Japanese institute sees 19 reactor restarts by March 2018

28 July 2016

Seven Japanese nuclear power reactors are likely to be in operation by the end of next March and 12 more one year later, according to an estimate by the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). Judicial rulings and local consents will influence the rate of restart, it notes.

In its Economic and Energy Outlook of Japan Through 2017, the IEEJ has considered the economic and environmental impacts in financial years 2016 and 2017 (ending March 2017 and 2018, respectively) of various scenarios for the restart of reactors in Japan.

The organization estimates that if restarts take place according to the current schedule - the "reference scenario" - seven reactors could restart by the end of FY2016 (ending March 2017). By the end of FY2017, 19 units could be restarted, generating some 119.8 TWh of electricity annually, compared with total nuclear output of 288.2 TWh in FY2010, the year prior to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Under this scenario, compared with FY2010, total spending on fossil fuel imports in FY2017 decreases by JPY4.7 trillion ($45 billion), while the electricity cost - including fuel costs, feed-in tariffs and grid stabilization costs - increases by about JPY100/MWh. Relative to the same period, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 1094 million tonnes CO2. According to the IEEJ, energy-related emissions reached a historical high of 1235 million tonnes CO2 in FY2013.

The IEEJ's high-case scenario assumes a total of 25 units are restarted by the end of FY2017, generating 151.2 TWh annually, with total fossil fuel imports spending decreasing by JPY0.7 trillion relative to the low-case scenario where only 12 reactors are assumed to restart, producing 39.1 TWh. In the high-case scenario, the average electricity unit cost is lowered by about JPY600/MWh and energy-related emissions decrease by 52 million tonnes CO2.

Under the "best mix" scenario - which reflects the generation mix of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's long-term energy supply and demand outlook - nuclear output reaches 195 TWh by the end of FY2017. Total fossil fuel import spending falls by JPY1.2 trillion and energy-related emission drop by 114 million tonnes CO2. However, the average electricity unit cost increases by JPY600/MWh, reaching JPY6900/MWh, which is the highest among the four scenarios.

So far four Japanese reactors - Sendai units 1 and 2 and Takahama units 3 and 4 - have been restarted under the new safety regulations. However, both Takahama 3 and 4 have been offline since March due to an injunction imposed by a district court.

"Gradually, the passing of safety checks and the process of restarting [reactors] under the new regulation standards is proceeding," the IEEJ said. "And yet, there is still much ambiguity including judicial ruling and/or local acceptance which will influence the pace of restart."

It added, "Because of the judicial ruling that ceased operations at the Takahama units 3 and 4, it is important to analyse the effect of stopping operations of nuclear power plants from a local point of view," the IEEJ said. "As a rule, if one nuclear plant with a capacity of 1GWe stops operation for one year in an area where annual demand is about 100 TWh, total fossil fuel costs increase by JPY60 billion and the energy-related CO2 emissions increase by 4 million tonnes CO2. The average electricity unit cost will increase by JPY400/MWh."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News