Economic cost of Japan's nuclear shutdown

14 April 2015

Nuclear power benefitted the Japanese economy by some ¥33 trillion over the years, said Masakazu Toyoda of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), and the country risks wasting this in its slow progress to restart its reactors.

Speaking at the Annual Conference of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) today, Toyoda said that Japan's dependence on imported fossil fuels was now higher than it was in 1973. The country's response then was to increase nuclear power generation, and now it should maintain nuclear power as an "essential option", he said.

Increased emissions

Beyond financial considerations, the rush to fossil fuels also caused Japanese carbon dioxide emissions to rise to some 10.8% beyond 1990 levels, according to Kenji Yamaji of the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, who presented yesterday at the same conference. Yamaji said this completely eliminated Japan's achievement of its Kyoto Protocol targets in 2010.

All 48 of Japanese nuclear power reactors remain offline pending confirmation that they meet heightened post-Fukushima safety requirements set by the still-new Nuclear Regulation Authority. However, plans to decommission five of the older units have already been announced. The first units to restart, perhaps in the middle of this year, are expected to be Kyushu Electric Power Company's Sendai 1 and 2 in Kagoshima prefecture.

The Sendai reactor restarts would be the first step in reducing Japan's extreme reliance on imported fuel, which currently runs to 98% of energy production, said Toyoda. An important economic role of nuclear power in the past was to avoid these imports, which he said saved Japan from sending ¥33 trillion ($276 billion) overseas. "We are effectively living on these savings and we may lose about two thirds by 2020 if we stay on this course," said Toyoda, noting the "drain of national wealth" caused by ¥3.6 trillion ($30 billion) being spent on imported fuel each year to compensate for idled reactors.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News