JAIF president urges reactor restarts to fight climate change

30 December 2016

Japan needs to work towards bringing its reactors back online if the country is to meet its climate goals, Akio Takahashi, president of the Japan Atomic Industry Forum (JAIF), said this week. Nuclear energy currently accounts for just 1.1% of Japan's electricity production and commercial operation has been resumed at only three of the country's nuclear power plants - Sendai 1, Sendai 2 and Ikata 3.

"There are less than a handful of NPPs currently in operation in Japan. I hope that the safety examinations of the rest will proceed steadily and consistently, with more of them being restarted, so that CO2 emissions can continue to be reduced and a stable supply of electricity ensured," Takahashi said.

All of Japan's 48 operational nuclear reactors were gradually taken off line following the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. A new regulatory regime has since been created and by mid-2013 the Nuclear Regulation Authority had rewritten the country's requirements for nuclear power plant safety. Power companies then submitted applications for reactor restarts, which have progressed slowly.

In May last year, Kyushu Electric Power Company received final regulatory approval necessary for restarting units 1 and 2 of its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima prefecture. Sendai 1 was the first to be restarted, in August that year, followed by Sendai 2, in October. Shikoku Electric Power Company announced in September this year that Ikata 3 in Japan's Ehime prefecture had resumed commercial operation.

In a statement on JAIF's website on 28 December, Takahashi said the Paris Agreement that came into effect in November offered a global framework for reducing CO2 emissions through 2020 and thereafter. The agreement provides the first framework in which all 196 member countries of the Climate Change Conference are participating, he noted.

"Its common, long-term, global target is not only to hold the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but also to make the utmost efforts to keep that increase below 1.5°C.

"Japan, with a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 26% from 2013 levels by the year 2030, ratified the Paris Agreement and must now achieve its target in order to fulfill its obligation to the world," Takahashi said.

Japan's Ministry of the Environment recently announced that Japan's total CO2 emissions in the fiscal year ending March 2016 was 1.321 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, down 3% from the previous year, Takahashi noted. Factors in the reduction include lower electricity consumption, reduced CO2 emissions originating from electric power, as a result of improved CO2 discharge units, and reduced energy-derived CO2 emissions in the industrial and transport sectors, he added.

"Energy-derived CO2 emissions account for about 90% of total CO2 emissions in Japan, and some 40% of energy-derived emissions involve electricity generation. To achieve the reduction target, one key is cutting the carbon emissions associated with power sources, such as by expanding the use of renewable energies, operating nuclear power plants, improving the efficiency of thermal power plants, and finding alternative fuels," Takahashi said.

"Let us now consider the effect of restarting NPPs on reducing emissions. Given that operations have been resumed at only three NPPs in the country since the summer of 2015, nuclear power accounted for only 1.1% of total generated electricity. Even so, just that little amount of nuclear power is estimated to have saved as much as four million tons in CO2 emissions.

"Which is to say, nuclear power is credited with about 15% of the total emissions reduction of 26 million tons. That is a quite dramatic illustration of the effectiveness of nuclear power in cutting CO2 emissions," he said.

"Japan's reduction target for CO2 emissions by 2030 is premised on the country's particular composition of power sources - the so-called 'energy mix' - addressed from the viewpoint of ensuring S+3E (that is, safety, plus the conventional three E's of energy security, economy and environmental protection).

"It was then calculated based on a percentage of zero-emission power sources of 44% (renewable energies at 22-24%, with nuclear power at 20-22%, along with extensive energy conservation.

"Each NPP has a large generating capacity while functioning as a stable source, and is highly effective in reducing CO2 emissions. In meeting the target, nuclear power will play a major role," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News