USA, Japan need new nuclear, says US Commerce Secretary

20 December 2019

Japan and the USA both need new nuclear generating capability to replace ageing and inefficient generating capacity and could work together to achieve this, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a bilateral meeting yesterday. Japan would benefit greatly by having a fleet of new, inherently safe reactors, he said.

Wilbur Ross addresses the 12th Annual US-Japan Roundtable Conference (Image: Atlantic Council)

In his speech at the 12th Annual US-Japan Roundtable Conference held in Washington DC on 18 December, Ross called for a "technological revival" of the nuclear power industry.

"Nuclear is and must remain an essential part of our energy mix long into the future. To make that happen, the United States is working with allies like Japan to assure the efficient licensing and construction of a new generation of inherently safe and economically viable reactors," he said.

Ross cited the US administration's support and commitment to revitalising the nuclear industry, highlighting the signature into law of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act, and the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which he said were the first two nuclear-specific pieces of legislation signed into US law since the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. He also spoke of collaboration and cooperation at both federal and corporate levels between Japan and the USA to promote civil nuclear power development.

"Certainly, Japan would benefit greatly by having a fleet of new, inherently safe reactors," he said. "Japan is less than 10% energy self-sufficient, ranking it 34th in the world in 2017. Nuclear dropped from 25% of Japan's electrical output prior to the [Fukushima] accident, to 3% in 2017, with growing dependence on coal, LNG, and oil for electrical generation. Both Japan and the United States need a new nuclear capability as we become increasingly electrified, and replace old and inefficient electrical generating capacity. So, too, does the world, as more people are buying more electronic gadgets, as the transportation sector shifts to EVs, and as the need for desalination grows," he said.

"To achieve sustainable global development on a real scale, and to balance electrical demand when renewables are not available, then nuclear must be a viable option. If the US and Japan don't lead this renaissance, then somebody else will," he said. "We jointly have the technical knowhow and the operational experience to design and build a new generation of reactors. Now, we need the willpower to do so."

The Roundtable was jointly hosted by the Atlantic Council and the Howard Baker Forum.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News