The Japanese fuel crisis

One consequence of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that is not receiving as much press as the ongoing struggle to cool the damaged reactors, but which continues to influence more people, is the lack of fuel. Nine of the Japanese refineries were damaged and put out of action, and this dropped the amount of fuel being refined from 4,500,000 bd down to 3,100,000 bd. (Note that the Guardian report I quoted earlier was off by a factor of ten.) The lack of fuel for transportation affects not only those in the disaster area, but also those away from it, since food and fuel itself depend on transport to move it to customers around the country.

"What we urgently need now is fuel, heavy and light oil, water and food. More than anything else, we need fuel because we can't do anything without it. We can't stay warm or work the water pumps," said Masao Hara, the mayor of Koriyama city, in Fukushima prefecture.

The refineries that remain in production are responding to the need. Idemitsi Kosan has raised production at its four refineries by 83,200 bd (from 87% to 100% production) and Cosmo Oil has raised production at its two operating refineries by an additional 80,000 bd but this does not match the size of the problem.

There are several different aspects to the problem; first the oil has to come ashore. With ports closed and unable to re-open for possibly months, shipments from the Middle East, which supplies 80% of Japan’s need, have now been curtailed until the situation becomes clearer. Within the country, the Japanese Government has released around 8 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserve. It is also shipping 250,000 barrels of refined product to the area affected by sea (though this runs into the issue of how to get into the ports and distribution network). At Chiba some of the port has been able to re-open but not the terminal that fed to the Cosmo refinery (since that had burned).

Then the oil must be refined. There are 29 refineries in Japan, and Wikipedia lists them as follows. (I have modified the list to show which ones have had a status change).

▪ Chiba Refinery (Cosmo Oil) (Cosmo Oil), 240,000 bbl/d (38,000 m3/d) CLOSED BY EARTHQUAKE & BURNING
▪ Yokkaichi Refinery (Cosmo Oil), 175,000 bbl/d (27,800 m3/d) INCREASING PRODUCTION
▪ Sakai Refinery (Cosmo Oil) (Cosmo Oil), 80,000 bbl/d (13,000 m3/d)
▪ Sakaide Refinery (Cosmo Oil), 140,000 bbl/d (22,000 m3/d) INCREASING PRODCTION
▪ Muroran Refinery (Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)), 180,000 bbl/d (29,000 m3/d)
▪ Sendai Refinery (Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)), 145,000 bbl/d (23,100 m3/d) CLOSED BY EARTHQUAKE
▪ Negishi Yokahama Refinery (Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)), 340,000 bbl/d (54,000 m3/d) CLOSED BY EARTHQUAKE
▪ Osaka Refinery (Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)) 115,000 bpd
▪ Mizushima Refinery (Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)), 250,000 bbl/d (40,000 m3/d)
▪ Marifu Refinery (Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)) 127,000 bpd
▪ Toyama Refinery (Nihonkai Oil/Nippon Oil Corporation (NOC)), 60,000 bbl/d (9,500 m3/d)
▪ Kubiki Refinery (Teikoku Oil), 4,410 bbl/d (701 m3/d)
▪ Chiba Refinery (Kyokuto) (Kyokuto Petroleum/ExxonMobil), 175,000 bbl/d (27,800 m3/d) CLOSED BUT RESTARTED
▪ Kawasaki Refinery (TonenGeneral Sekiyu/ExxonMobil), 335,000 bbl/d (53,300 m3/d) CLOSED BUT GETTING READY TO RESTART
▪ Wakayama Refinery (TonenGeneral Sekiyu/ExxonMobil), 170,000 bbl/d (27,000 m3/d)
▪ Sakai Refinery (TonenGeneral) (TonenGeneral Sekiyu/ExxonMobil), 156,000 bbl/d (24,800 m3/d)
▪ Nishihara Refinery (Nansei sekiyu/Petrobras), 100,000 bbl/d (16,000 m3/d)
▪ Keihin Refinery (Toa Oil/Shell), 185,000 bbl/d (29,400 m3/d)
▪ Showa Yokkaichi Refinery (Showa Yokkaichi/Shell), 210,000 bbl/d (33,000 m3/d) SENDING PRODUCT OVERLAND
▪ Yamaguchi Refinery (Seibu Oil/Shell), 120,000 bbl/d (19,000 m3/d)
▪ Sodegaura Refinery (Fuji Oil Campany), 192,000 bbl/d (30,500 m3/d) INCREASING PRODUCTION
▪ Kashima Refinery (Kashima Oil Campany/Japan Energy), 210,000 bbl/d (33,000 m3/d) CLOSED BY EARTHQUAKE
▪ Mizushima Refinery (Japan Energy) (Japan Energy), 205,200 bbl/d (32,620 m3/d)
▪ Shikoku Refinery (Taiyo Oil), 120,000 bbl/d (19,000 m3/d)
▪ Ohita Refinery (Kyusyu Oil), 160,000 bbl/d (25,000 m3/d)
▪ Hokkaido Refinery (Idemitsu Kosan), 140,000 bbl/d (22,000 m3/d) INCREASING PRODUCTION
▪ Chiba Refinery (Idemitsu) (Idemitsu Kosan), 220,000 bbl/d (35,000 m3/d) CLOSED BY EARTHQUAKE BUT BACK ON LINE AND INCREASING PRODUCTION
▪ Aichi Refinery (Idemitsu Kosan), 160,000 bbl/d (25,000 m3/d) INCREASING PRODUCTION
▪ Tokuyama Refinery (Idemitsu Kosan), 120,000 bbl/d (19,000 m3/d) INCREASING PRODUCTION

(The last four refinery increases in production will add another 83 kbd to the total.)

By the end of the month it is expected that the recovery will only be to 3.4 mbd, although this will still leave the country some 1 mbd short of the refined fuel it needs.

At present only one LNG terminal, at Shinminato, remains closed, but it is unlikely that this will reopen in the near term. The rest are operational, and LNG cargoes will be made available from a number of sources, if needed.

Japanese LNG ports

The northeast coast ports of Hachinohe, Sendai, Ishinomaki and Onahama are so severely damaged that they are not expected to return to normal operations for months.

Looking at a map (from Stratfor) showing the power plants, and the road layout, the damage to the distribution network with the destruction at Sendai illustrates the problem in gaining access to the damaged area and in sending in new fuel. Food to parts of Ishinomaki has had to be delivered by helicopter, and for a town of 160,000 this is not nearly enough.

As the Independent reports

On the drive north out of Sendai city in northeast Japan, a slip-road takes you to a motorway that would normally be filled with traffic, but was this week a scene of destruction to rival the most far-fetched Hollywood disaster movie. A thick coating of mud had been deposited at the toll booth, along with smashed vehicles, motorbikes and heavy machinery from a nearby factory. Beyond the booth, the road rose up to meet the highway and a panoramic view of the blitzed landscape below, where a jumble of hundreds of cars, trucks, and splintered debris stretched as far as the eye could see. In the background, thick black smoke billowed from fires burning at a damaged oil refinery near the city bay.

Japanese infrastructure (Stratfor)

There are trunk pipelines running from the main LNG terminals, to assist in distribution.

