Japan will prosper from nuclear restarts

27 January 2015

A scenario with 25% nuclear power would best suit Japan's policy goals, according to the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). In the time to 2030 it would be cheaper than a non-nuclear scenario and would help the country return to a positive trade balance.

Japan will need to use every available power generation technology up to 2030, according to a recent presentation by the IEEJ. Its Energy Data and Modelling Center produced three scenarios for Japan's future energy mix. In each, the share of mostly imported fossil fuels remained in the 50-65% range while proportions of renewables and nuclear were varied more widely.

Akihabara, Tokyo, known as Electric City (Guwashi999) 460x120
Akihabara, Tokyo's 'Electric City' (Guwashi999)

Scenario I, with no nuclear power, scored worse than the others on every one of the IEEJ's economic envronmental and security measures - except for the non-production of radioactive waste.

Scenario III with 25% nuclear power was favoured by the IEEJ, which said it "can be regarded as the closest to what should be aimed for" considering government policies now in place. In 2030 it would have 42 GWe of nuclear capacity in operation, including the completion of three reactors currently under construction. These units would be assumed to operate for a 60-year lifespan at around 80% average capacity and would produce 25% of Japan's electricity, while renewables provide the same and fossil fuels make up the other half.

This compares with the 30% share of electricity that came from nuclear power before the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Currently all of Japan's nuclear power reactors are shut down awaiting permission to restart from regulators. The first restarts should come in the first half of 2015.

Benefits of Scenario III over non-nuclear Scenario I include power prices of ¥16.4/kWh instead of ¥21.0/kWh and 67 million tonnes fewer carbon dioxide emissions per year. The country could have 28% self-sufficiency in energy compared to 19% without nuclear power, saving ¥2.1 trillion ($17.8 billion) per year by importing 19.1 million tonnes less LNG every year. According to the IEEJ this also means Japan could return to a positive trade balance of ¥1.3 trillion ($11.0 billion) per year instead of a deficit of ¥2.3 trillion ($19.5 billion) under the non-nuclear Scenario I.

Without nuclear power, Scenario I would see renewables and fossil fuel both increase to 35% and 65% of electricity generation respectively. In Scenario III renewables were 25% and fossil fuel was 50% compared to nuclear's 25%. Scenario II was roughly between the two, while Scenario IV saw renewables at 20% and nuclear at 30% but this saw diminishing benefits compared to the IEEJ's favourite Scenario III.

Energy efficiency was a factor in all of the scenarios and was expected to limit the growth of electricity consumption to 7% between 2013 and 2030, despite further electricification.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News