBC and Saiki-San might think.

  1. December 8, 2021 2:15 pm

    Common sense in Nippon, none in Blighty.

  2. Thomas Carr permalink
    December 8, 2021 2:16 pm

    BBC only have itself to blame for giving so much air time to the Harrabins of this world. A few minutes ago 4% of our demand is being met by coal and about the same from sunlight while we were sending 4% to France. It will be interesting to see the figures at 6pm today when the demand should peak. Refer to Gridwatch , as usual.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      December 8, 2021 2:37 pm

      Hunterston B reactor 3 is now shutdown, never to be restarted and defuelling to begin soon. Reactor 4 will be shutdown for good by the end of January. 1000MW gone for good.
      Hinkley Point B is due to close by the end of August next year but it is now highly unlikely to last even that long. Another 1000MW going.
      Both Hartlepool and Heysham 1 are due to close mid 2024 (2400MW loss) but again is is questionable if either will make it that far.
      Hinkley Point C probably will not come online before Heysham 2 and Torness (2400MW) are on their last legs so it will probably only have Sizewell B for company in the UK.
      The loss of so much firm capacity with nothing reliable to replace it is a disaster just waiting to happen…very soon.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 8, 2021 4:00 pm

      In fairness we are importing more from Holland, Belgium and Norway combined than is going to France. We’re just acting as a conduit to France.

  3. Ray Sanders permalink
    December 8, 2021 2:27 pm

    Notice the common theme here?

    Play on the frail, the sad,the old, women, children etc image of forlorn despair. Doesn’t it just tug at the heart strings?
    Journalism is becoming the worlds most despicable “profession”.

    • Penda100 permalink
      December 8, 2021 4:06 pm

      I thought the picture very appropriate – isn’t she one of the elderly likely to die of hypothermia f the power supply failed?

    • December 8, 2021 8:06 pm

      I would bet a fortune that the severity of risks from the climate, constsantly changing since time began, will remain as they have been for some centuries, uninfluenced by CO2, etc.

  4. John West permalink
    December 8, 2021 2:49 pm

    Ray Sanders has it in one. The end of an era as far as nuclear is concerned – I served part of my student apprenticeship at Hinkley B so it is special to me and I will be sad to see it stop generating.
    the main problem is our politicians, who prevaricate, and of course hardly any of them could explain the difference between a kW, a MW or a GW , let alone the difference between a kW and a kWh !
    We will need some more coal generation to come back on line to fill the void

    • dennisambler permalink
      December 8, 2021 5:06 pm

      The problem is they are blowing up our coal stations so they can’t be used again. They are unlikely to build new ones and the activists will have full government support to stop it happening if they did.

      • T Walker permalink
        December 8, 2021 7:26 pm

        Yes you can’t even see where High Marnham was on the Trent. The site is still there wire-fenced off with all the usual warning signs – so with a will a CCGT station could be built there in fairly short order.

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        December 9, 2021 8:54 am

        An act of sheer madness. Why nit leave them in case science is, once again, completely wrong? It is at the behest of mad Greens who worry that if they are proven wrong we go back to coal – which they hate with irrational stupidity.

        Far too many politicians simply do not recognise the often childish impulses behind much of Green demands.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 9, 2021 10:42 am

        Mr Walker, unless we can produce our own gas then CCGT is NOT the answer due to the rising costs of gas. And if you have no gas storage then it is a very poor choice of fuel compared to coal but there is little change that a new coal plant will be built in the UK. Should war break out in the Ukraine this winter then the Europe wide energy crisis will see the UK collapse as a functioning country.

  5. December 8, 2021 3:00 pm

    Apparently Japan is still home to 150 coal-fired power plants, with 5GW under construction and two 650MW units in planning stages by Marubeni and Kanden Energy Solutions.

    So, we have Drax, a couple of coal fired power stations due to be demolished in 2024, an ever dwindling gas supply, a refusal to tap North Sea oil and nuclear power stations rapidly becoming redundant with perhaps a new one opening some time in the next decade. Perhaps

    Thank goodness we have so many excellent and dependent renewables which I understand from reliable Govt sources can work when there is no wind and no sun with solar being especially effective during long cold winter nights.

    Thank goodness we have such wise leaders in charge.

  6. December 8, 2021 3:03 pm

    The BBC has always campaigned against nuclear power, so what alternative does the BBC think that Japan has, other than coal, when we know that renewables couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding (as you say, renewables are a joke)?