Japanese trunk pipelines and LNG terminals

Fuel needs are not just gasoline and diesel for vehicles. With the bitter cold that remains over much of the north of Japan, and no electric power, kerosene is also needed for heating. For domestic heating many homes rely on kerosene stoves to heat individual rooms in use, rather than using central heating. Stocks had been falling before the earthquake, due to the severe winter this year. And with stocks being sent to help refugees, there are now shortages in other parts of Japan.

While there are some indications that the nuclear problems may be being brought under control, the problems of fuel shortage and the cascading problem of food, fuel, and other resource distribution that it brings with it are likely to remain in Japan for several weeks as the crisis continues.

When the trains don't run:

Japan disaster child volunteers
A group of boys turns misfortune into good deeds by spearheading relief efforts for quake and tsunami victims.

List of Japanese power plants under "Energy Transitions", "Japan" on my
web site

Japanese meltdown highlights energy dilemma as peak oil enters hot phase

Lived in Japan and I swear I could always smell the kerosene and I remember the heaters in the winter. Rich folks had heated floors. That was nice. So how much fuel did the pre-earthquake Japanese use of each type. Is ethanol a suitable replacement, although I was suspect equipment changes would be needed. I remember the Kerosene, I just wonder where we might be headed with that. Any info out there?

Edit: One big thing all have left out, you will bump into it and get burned at least once a winter, gosh darn it!

Edit2: You can cook on top of many too, for a true twofer.

Very few folks living in the states are aware that kerosene is the fuel of choice for heating and cooking in many countries. Next milkshake to drink; natural gas. The subsidation of kerosene in India is a major topic of debate within that country. If they don't get cheap kerosene, they'll denude what countryside hasn't been denuded to cook and keep warm with.

True. Many of the environmental problems of India, and particularly Bangladesh, result from forest denudation deriving from cutting for cooking fuel. If the foothills of the Himalayas were still forested there wouldn't be half the run-off and hence flooding that is caused when the Brahmaputra and its tributaries are forced to transit unnaturally vast volumes of rain water. Living in the flood plain of one of the world's great river systems will always be fraught with danger, but when you destroy the absorptive capacity of the upland feed systems you will get disasters. Too many people I'm afraid.

Finally someone's talking about the Japanese fuel crisis.
I also read the reports about this issue and every single gov official said that the problem was neither food nor water but lack of fuel(read: oil) which prevented them to deal with the slowly unfolding humanitarian crisis after the initial shock.

A lot of people, especially elders, died because of lack of medicine in the aftermath because there was not sufficient oil to use in order to ship the supplies(food, water, medicine) people needed.

The 1mb/d in refined fuel that's missing can be, as you point out, to some(or even large) extent be remedied by natural gas(coal has also been mentioned).

Oil will need to be shipped, though, for the reconstruction. The World Bank came out today with a report on the subject where they predicted that the Japanese economy will face the crippling effects of this disaster 'for years'.

About 5 % of their GDP will be needed for reconstruction according to their first estimates, but that number excludes the inevitable loss of GDP that will come this year(and next) as parts of their industrial base is either destroyed/damaged or simply offline/temporarily closed as the situation is still quite bad.

And that 5 %(minimum) will have to be taken from country coffers chronically indebted and in the very deep red.

Japan has over 200 % of debt-to-GDP ratio and a very high deficit already. Adding another 5 % (minimum) requires very strong growth prospects not to blow up in their faces. Can anyone honestly look forward 5-10 years and claim with utmost seriousness that thee see nothing but sunshine? (Note: CERA fanboys need not apply)

I wonder if the Japanese even will get to enough growth to do something about the situation before a second recession(or possibly a full-scale depression) hits the world, as 11 out of 12 of the world's last recessions since WWII have followed an oil shock - big or small - and we are at the cusp right now. With reconstruction on it's way, the Japanese will need more oil, even if they only try to get to their previous level, which will further pressure, or perhaps even speed on, the oncoming oil shock and thus spiral their economy back to the mud, where they've been on-and-off again for the last 20 years.

Poor Japan.

Are there any pipelines to Japan under the sea from the Asian mainland? I saw some proposals once. I see the refinery information, I wonder how the domestic distribution pipelines fared?

Japan has (one of ?) the highest life expectancies in the world. They also have the oldest population, and the highest percentage of pensioners.

In a sense Japan is 2 decades ahead of the rest of the West in the decline of industrial civilisation. They are a hard working, insular, deeply traditional society with iron self-control in the face of adversity. Their economic expansion hit the buffers two decades ago because the people stopped consuming. They had all the gadgets and cars they could fit into their tiny homes on their heavily over-populated islands. They put their wages into savings, and particularly government bonds, and presumably pension plans. Most of the Japanese government debt is with the Japanese people themselves. If they default, it will be the pensioners who go hungry.

Japan is going to one day wake up and find itself poor. A lot of old people are going to die sooner than they expected. The population will fall rapidly as demographics takes a grip. What will the younger Japanese do ? I do not know.

You're right, they are hit by a multitude of crises. The U.S. has by comparison much healthier demographics.

The Japanese are barely squeezing out babies as it is. Is the birthrate 1.1 or something like that? They'll have a halving of the population within a generation.

In some cases, and I know this sounds horrible(because it is), but it might be a blessing of sorts. It's better for natural decline to deal with overpopulation(because Japan definitely is overpopulated) than let it be trimmed by internal resource wars between ethnic/religious groups which might well happen in many parts of the world, Europe and the U.S. included.

And it's true that their debt situation is better than it looks like since it's mostly(but not wholly) owed to it's own people. They also have a feastly amount of foreign exchange reserves(quite a lot of it is US bonds at very low interest rates which they might now rake in, instead of keep buying, which is a threat to America in the short term).

Still, despite savings and the rest of it, I struggle to see how they will not be one of the first to be hit as they are 99.9 % reliant on oil imports. The U.S. has a better hand in many ways, since it has much more land, oil and gas than does Japan.

And even in homogenous Japan, a lot of people are distrustful of people even outside of their immediate villages(or so you can read in the Guardian) following the recent events. And stoicism, while admirable at it's best, can turn into passivity and complacency. Even indifference.

I think Japan will come through the coming transition far better than many other countries.

The other country which will recover well in the long run is about as different as you can get, culturally. India is also facing massive population decline, but it has very few old people. It will be the poor that starve in India. However, they are ultimately fatalistic in their beliefs. They may be miserable in this lifetime, but when they are reborn their next life may be better, or the one after that...

Their culture is as old, if not older than Japan's. A hundred years from now, Industrial India will just be another chapter in their history books. Not that most of them will be able to read it.

They may want to start studying some of the strategies employed by Cuba during the 'special period.'

If they don't poison all of their crop land with radioactive isotopes, their traditional reverence for (and, to some, coddling of) native farmers may become a blessing. I'm not sure what role international trade rules might play in disallowing them from becoming more self-reliant.

Regarding Japanese longevity: In fact, the Japanese government doesn't really know precisely how many old people they have. Speaking about this with a Japanese rotational employee working here I learned that the Japanese government doesn't have the equivalent of a social security number. And hospitals and funeral homes are not required to report deaths. Old people die and it frequently isn't reported. Many families continue to receive checks for dead parents. They simply have no way to accurately know who has died and who is still living.

