Business calls for stable power supply in Japan

02 December 2013

Nuclear power needs to be an option for Japan, said a panel of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), however recovery in Fukushima prefecture must be a priority.

Comments came from Keidanren on the energy issues still faced by Japan more than two years after the multiple reactor accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Urgent work is still in progress at the site to remove nuclear fuel and decontaminate water used for cooling. Radioactive groundwater is presumed to be reaching the sea, albeit virtually undetectable, but Tepco's difficulty in controlling the water presents a major barrier to public confidence.

"There can be no new capital investment in the domestic power-intensive industry at least. Already many Japanese companies have withdrawn from aluminium smelting."

Koinuma Akira
Chair of Keidanren's natural resources and energy committee

Speaking for the Women's Energy Network as a consumer advocate, Asada Kiyoe said nuclear power cannot be considered as a viable option for Japan without reconstruction in Fukushima, but 'on the other hand, as a consumer... The time has come for [nuclear power] to be considered calmly.' She urged the Japanese government to present comprehensive information in a form that would let Japanese people determine the best mix of energy for themselves.

Two major consequences have followed the long-term shutdown of Japanese reactors: the rising cost of power due to expensive imports of LNG and oil, and the carbon dioxide emissions their combustion has created. Japan recently announced a major revision on climate targets.

The cost of the imports is hurting the country's export-oriented economy, said Norio Sasaki, vice chair of Keidanren as well as vice chair of Toshiba. The stable supply of inexpensive power is therefore an 'urgent issue'. 'By stopping nuclear power plants, national wealth of ¥3.6 trillion ($34.9 billion) per year is flowing overseas' due to increased fuel imports he said. The ongoing slump of trade balance into the negative could lead to deterioration of government credit and must be addressed 'with a sense of crisis.'

Sasaki said the increase in power costs has drawn funds away from capital investment and hit industrial competitiveness. This was echoed by Koinuma Akira, chair of Keidanren's natural resources and energy committee, 'There can be no new capital investment in the domestic power-intensive indutry at least. Already many Japanese companies have withdrawn from aluminium smelting.'

Keidanren's recommendations for the Japanese government included to recognise that economic growth 'rests on the stable supply of power'. The rehabilitation of affected areas of Fukushima prefecture must be a top priority, but the nuclear issue must be considered 'calmly'. Future energy policies should not be too dependent on imported LNG, and should include nuclear power as a 'realistic scenario' based on correct information about costs. While renewables should be developed, the current feed-in tariff incentive mechanism should be reviewed to avoid creating an additional burden on the economy, said Keidanren.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News