  7. mjr permalink
    December 8, 2021 3:38 pm

    and of course this is all because of the ridiculous overreaction in Japan (and elsewhere) to the Fukushima incident, This was not an inherent problem with nuclear reactors. Rather it was caused by a disruption of electricity supply caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Clearly there should have been a contingency supply in an earthquake zone which would have remained undamaged in any circumstances.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      December 9, 2021 8:52 am

      As I understand it the problem was back-up diesel pumps failed so the seawater couldn’t be pumped out and so flooded the reactor. A basic maintenance issue.

      • LV John permalink
        December 9, 2021 10:26 am

        The problem was that the reactor relied upon back up generators to keep the reactor coolant flowing in an emergency situation. The backup generators were inundated with seawater from the tsunami and failed. The reactor coolant stopped flowing and the reactor melted down.
        If the backup generators had been located elsewhere, well above sea level then the disaster would have been averted.

  8. Dr Ken Pollock permalink
    December 8, 2021 4:21 pm

    Notice how Nicola Sturgeon has gone from boasting about North Sea oil that fuels her economy (don’t mention the Barnett Formula!) to campaigning against the Cambo oil field. We must not use our own fossil fuels (fracking, Cumbria coal mine, more North Sea oil) but it is OK to buy it from overseas – even the Russians.
    The trick is those who want to eschew fossil fuels have not explained how we transition from dependency now to being able to abandon them completely in a net zero world.
    One might have more respect for their position if they saw this transition being actively managed over the next 30 years, rather than claiming we can just stop NOW!
    After all, our international image is of supreme importance, even if the rest of the world is actually laughing at us in private…
    Not that that sort of thing is of any interest to the BBC. It seems as if they have no-one who understands science and numbers, let alone thermodynamics!

    • December 8, 2021 7:02 pm

      I suspect that stance is driven by the prospect of independence, the SNP would need a lot of money to fund its habits.

  9. Gamecock permalink
    December 8, 2021 5:41 pm

    ‘Japan is now under intense pressure to stop using coal.’

    Nah. Not really.

    Westerners yapping is not ‘pressure.’

    Typical BBC begging the question fallacy. Their assertions are not reality. Just noise.

    And Gamecock loves the irony of shutting down nuclear to get COAL in its place.

    • dave permalink
      December 9, 2021 9:42 am

      “Westerners yapping is not ‘pressure.’ ”

      The activists really do not understand this! They are used to pushing on an open door in the decadent West.

      The Japanese used to have an exhortation, “Please continue doing your best!” whenever things were going from farcically idiotic to suicidally insane. World War 2 knocked this nonsense out of them, and ever since they have been, generally, quite pragmatic. By contrast Britain has gone from being a proudly practical nation to a babyish touchy-feely culture.
      We do not even say ‘do your best’; we simply say ‘keep the faith.”

  10. December 8, 2021 6:58 pm

    Three facts about Japan: it has the deepest snowfalls in Asia (that is a Talksport fact, so probably needs checking, see below), very little land for its large population, and is very prone to tropical cyclones. Wind and solar sales-people can stick it … you know where.

    “By many accounts, Aomori City (Japan) is the snowiest place on the planet, receiving around 312 inches of snowfall per year. In general, Japan receives more snowfall than anywhere else, so if you love snow, this is the place to be in the winter.”

    • Gamecock permalink
      December 9, 2021 12:28 am

      Nah. Towns east of Salt Lake City, like Alta and Park City, get up to 500 inches or more per year.

    • December 9, 2021 11:09 am

      Mt Baker Ski Area, Washington State
      1998-1999 World’s Record: 1,140 inches (95.0 feet). Beat out Mt Rainer’s Record
      Average past 50 years: 644.58 inches (54.5 feet).

      2020-21 704
      2019-20 686
      2018-19 538
      2017-18 844
      2016-17 866
      2015-16 622
      2014-15 303
      2013-14 623
      2012-13 740
      2011-12 808
      2010-11 857
      2009-10 644
      2008-09 548
      2007-08 786
      2006-07 660
      2005-06 805
      2004-05 464
      2003-04 633
      2002-03 587
      2001-02 800
      2000-01 449
      1999-00 748
      1998-99 1,140*
      1997-98 648
      1996-97 776
      1995-96 439
      1994-95 542
      1993-94 531
      1992-93 399
      1991-92 373
      1990-91 607
      1989-90 582
      1988-89 627
      1987-88 723
      1986-87 502
      1985-86 522
      1984-85 753
      1983-84 595
      1982-83 657
      1981-82 819
      1980-81 277
      1979-80 527
      1978-79 510
      1977-78 471
      1976-77 373
      1975-76 795
      1974-75 825
      1973-74 958
      1972-73 612
      1971-72 1,008
      1970-71 1,063

  11. December 8, 2021 7:02 pm

    Japan Building 22 New Coal Power Plants — is small beer…

    China has almost 3,000 coal plants, including the world’s biggest one.