Old people die and it frequently isn't reported. Many families continue to receive checks for dead parents. They simply have no way to accurately know who has died and who is still living.

Some of that probably happens all over but in the US there are fairly serious consequences if you collect Soc Sec checks for the dead. You would think the pension systems in Japan would be at least as well protected from fraud.

I am from Chicago where, back in the days of Richard Daley Sr., it was fairly common knowledge that dead people were not always expunged from the list of eligible voters--'vote early and vote often' was an enough repeated phrase supposedly describing precinct captains and there army of operatives voting practices. It's hard to believe 21st century Japan doesn't keep better track of people than Chicago did through the most of the 20th century.

I probably shouldn't even comment, as I do not know Japan at all, but let's try looking at the situation from a different perspective. The younger Japanese are going to have jobs - they are replacing a declining number of older workers. I would expect the employment rate to improve, as is happening in Europe.

I have read that many villages and towns in the most-affected areas were in irreversible demographic decline, with elderly populations that the government felt honor bound to maintain. Now, many unsustainable towns and villages may simply be abandoned - their residents moving to areas with the services they require and/or to live closer, or even with, their children. This will free the government from rebuilding infrastructure in unsustainable areas. This will result in savings of other sorts, such as concentrating services in a more logical way.

There will be a stimulus from rebuilding the more sustainable areas in the north.

Japan has a public transportation infrastructure that will serve it well in this time of fuel uncertainty.

The declining population will mean that housing in the more sustainable areas will be more fully occupied.

Can anyone really say that the Japanese would be better off with a rapidly growing young population that would need to be housed and fed for an unforeseeable amount of time, along with the other crises? The displaced elderly may well be absorbed more easily into the existing housing stock and social service structure than a younger, growing, population.

The northern part of Honshu may become a wilder place, with larger nature preserves and cleaner and less intrusive use of natural resources. Such a benefit comes from an aging population. If Japan had 30 million more young people in the affected area - that would compound the problems.

I think Japan's aging population is a positive in this otherwise awful situation.

In any event, you can't just add people indefinitely because the ratio of young people to old people decreases. Japan is not exactly a low population country compared to resources. At some point, you have to bite the bullet. We will learn from Japan as they are going through a painful but necessary demographic transition.

I've had the good fortune to visit Japan a few times. I observed:
- hard working well educated people
- small houses
- small cars that are viewed as a luxury and not owned by everyone
- heavy use of public transit
- energy efficiency is a visible priority
- little spent on military or foreign meddling

In other words, they seem to be living a life that we will have to emulate soon. Yet they have one of the highest debt to GDP ratios in the world. Could it be that due to a lack of natural resources Japan bumped up against limits to growth first?

Japan has bumped into an immovable fact-that being that money is only a means of keeping track of claims on true wealth-true wealth being food, water, shelter, medicine fuel, other concrete goods, and the ability to command the services of others- from doctors to street cleaners.

Everybody who puts thier faith in money as such , over a long period of time, is apt to find that conditions have changed;Japanese houses, no matter how well built and maintained, are going to be in excess supply as the population declines- ditto stores, restaurants, etc.

The young people are not going to be able to pay enough taxes to redeem the bonds held by thier elders, and the world in general is pretty well on thwe way to developing an allergy to bonds- nobody is going to want to roll them over much longer or many more times.

Maybe the Japanese will decide to allow a large number of young immigrants into the country, as unlikely as that seems.

Such immigrants would allow the Japanese to put off the day of reckoning for awhile, as they consume little in taxes but pay plenty-and are often willing to take on long term debt to buy real estate, etc, at inflated prices.

But in the end all savings and pensions and investments are just schemes to store up today's earning power for future use, hopefully managing some growth along the way.

But money is not wealth- the communists knew a few things.

Wealth is in the fewest possible words is an emergent property of a knowledgeable, energetic community of citizens adequately supplied with essential natural resources.

Japan has little in the line of natural resources, and will have little in the way of an energetic population soon- old people cannot work very hard if they work at all.

The Japanese have one way out- immigrants.

Immigrants, low paid and hard working, are a viable means of kicking the can down the road for a decade or two , maybe longer.

I will be very surprised if Japan increases immigration. When visiting Japan you sense that you are an unwelcome outsider despite the outward friendliness of the people. Japan is a very closed and homogeneous society.

I think that declining and aging populations with much paper wealth destruction and reduced material consumption are trends we will all experience very soon.

On the ball as always, OFM. But I'll argue one point here - what will the young immigrants do? Many of the factory jobs have moved to China or S. Korea, and the manufacturing that remains is very specialised and needs well educated people.
I see it as the equivalent of a company, with an ageing workforce and shrinking market - hiring a whole bunch of young people can help them only if there is something productive for them to do.

I had read an article recently, which I can;t find now, about Japan's "stagnation", and it pointed out, that despite GDP being flat for two decades, Japan still has first rate quality of life, education, life expectancy, the trains run on time, etc etc. Viewed as a "steady state" economy, it doesn;t seem so bad. The coming population decline in Japan can;t be avoided, IMO, and it's GDP may shrink, but that doesn;t mean the end of the world for Japan, it is just a cycle.

Most companies go through similar cycles - sometimes with the assistance of bankruptcy- and there is usually a reduction in complexity, people, areas of operations, etc, that then sets the stage for renewed success. IF, and it is a big if, Japan can somehow de-couple its growth from energy, then they may yet do well. And if there is any country that I would back to innovate its way off oil, in particular, that would be Japan. This disaster, as unfortunate as it is, may well be the push that is needed for a radical energy restructure.

And, as I said above, there are positives to such a population. Japan can confidently look forward to a lessened need for expensive oil imports. Can we say so much?

sure, endless population growth must be the smart solution to this problem...

I would recomend against that (imigrtion). Better to pull down the houses as they go vacant. That will keep prices up and prevent a house mrket collapse. The houses would then provide some raw material for manifacturing. As more and more land gets set free, they can turn it into farming areas and produce food. 100 years down the road, they will be a selfsustained agicultural civilizaton. And still alive.

If they take in imigrants, they squander that chance. Smart countries stop imigration and begin the depopulation process.

You sure about that? Xenophobia does not help your economy IMHO.

Singapore has a long history of immigration. There are slightly over 5 million people in Singapore of which 2.91 million are born locally. Forty-three percent of the population in Singapore are foreign-born. Singapore has a diverse population made up mainly of Asians (mostly Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Asians of various other descents) and some Caucasians. A.T. Kearney named Singapore the most globalised country in the world in 2001 in its Globalization Index.

The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world. Singapore possesses the world's tenth largest foreign reserves. The country also maintains armed forces that are technologically advanced and well-equipped.

Before independence in 1965, Singapore had a GDP per capita of $511, the third highest in East Asia at the time. After independence, foreign direct investment and a state-led drive for industrialisation based on plans by former Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee and Albert Winsemius created a modern economy. After a contraction of -6.8% in the 4th quarter of 2009, Singapore claimed the title of fastest-growing economy in the world, with GDP growth of 14.5% for the year 2010.

