Japan to benefit from reactor restarts, says IEEJ

03 August 2017

A total of ten Japanese nuclear power reactors are likely to have been restarted by the end of March 2019, according to the latest estimate by the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). These restarts will help improve the country's economy, energy security and environment, it says.

In its Economic and Energy Outlook of Japan for FY2018, the IEEJ has considered the economic and environmental impacts in financial years 2017 and 2018 (ending March 2018 and 2019, respectively) of various scenarios for the restart of reactors in Japan.

So far five Japanese reactors - Sendai units 1 and 2; Takahama units 3 and 4; and Ikata unit 3 - have been restarted under new safety regulations. The IEEJ notes another seven units have already met these standards and are being prepared for restart.

The organisation estimates that if restarts take place according to the current schedule - the "reference scenario" - by the end of FY2018, ten units could be restarted, generating 65.6 TWh of electricity annually and representing a 7% share of the country's power generation mix. This compares with total nuclear output of 288.2 TWh and a share of almost 30% in FY2010, the year prior to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

With ten reactors in operation, compared with none, real GDP expands by JPY500 billion, the self-sufficiency ration increases by 2.9 percentage points and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fall by 2.7%. Electricity unit cost should decrease by JPY300 per megawatt-hour, compared with no reactors being restarted beyond the current five.

"Nuclear power generation clearly contributes to the improvement of the 3Es (economy, energy security and environment)," the IEEJ said.

Its high-case scenario assumes a total of 17 units are restarted by the end of FY2018, generating 99 TWh annually, with spending on total fossil fuel imports decreasing by JPY700 billion relative to the low-case scenario where no more reactors beyond the current five are assumed to restart, producing 32 TWh. In the high-case scenario, the average electricity unit cost is lowered by about JPY453/MWh and energy-related emissions decrease by 45 million tonnes CO2.

In its previous outlook, for FY2017, the IEEJ had expected seven reactors to be in operation by the end of March this year, and 12 more by the end of March 2018. However, at that time it noted judicial rulings and local consents would influence the rate of restarts.

Japan's GDP is expected to grow 1.1% in FY2018, it said, and its economy will experience over 1.0% growth for four consecutive years for the first time since FY2003 to FY2007.

However, despite expanding economy activities, total primary energy consumption in FY2017 is expected to decrease by 0.1% due to continued energy conservation efforts. Primary energy consumption in FY2018 will decline by 0.6% from FY2017. While electricity sales are expected to increase by 0.4% in FY2017, sales in FY2018 will remain almost flat.

Energy-related CO2 emissions, which reached a historical high of 1235 million tonnes in FY2013, will decrease for a fifth consecutive year through FY2018. Energy efficiency, the restart of reactors, as well as an increase in renewable energy will reduce CO2 emissions to 1113 million tonnes in FY2017 and 1096 million tonnes in FY2018.

In June 2015, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry presented a new energy plan setting a share of 20% to 22% for nuclear power in Japan's energy mix by 2030. The plan calls for 22%-24% to come from renewable energy sources, with coal's share being reduced to 26%, LNG's to 27% and oil's to just 3%.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News