Costly fossil fuel imports have helped push Japan into a trade deficit for a third consecutive year as the country's nuclear plants remain off line.
Preliminary 2013 figures released by Japan's Ministry of Finance reveal a deficit of JPY 11.5 trillion ($112 billion), up 65% on 2012's deficit of 6.9 trillion ($67.5 billion). A major contributing factor has been the cost of the fossil fuels - especially liquefied natural gas (LNG) - that the country has been forced to continue to buy as the nuclear reactors that used to provide some 30% of Japan's electricity prior to the Fukushima accident of 2011 remain offline.
Imports of LNG, at 87.5 million tonnes, were 0.2% up on 2012 figures, but a weak yen meant that the value of the imports, at JPY 7.1 trillion ($69 billion), was 17.5% up on 2012. Imports of coal for use in thermal power stations were also up on 2012 figures. In total, imports of LNG and thermal coal worth JPY 8.2 trillion ($80 billion) accounted for nearly 10% of total Japanese imports of JPY 81.3 trillion ($793 billion) for the year. Total exports of JPY 69.8 trillion ($681 billion), while 9.5% up on 2012, were not sufficient to avoid the overall deficit.
Japan's entire fleet of nuclear reactors currently remains out of service pending restart approvals under a new regulatory regime introduced last year by the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). So far 16 reactors have applied for permission to restart, although none has yet completed the NRA's rigorous new approvals procedure.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News