Not to burst your bubble, but there's a clear track record of chinese immigrants which tends to be very well compared to the track record of say, africans.

African immigration tends to only work when restricting immigration to the upper middle class. For the chinese, it doesn't appear to matter much who you take in.

Singapore has done extremely well in terms of immigration because of the quality of it's immigrants.

And labelling all policies other than senseless massimmigration as 'xenophobia' exposes one as a person who is little more than a far-left zealot.

As a curious sidenote, the man to have started the miracle of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, has very distinct opinions on certain migrant groups too:

Singapore has done extremely well in terms of immigration because of the quality of it's immigrants.


Are you referring to the temporary labour they import for on two year contracts from India, Bangladesh and previously Malaysia. I have worked with these people in the ship building industry, a better word would be slave labour, as nearly all of their two year wages has to be paid out to agents in there own country to get the job in the first place. The only money they really earn is their over time. The Singapore construction industry is run in the same style with the crews living in shipping containers on site. Of course these are considered good jobs by the workers, so it really makes you wonder what choices they have at home?

It is amazing how many of these lovely shining progressive countries have a dark side supporting the upper classes.

From what I have seen in the countries where I have worked, I am always very appreciative of where I was born.

Well Said. German 'guest workers', as they were euphemistically called, have stayed and now Germany's largest non-German minority is Turkish. They didn't just go home. Ditto nearly everywhere, except in the middle east where all the hard work is done by immigrant labourers who have practically no residence - or other - rights at all.

On balance it is best for any country to have to cope with the difficulties of a declining population, I should say.

I do wonder though, notwithstanding where Japan's wealth is lodged, if the cost of rebuilding might just be more than their economy can bear, and the world's resources too. This just might be the first time in history since the fall of Rome that a truly significant ruined civilized infrastructure has been unable to replicate itself.

I'm afraid I don't count the New World cultures here.

I am a Creole from Alabama. You know, THOSE people. Mom was a first generation immigrant from Korea, dad 8th generation from Spain. You got all that about me from one sentence? I gathered much from what you wrote.

And labeling all policies other than senseless massimmigration as 'xenophobia' exposes one as a person who is little more than a far-left zealot.

1. My Creole ancestors drove off the red man and met the white man here.
2. Nothing left about me, you know ZERO about my politics.
3. I blog regularly in and I believe in evolution and I do not take the bible literally. I regularly get called commie liberal for that.
4. I have voted GOP almost my whole life. I am a combat vet. Dad was a decorated vet. Chosin Reservoir.
5. I have been discriminated against my whole life by both sides of the political spectrum.
6. Maybe the right has destroyed our country or at least facilitated debt growth.
7. Xenophobia is defined as the "hatred or fear of foreigners or strangers or of their politics or culture".[1] It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning "stranger," "foreigner" and φόβος (phobos), meaning "fear."
8. Linking quote from experts in one field but weighing in on another is like posting about the virtues of Benjamin Shockley's eugenics. Or like an amateur poster here. You and I.
9. There is much racism and bias here at the oildrum. Few call it out. I will. Do I look for it? You dang right! I swear to fight for all. I swore such when I got my Butter Bar!
10. I do not like you and the other bigots and if you want to call me a liberal to my face, I call you a fascist to yours!
11. I carried a rifle in the desert for you to have an opinion. I also carried that rifle to call out intolerance when I see it. This is racism. The other 'watch who you immigrate posts' too. I am glad the NBA is not so biased!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think that fits all the racists and cultural elitists. I could take black folks from New Orleans and run a nuke plant if you give me enough money and teachers. Expect it to take at least a generation.

Japan is smart enough not to flood their crowded island country with immigrants who are not as intelligent and industrious as they are and who would only cause cultural dislocation.

However, they might not be be smart enough to handle fiat money or get off fossil fuels.

And this is probably true for the entire world.

Japan before earthquake: 4.5mbd oil/127 m people= 0.35 barrels/person/day.

US: 19.7 mbd/311 m people= 0.63 barrels/person/day. Japan's use of oil is 56% of ours, per capita. It will be interesting to see how they manage further long-term reductions.

How about in now way whatsoever? Assuming the quake killed 20k people their population will have been reduced by .0016%. The #1 selling car was the Prius. Japan has been going great guns to reduce oil consumption for decades now.

Maybe enough infrastructure will have been destroyed to trim a bit of their consumption, but only a bit, I'd reckon.

You did the division incorrectly so your numbers are off. It looks like they are high by a factor of 10. Sanity check is that it is hard to believe that an average person would use a half a barrel of oil per day.

I am getting 1/16 of a bbl per day, which is a lot, however.

3.5 gallons of oil in everything we do each day!

The other serious long term consequence is that many of their customers will find alternative suppliers while their production is cutback. Those sales might be gone forever as buyers will be reluctant to put themselves in the same position again.

Good points made by everybody commenting- globalism in some respects is nothing more than a race to the bottom insofar as wages and prices of manufactured or processed goods are concerned.

Any young people who might be admitted into Japan must work for rather low wages in order to compete with other workers in other countries which are rapidly entering the industrial era- the apanese and German manufacturing sxectors will not be able to stay on top too much longer. Superior technology is not a permanent cureall; it can be defeated by good workers turning out good stuff for lower wages.

I don't expect the Japanese to admit any significant number of immigrants in the near or mid term- but when thier welfare state and savings are about to crash , they might, as a last (currently unthinkable) resort-at some future time.

Otoh, the Japanese are among the most resourceful people anywhere, and they won't just roll over and give up.

I expect they will be teaching the rest of us quite a bit about adapting to a low energy lifestyle while maintaining a decent standard of living.

I expect they will be teaching the rest of us quite a bit about adapting to a low energy lifestyle while maintaining a decent standard of living.

You could argue they already have, just the we have not learned!

They already live in transit oriented cities, they drive smaller cars and less miles, they build smaller houses and use less energy to heat them, they have preserved vast areas of forest ecosystem (higher % than any other country).

Their main "consumption" is of consumer electronics (and media) and clothes, not accumulating lots of household "stuff"

In other words, they have already done most of the easy energy saving stuff that we have not.

They do still have a higher oil consumption per capita than need be, but that is partly from the kerosene use, and a lot of industrial use - this will likely change, and fast, as even more industry moves offshore.

I think they will indeed lead the way for how a modern society goes through a forced power down - let us hope it is not too painful for them (or us)

I think the Japanese will shake off a lot of financial parasites on the investment economy.

I think the Japanese are a hell of a lot more capable of responding to their natural disasters that we are.

I see cooperation a magnitude better than ours.

Any reports on what this blow have done to the insurance industry? Must have been their worst blow ever.

I've seen some things in the WSJ (behind paywall unfortunately - you might be able to google through). However unless someone specifically purchased earthquake insurance, they would likely not be covered (force majeure). Then of course the insurance company's lawyers could argue the damage was caused by the tsunami (what, no tsunami insurance? Sorry 残念). See insurance companies after Katrina for instance (you have hurricane insurance? it was the flooding - you have flooding insurance? it was the hurricane - lather, rinse, repeat).