  12. T Walker permalink
    December 8, 2021 7:39 pm

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

    usually attributed to Albert Einstein as we all know I’m sure.

    The Germans are a decade or two ahead of us in the idiocy which is the move to renewables – now after 100’s bn Euro they decide to make their “sustainable” choices include Nuclear and GAS.

    At the same time Bozo Johnson who grows more like a child every day decides GAS will be banned.

    How long before the men in grey suits accompanied by men in white coats take him away (please)

    I have written a couple of times to my MP – an honourable man. BUT when your MP is 15 years younger than your children you don’t have much faith in them knowing or achieving anything except clambering up to greasy pole that is politics.

    • December 8, 2021 8:16 pm

      Another feature of insanity is not to face facts, ignorance being no excuse in a politican such as our PM since, listening to his crazy wife on energy is a sure sign of feeble mindedness in both husband and wife.

      He must go back to some occupation where his insanity will not matter, like writing books.

  13. John Hultquist permalink
    December 8, 2021 9:02 pm

    “Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down. Ten years later most remain closed ”

    That seems long enough that they won’t be restarted; maybe rebuilt. With the world about to end in less than 10 years, why bother?

  14. Graeme No.3 permalink
    December 8, 2021 9:17 pm

    Not just Japan. Greece started shutting down its lignite power stations in 2019 planning to use wind and gas after 2023, but has now restarted them.

    Greece does not have natural gas reserves and therefore has to import the gas at a high price, making the price of electricity increasingly expensive and unaffordable.

    Greek government still aims to change over to wind and solar, but environmentalists are critical of wind farms in the Aegean Sea, especially Greenpeace Greece. Wind park construction licenses were granted for the island of Amorgos. “However, the plants have not been built. The potential investors have probably lost interest,”

    • Peter permalink
      December 9, 2021 2:22 am

      “but environmentalists are critical of wind farms in the Aegean Sea, especially Greenpeace Greece.”

      WHAT !!!!! Greenpeace in Greece is against wind farms?!

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        December 9, 2021 9:06 pm

        Only those that someone wants to build.

  15. Sobaken permalink
    December 9, 2021 8:31 am

    “whether it would want to be totally reliant on Russia or China for its power”
    Even if they wanted to be reliant on Russia, the Eastern Grid only has about 11 GW of installed generation capacity, producing 44 TWh a year (60% of which is from fossil fuels anyway), of which 3 TWh is exported to China. Compared to over 900 TWh demand in Japan, that’s nothing.

  16. Phoenix44 permalink
    December 9, 2021 8:47 am

    “But, as Britain has found out recently, natural gas is expensive.”

    Except that it hasn’t been until very recently. When I started work 30 years ago in an oil & gas company, we were almost giving away gas in the US. And if its “expensive” why did we ban franking?

    As for the elderly Japanese gentleman being an ordinary member of the public who just happens to know how much CO2 in tonnes will be emitted….puhleaze.

  17. DJE permalink
    December 10, 2021 9:24 am

    “Japanese companies need cheap electricity to be competitive and they need clean electricity to be internationally acceptable. That means they need renewable electricity. However, renewable electricity is not cheap, therefore they will not be competitive. Is it now more important to be internationally acceptable than anything else?

  18. tom0mason permalink
    December 10, 2021 10:12 am

    Rupert Wingfield-Hayes nor his Japanese wife has no scientific qualifications. He and his wife are language and culture hacks

    Wingfield-Hayes was born in London in 1967. He was educated at Bishop Luffa School, a comprehensive school in Chichester, England. He studied South East Asian Studies at the University of Hull (BA) and Far Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (MA). He spent two years studying Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, where he met his Japanese wife. He is the great-nephew of Major-General Eric Hayes.[3]

    Rupert Wingfield-Hayes’s net worth is estimated to be $15 million per Net Worth Post.

    References for Takao Saiki do not state any scientific qualifications but he and his friend Rikuro Suzuki are very active and vocal advocates of ‘Blue Hydrogen’ in Japan.

    It would seem (again) the BBC is using well-off, authoritative sounding names to voice nonsense on subjects they have no qualifications and little knowledge.

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