Only a lawyer could get it to the point where tsunamis are not earthquake. "It was not the earthquake that brought down your house, it was the shaking of the house that made it collapse".

I don't doubt they will try it, though.

Thanks for bringing up this super-important topic. While the nuclear fiasco is the acute issue and has everyone's attention, use of fossil fuels in Japan is the larger chronic issue that should be framing every analysis of that country.

I'd like to call attention to the pre-existing trends of fuel use in Japan with some charts from the prototype JODI databrowser that show consumption, refinery output and stocks for various fuels. By having a look at the existing trends of fuel use we may be able to better understand how the fuel crisis in Japan will play out both in Japan and in world markets.

First up is kerosene where we can see the seasonal cycle of wintertime use mentioned by TinFoilHatGuy:

In the upper half we can see that refinery output of kerosene has been fairly steady while consumption has dropped in recent years. I haven't looked to see whether this is due to warmer winters or efficiency but, whatever the cause, this has allowed Japan to move from net imports to net exports of kerosene in recent years. We should expect Japan to quickly run through its three week supply of stocks (bottom half) and be looking to import as much during the current cold spell as their port infrastructure can handle.

The other petroleum-derived fuel that will be key in the short term is diesel:

Since 2002, Japan has seen a large decline in diesel consumption according to the JODI data. This has been accompanied by a smaller decline in refinery output and has allowed Japan to become a net exporter of diesel. (Note that units are barrels per month rather than per day.) Japan will need huge amounts of diesel in the coming months to fuel reconstruction and to run diesel generators.

It seems clear that this crisis will soon affect global markets for refined productions IF the Japanese import infrastructure can be quickly restored. That's the part that is still in question for me.

Best Hopes for Japan and the Japanese.


Thanks, Jon:
I think that the kerosene distribution is also going to play into this. Remember that there is a lot of Japan that was not directly impacted by the earthquake or tsunami, but which will, over the longer term, see more of the impact through the availability (i.e. production and distribution) problems which are now becoming evident.

Not to mention the 200,000 bdoe or thereabouts that will be needed in one form or another to replace the lost nuclear power plants.

Looking at the pictures of all the quake and tsunami damaged towns and villages, I am struck by the fact that most of the houses are now kindling, literally. Why not burn it to keep warm? Are the Japanese so culturally averse to fire (admittedly they've lost substantial portions of their cities and population to same)? Personally if I were there and freezing my patoose, I'd be building something reasonably smaller than a Texas Tech bonfire, but not much smaller.

Also there are literally thousands of cars lying around, with thousands of semi-full gas tanks. If I were trying to get out of town, and there were no gas stations open, I'd know how to use a siphon hose credit card. Might be water in the gas, but that can be fixed with strong sake.

Perhaps give those fine intrepid lads in the first post something even more constructive to do with their time?

Good points. Fuel and wood salvage should be possible. I thought about the wood myself. I hope they do not land fill all that wood. It could be reclaimed in various forms -- or converted to biomass fuel.

As far as gas tank siphoning. I think a little water would separate easy enough. Sure you would hurt your engine but well it is free fuel. You better know the difference between diesel and gasoline!

You never know. Maybe there is a lot of this behavior happening already out there. The media are not showing much of the real disaster in the news imho.

All Japanese mechanic toolboxes have a siphon hose. In Korea, stealing gas was a rite of passage like the rock lifting. At least it used to be.

Edit: The Japanese, no way, until times like now, they are doing that in spades, I assure you. Well, not as often anyhow. When I was young the kids would burn the trash in a 55 gallon drum and keep warm that way. Too bad those drums aren't around like they used to be, all poly now.

I ran a company there for years. have no fear they will do everything in their power to recycle the wood etc. I would venture a guess that creating a fire from your neighbor's
kindling (ex-house) would not be part of the social contract. The scavenging of gas from a totaled car is in a different class. in fact one could even argue that it will goto waste
in less than a year, and be a fire hazard, two very big social consciousness issues in Japan.

Siphoning is an art form in Japan. They use the little fish pump type tube with hand pump. Small and easy to carry. Much safer. Japanese person will wait an hour, no problem. Average Japanese persons knows ten times as much about such things as Westerners or at least they used to. Has that changed?

Edit: And if my wood stud is trash, take it so I dont have to have it hauled off. They do try to build to code now for obvious reasons or they recently used to.

Rolls eyes. Those cars are right offs. Why bother with a syphon, way too complicated? Just push a bowl under and make a hole.


If they were immersed in water, yes, the engines are a write off within 36 hours (but good for scrap), and the interiors. but not the tires, and other aspects of the car. this is pretty much
the standard for the insurance companies in the US. I suspect the japanese will do better than that. There is a tremendous market for "late model" cars coming out of Japan to Africa
and Russia (i've bought them). I'll be interested to see hear what happens from my African friends. Being an antique I used to drive a car that was underwater in the 1972 Agnus flood (freshwater)
and boy it was difficult to keep that body from rusting out before PA inspections. I grew a life long hatred for patching with fiber glass out of that.

Well the recent kerosene decline has to be a transition to another fuel or less population IMHO. That is why I asked about natural gas and ethanol. One cultural thing folks miss. I know the locals preferred the kerosene because you control your supply. Electricity comes from the system and when there is a war or extreme weather, you cannot rely on it. Do not chide the Asian man for wanting to control his personal energy supply. How many CO2 tons more do Westerners produce? Where would Japan be this instant without that small token of energy independence? Triple boned is where. No problem. Blessings all.

Edit: And ethanol and natural gas has less odor. The Japanese would eat it up if it made sense. Maybe LP or butane/propane. Should we send T. Boone Pickens to Japan?

Edit2: T. Boone Pickens with a boat full of a mixture of 55 gallon drums full of fresh water and gasoline/kerosene. Painted different colors of course. When I was an Army brat, we would go to the dock and buy gas that way from the Army. We would turn the crank ourselves and paid by the turn. 23 cents a gallon in 73. Talk about subsidized fuels.

Edit3: CAN YOU PUT RAVIOLIS IN A METAL 55 GALLON DRUM? THE JAPANESE GROUP EAT GOOD AS ANY! What a twofer! The Japanese loved US cans back then. Got my old man a new Cadillac, RIP dad;) Has that love of Dinty Moore changed?

Yours is a great comment! I live in Japan and now as I see this nuclear disaster I remember reading NIcole Foss' comment: "Nuclear power is incompatible with hard times". Listen, everyone: NUCLEAR POWER IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH HARD TIMES!!!

The reactors at Fukushima were old and had failed some sort of inspection, only to be approved through special dispensations. Now budgets are tight, people are desperate to cut costs and find money for food.....well, that is not a good state of affairs when you are dealing with nuclear power.

And there is no doubt that expensive oil is contributing to the bad economy. In fact, expensive oil IS the bad economy. People don't buy cars, they don't travel abroad, they don't buy extra consumer items.... government money is funneled to places that will cheaply keep the economy going: construction companies that employ the working man.

The TPP (free trade agreement) is the last round of globalization: many Japanese farms will be shut down because they can't compete with US cheaper rice.

Maybe Germans will shutdown even more nuclear plants to help out the Japanese? :--) Green madness there at full swing.

One way to heat up houses in the future would be actually use nuclear plant excess heat with long underground pipes going to the cities, after the turbines. Now it goes to the seas and rivers. Nuclear plant total heat power is maybe even three times that of electricity power. 3000 MW of heat producing 1000 MW of electricity.

That would save a lot of fossil fuels, using nuclear for heating. It would raise the efficiency ratio from 30-40 to 60+ percent. Also a lot of more insulation would help. They are still using kerosene as heating fuel?! That is really wasteful.

They are still using kerosene as heating fuel?! That is really wasteful.

Brings up the images of doors made of shoji screens with its rice-paper squares (ala The Last Samurai). I'm sure they're all using some sort of mass-produced Jeld-Wen sort of thing for windows but ...

The reduction of refining capacity is on the order of twenty percent. I have the impression, short term economic activity has declined further than that. I don't think it will recover until people feel safe in Tokyo again, which probably means they are confident Fukushima has been stabilized. A twenty percent reduction in times like these doesn't sound too large for temporary patriotic conservation. This is probably more of a distributional problem, getting the fuel to the hard hit areas than it is about the overall availability in the country as a whole.

That may change, if fuel and deisel come into high demand early in the recovery period, as seems likely.

Give them 55 gallon metal drums. Seen three full of gas go twenty miles by bike and trailer. Seen another guy roll a full one 10 miles on half a day. I remember, that is what they used to recover from the last war. It took a minute, but now I remember. The locals will get it where it needs to go. Think Ho Chi Mihn trail. Call the steel drum plant. Overtime!!! And Quonset huts too!!

That is what they used last time anyhow. Just reminding. I admit I got carried away again. Sorry. I love the Japanese.

I have this feeling the japanese oil imports will never hit the level it was prior to the quake/tsunami again. Once they built everything up, global export volumes will have gone down so much they will not be able to buy back their import share.

That plus the ongoing population decline.

So we give them what they need for a few years. Japan was the #2 'giving' nation and I am sorry but those were our designs on the nukes. We owe them. We can invade Luxembourg and Norway to pay for it.

This has got to be one of the most bizarre discussions I have seen on the Oil Drum in very long time. It started out OK. Clearly, one of the problems that any advanced society has after a massive natural disaster is damage to both critical manufacturing infrastructure and and transportation infrastructure. Just as clearly oil refineries are part of the critical manufacturing infrastructure that was damaged and oil ports are part of the critical transport infrastructure that was damaged.

The repair of these facilities is a major priority after a major natural disaster, but in the first week or two these repairs are not and should not be the top priority. The top priorities should be putting out the fires (including runaway reactors), rescuing the living and ensuring that everyone is moved to heated shelters where they can be fed, clothed, and received medical care, searching for the dead, and getting together a list of who is and isn't alive so that families can be reunited.

It is now 9 days by my count since the earthquake hit. The Japanese are making good progress on digging people out and other primary priorities. From this article, they are also making good progress on reallocating and repairing critical infrastructure such as the electric grid and oil refineries. I assume that they are working on their transportation infrastructure.

It also appears that they are working these problems in priority order -- dealing with the most critical aspects of the damage first. I am expecting at least minimal services and a lot of production to be back up and running within the next two weeks. It seems to me that the Japanese performance is reflective of a politicians and bureaucrats have performed in a way that is unfamiliar to many in the US -- with integrity and alacrity.

The situation is that they were hit with a massive natural disaster (probably with a return period of upwards of 1000 years). The Japanese have responded with courage and intelligence to the inevitable large damages.

The fuel problem in Japan is a result of damage to critical infrastructure not a shortage of crude oil. The Japanese are quite capable of repairing the immediate damage.

So what is the transport method other than 55 gallon steel drum? It wins by default. Red Ball Express 2, until rail is repaired. Look at history.

Normally, the approaches used are repaired pipeline, tanker trucks, and tanker cars on repaired rail lines.

Speaking of bizarre, there is little that seems advanced about "our" society.

I look up at what appears to be squirrel nests-- a bunch of leaves clumped together in the branches-- and I think how that's advanced. It is in harmony with nature.

"The Japanese industry assured the Japanese public that these reactors could withstand exactly these kinds of events. This is not a surprise what's happened at Fukushima... We've predicted similar things here in the United States-- especially at those reactors in California. They are going for license extention at Diablo Canyon. This is unconscionable-- especially in light of what's happened here... We've seen now that the industry cannot be trusted and this technology simply does not belong on this planet."
~ Harvey Wasserman, from, on Democracy Now, 2011-03-14

'Prevention' can be advanced.

Is there much radioactivity near the plants? The fact that the SDF is using tanks and not bulldozers to clear rubble from the explosions speaks for itself. They think that the armor in the tanks will shield workers from the radiation. Wrong! The bad bits are in the air and even a tank has to exchange air to work.

I thought they had nuke HEPA filters. Was that for show too? Dang lowest bidders.

Tanks. The nuclear industry needs tanks to clean up their sites when they accidentally blow up. Now really how cheap is a tank contractor? The execs sure are smart in their calculations of cost. Nothing to be done with this radioactivity, and why isn't the plant cooling down.

Big problems in Japan. They have a mess of stuff there.

Now if they knew the situation was under control (as the media is loudphoning all over the place) then why bring in tanks at all? The radiation will die down and then the regular old bulldozers and earth movers can come in.

Something tells me they are still in deep doo doo there.

The execs sure are smart in their calculations of cost.

Smart as a fox investment banker. Privatize the profit (if nothing goes wrong), socialize the loss (do you think TEPCO can come up with the umpteen billions this baby is going to cost!). That will be Japanese the taxpayers.

Yes, tanks. But isn't steel relatively ineffective against gamma. I hope they can mount a shield on one side, and keep it between themselves and the source.

"But isn't steel relatively ineffective against gamma."

2" of lead == 4" of steel == 24" of water; old rule of thumb from my younger days.

Doesn't slanted armor also increase thickness? Particles and waves have to travel in a straight line too, no?

I suspect that the the tanks include NBC protection; specifically ventilation arrangements involving the filtering of particles in the outside air and maintaining a positive internal pressure.


The situation has calmed down

-Injection of 18t of Seawater to the Spent Fuel Pool of Unit 2 was carried out. (from 16:07 till 17:01 March 22nd)
- Water spray over Unit 3 by Hyper Rescue Unit of Tokyo Fire Department was carried out. (from 15:10 till 15:59 March 22nd)
-Water spray over Unit 4 using a Concrete Pump Truck (50t/h) was started. (The duration of water spray is scheduled to be 3 hours) (17:17 March 22nd)

As to radiation

2. The result of the analysis was reported on 20 March. It showed that the radioactive nuclides of Iodine, Cesium and so on were detected as given in the table below.
3. Iodine-131 was the only nuclide among detected that exceeded the allowable criteria of concentration.

Actual Iodine-131 5.940 x 10-3 Allowable 1.0 x 10-3

Actual Cesium-137 0.024 x 10-3 Allowable 3.0 x 10-3

If they are "under control" then why are they still pumping out I-131.

Might they still be doing a lot of fission and a lot of leaking?

Also why are Reactor 3 and 1 still hotter than heck above operating specs. 3 is red hot actually.

A mess for months I bet. No end in sight.

Chernobyl survivor's advise to Japanese near Fukushima disaster: Run away.

First official estimates of size of release at Fukushima from The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG). An Austrian government agency.

First emission estimates

Regarding Iodine-131, the picture is relatively homogeneous. A source term of 10 Bq per day would explain the measurements in Takasaki as well as Sacramento. The total 4-day emission of 4 10 Bq is on the order of 20% of the total emissions of Iodine-131 that occurred during the Chernobyl accident. Regarding Cesium-137, the situation is a bit different. In the cloud eventually propagating to the United States, the ratio of Iodine-131 to Cesium-137 was about 30. This is similar to the Chernobyl accident. In Takasaki, however, this ratio was four. This would indicate a much larger Cesium-137 release in the second two-day period after the accident. Taking this together, the source terms would be about 3 10Bq during the first two days, and during the second two-day period. In sum, this could amount to about 50% of the Chernobyl source term of Cesium-137.

So in the first 4 days, according to this estimate, the emissions were a large chunk of that at Chernobyl. And more radioactive crap has been spewing out for an extra week since then.

And they've just evacuated again.

TOKYO, March 23 (Reuters) - Workers at Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant temporarily halted work on Wednesday at the complex's reactor No.2 because of high radiation levels, the nation's nuclear safety watchdog said.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the workers had withdrawn after radiation monitoring showed levels of 500 millisieverts per hour which is into the danger zone.

From my post in Drumbeat

Since when is 304.8 deg C "red hot"? That is the temperature of the feedwater nozzle and the temperature at the bottom of the head of the reactor pressure vessel is even lower at 225.5 deg C.

Actually they announced (at press conference) the "surface of reactor 1" is at 400C against a "design limit" of 302C. The IAEA said yesterday that it is concerned it is not getting reliable info. Since then they have pumped in more seawater and it is said to be down to 320C. However pressure was now said to be approaching design limits on NHK. It is all very confusing - which seems to be what the Japanese government wants.

Meanwhile the plant remains evacuated and currently looks like this

6pm Japan 23rd March

What direction is the smoke going? Isn't the plant built on a headland or bay? Looking at the picture it gives the impression that the smoke is going out into the Pacific and therefore heading East, is that actually the case?

Yes mainly towards the south-east it looks at the moment. Here's the plume forecast issued yesterday

Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, winds from westerly directions predominate. Air is thus mostly transported towards the Pacific. On Friday, a new disturbance is expected to cross the region. There is again potential transport of radioactivity inland.

Plume prediction animation

The only one single piece of partial luck they have had is that most of the emissions have been blown off-shore (radioactive sushi anyone?). A tremendous amount still seems to have ended up on land though. Tap water can no longer be used for infants even in Tokyo 150 miles or so away,

Luck? Maybe they're using the offshore winds for the purpose of venting the reactor. A bit like refineries use the cover of fog to reduce steam at the flare head and save money. In the case of the nuclear plant, to keep contaminants away from the public, but also to keep the true situation under wraps.

Would a core melt create smoke and would they need to release pressure to avoid rupturing the reactor? Is that reactor #2 or #3 the smoke is coming from?

Is it not ironic that the Japanese use the sea to feed their people. Now they are going to clutter it up near their home.

The data is obviously taken on faith since we can't measure it ourselves.

The black smoke seems to be from a lubricating oil fire. Why they don't send in the fire trucks again escapes me.

The liquid levels in the reactors remain below the top of the fuel rods. Given the relatively low pressure they can afford to pump in more feedwater which will moderate the rods and cool the reactor faster. According to the latest report, they started injecting more seawater into the core of Unit 1 at 02:33 on 3/23/2010, but at the low rate of 2 cubic meters per hour. So it will take time to see the results. They should be doing the same on Units 2 & 3. There clearly is non-condensible gas in the reactor PRVs, likely hydrogen and/or iodine. But since they can fill to + 2,000 mm and are between - 1,300 and - 2,300 mm low they can fill half the head space and merely double the absolute pressure while remaining well within the pressure rating of the PRVs.

The use of the concrete pump to put water on Unit 4 is pitiful given that they are using a high pressure positive displacement pump that is also very low volume, so they deliver a meager stream of water.

They clearly need to bring back the water cannons ASAP to put out the oil fire and cool down the reactors further until they can bring the water levels in the PRVs above the top of the fuel rods.

They get spooked way too easily by steam and smoke, which is not significantly radioactive, as confirmed by their actual measurements of the area.


P.S. The reason the oil catches fire is that is comes into contact with something above the autoigntion temperature.

Class I Group D materials have associated T ratings typically in the T2A (280C) down to T3B (165 C) range so clearly there is a surface at a higher temperature which autoignites the oil. What do fire departments normally do, they put out fires.


I'd add this observation. Since they do not have the fuel rods fully immersed the temperature of the exposed section will be much higher than the submerged section. So they have a de facto combination boiler and superheater in one vessel. The superheated section can get hotter without raising the pressure, hence low pressures and high temperatures. They are dealing with a superheated mixture of vapors including steam, iodine and hydrogen.


I just saw a live shot showing they are using the water cannon again. Good.

More then a week after the big quake, aftershocks are sill occuring at a high rate. In the last 9 hours, 3 quakes over 6 mag have occurred and 4 quakes over 5 mag. These are not large quakes but it is unusual that they are persisting over such a long time. I do not have the background in geology to put this in perspective. Whenever a large quake occurs it transfers the stresses along the fault, this happens over hundreds or thousands of years though,does all this grumbling represent a quicker tranfer of stress along the fault? Could it mean another large quake could occur?

Shark - along those same lines: From the USGS: "a magnitude-9.0 earthquake will average 10 times as many aftershocks as a magnitude 8.0, which will have 10 times as many aftershocks as a magnitude 7.0, and so on".

That is a fat-tail distribution that pretty much mimics the magnitude occurrence of the main earthquake.

Nowhere in the comments I've seen so far, is there any suggestion that the "super-consumers" of petroleum (you know who you are) cut back on the wasteful use of this essential product, even if only temporarily, to help ease the situation in Japan.

Oh, wait...Big Oil would be opposed...never mind.

How about "super consumers" of food?

Blackouts hit Tokyo food supply:;jsessionid=00CF...

Even worse, "Radioactive Materials in Food, Water Spread".

Lifted from ZeroHedge:

The news this time comes straight from TEPCO which finally admits that the temperature of Reactor 1 is 380-390 Celsius (715-735 Fahrenheit), which apparently is a "worry" as the reactor was meant to run at a temperature of 302 C (575 F). That is when the reactor is fully operational, not when it is supposed to be in a cold shut down mode...

...As was reported only on Zero Hedge so far, the termal imagery from Fukushima indicates that if reactor one is a "worry", then reactor 3 should be a "nightmare", as according to some it is now "operating" north of 500 degrees celsius, and possibly as high as a 1,000. That's three times what it is designed to withstand.

I have always been suprised that people have expected them to cope with no active cooling - or just not asked. These were running at [x]00Mw before shutdown? Even if cold shutdown worked [I assume you need to pump for a long time] they are producing ??Mw of heat. Some numbers for those who dont get that:

15w will melt a blob of solder at 300C

a typical 40-60Mw electric furnace will melt, typically, 50 tonnes of steel [any type] in about 40 minutes to orange molten liquid. They are water cooled steel buckets lined inside with refractory bricks. I don't see how you can have a safe pressure vessel with a few Mw internally with no cooling of the steel case:

According to Zerohedge reactor #1 has now passed 400°c. Also a whistleblower has disclosed that Hitachi knowingly put a defective reactor in #4.

Mitsuhiko Tanaka says he helped conceal a manufacturing defect in the $250 million steel vessel installed at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 4 reactor while working for a unit of Hitachi Ltd. in 1974.

For me, it is not so much the details of limited fuel for Japan, or the 'just in time' thing, so much as the narrow margin of our errors for the world for us.
This will likely be borne out in the coming years as disasters manifest.

If Japan were to have had the earthquake and nuclear "accident" on the west coast, a sizable area of it might have been contaminated, knocked out.
There is little margin for error in such a place so small... (but this speaks for the entire planet now). In this sense, the very presence of nuclear reactors in a country as small as Japan seems out of scale. Their presence, from a classical cultural, metaphorical, perhaps even Zen, wabi-sabi, environmental and/or Buddhist standpoint, would seem antithetical. There is nothing meditative about an out-of-control nuclear reactor, but then, such things can never be in full control.

To speak of immigrants coming in and helping to somehow cushion its economic slip, I can't help but think of how attractive Japan might have been for a visit, even a stay, if it upheld some of its or this "classical purity". As for the notion of insularity-of-culture, well, we notice the nuclear wave of emigration.
The northeast of Japan, and maybe the proximities around Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (and downwind) are probably now out of bounds for me for the rest of my life, even if it's claimed to be safe, because trust has been lost if it was ever had. Where else? How many more in the future?

Those who might come on here and anonymously astroturf for various industries that lay waste will be long gone to kick the crap out of by the successive generations as they struggle with their legacies. Maybe there will be a few former industry seniors left to bitch slap, if to little consolation.
Some issues are dead dogs that keep popping back up like zombies.

"The entire output of atomic power in the United States is exactly equivalent to the requirements of the clothes-drying machines."
~ Bill Mollison

I argue that, for quality of life, we don't need nuclear, or even much else of the energies consumed, and probably never did. I think Dmitry Orlov may have alluded to the question of whether oil-use has really improved true quality of life.

In a sense, Japan isn't Japan, nor is Libya or Egypt or Oman, etc.. They are often "represented" by those who don't exactly or democratically represent the populations that occupy those regions. These "reps" can be seen in the faces of Gadaffi, Obama, and Nuclear Corporation Inc..

When speaking of them and their disasters that the rest of the populations end up suffering from and paying for, perhaps, like Derrick Jensen suggests ( ) we should consider being specific about who or what exactly is culpable and, as such, taking a second look at the accuracy of our usage of 'we', and taking back control.

(Interestingly, as a side-note, people such as Colin Campbell, Robert L. Hirsch, Jan Lundberg, Matt Simmons, and even Derrick Jensen all seem to have or have had some roles to play in the aforementioned industries-- along with those on The Oil Drum. Who do/did you work for? Who do/did you pay your taxes to? Whose side are you on?
"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us... You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth... That you are a slave... Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.")

I think The Oil Drum would do well to change its header description to replace 'energy' with 'conservation', since the answer for 'our future' might do well to be less about energy, and more about conservation.

"All political systems that I know of, and most kings, have moved their whole nation to desert. And the things that we saw as most proud-- the cities and the canals and irrigation and so on-- are the things that killed their cultures. And it continues, unabated. If people don't seize power back, and make their own gardens, and sit in their own gardens of Eden, then we're all doomed, and the whole world ends in dust."
~ Bill Mollison, from The Permaculture Concept (recommended and can be seen on You Tube)

Thanks for the excellent post.

I had to look up wabi-sabi:

Sounds like an aesthetic worth emulating.

And thanks for the double post dohboi, or I'd have been left with what I speed-read, wasabi Now for fun, I'm going to order wabi-sabi the next time I'm in a sushi bar.

Thank you. Your posts have often echoed my thoughts.

The Japan of old, or at least of imagination, would seem close to wabi-sabi: True economy.

In 1973 in both Korea and Japan, the kids were still cleaning up and burning some of the last war damage. My dad commented how bad it was in the 50's and 60's. He said that it was burned up in the drums too or as fuel for stove fires. Wish he could post and answer questions. Didn't the GDR still have WWII damage when the Wall fell?

EDIT: moved.

The trans-Alaska pipeline is laid with Japanese pipe?
No American company manufactured pipe of that specification, so three Japanese companies—Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., Nippon Steel Corporation, and Nippon Kokan Kabushiki Kaisha—received a $100 million contract for more than 800 miles (1280 km) of pipeline. At the same time, TAPS placed a $30 million order for the first of the enormous pumps that would be needed to push the oil through the pipeline.

Um what impact are the Japanese on all the world's pipes today? Surely such things have long moved to Singapore or China?

On a related aside,

We had a discussion here a week or so ago where it came up that the oil in the TAPS was not heated during its 800 mile journey from the frozen shores of the Arctic Ocean to the ice free tidewater of the North Pacific.

A week or so before that I noted that the Flint Hills refinery at North Pole manages a very high diesel/jet fuel percentage cut of its final product, 76%. I mentioned it was able to do that because it has a 220,000 bpd throughput of North Slope crude, of which it consumes 64,000 bpd. The remaining 146,000 bpd of degraded crude is returned to TAPS to finish the trip to Valdez.

Well that degraded crude is quite a bit hotter when it goes back into TAPS than when it enters the refinery-they have to heat the whole bulk of the throughput to remove the fractions they need to get the mix of finished product they produce:

Gasoline & Naptha-19%
Jet Fuel------------57%
Gas Oil--------------4%

It ends up minimum temperature of the flow is 38 F from Prudhoe to Fairbanks and 48 F from Fairbanks to Valdez. This winter an extended shutdown made restart a very touch and go situation. Every hour counted and they got the oil flowing again with very little time to spare before a major issues cropped up.

Two cleaning pigs were in transit at the time of the shutdown, but the only receiver available for removing the pigs was at the end of the line at the tanker port in Valdez, PHMSA said. At current throughput rates, it takes about two weeks for a cleaning pig to make the trip from Pump Station 1 to Valdez, and a pig could “cause a plug in the pipeline” in a shutdown and “cold restart” scenario.

During the event, the minimum pipeline oil temperature Alyeska recorded was 25.7 degrees Fahrenheit

from TAPS Safety Questioned

That Japanese pipe really needs to get more oil flowing through it sooner than later, there could be major issues well before the flow falls to half of its current 600,000 or so bpd.