Plant Operation

Japan / PM Backs Reactor Restarts In Bid To Reduce Dependence On Russian Imports

By David Dalton
9 May 2022

‘We will address vulnerability of our own energy self-sufficiency’
PM Backs Reactor Restarts In Bid To Reduce Dependence On Russian Imports
Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida spoke to an audience in the City of London. Courtesy PM’s Office of Japan.
Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida has backed the restart of reactors that were shut down following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, saying Tokyo will use nuclear power to help reduce its own and other countries’ dependence on Russian energy.

Mr Kishida, facing elections in July and rising energy prices that are squeezing voters’ budgets, said nuclear would be part of the country’s future energy policy.

He told an audience in London’s financial district that Japan would address the “vulnerability of our own energy self-sufficiency” by broadening where it buys energy from, promoting renewables and using nuclear power to diversify its sources of generation.

“We will utilise nuclear reactors with safety assurances to contribute to worldwide reduction of dependence on Russian energy,” he said.

“Restarting just one existing nuclear reactor would have the same effect as supplying 1 million tonnes of new LNG [liquified natural gas] per year to the global market.”

According to data from energy analysts Argus Media, Japan imported a total of 6.57 million tonnes (mn t) of LNG from Russia in 2021, up from 6.14mn t a year earlier. Its Russian imports in 2021 accounted for around 8.8pc of its total LNG imports of 74.3mn t in the year.

It received 645,596t of LNG from Russia in December 2021, accounting for 9.2pc of its total LNG imports in the month. Russia was the country's fourth-largest LNG exporter in December, after Australia, Malaysia and Qatar.

Before Fukushima, Japan’s nuclear fleet generated about 30% of the country’s electricity. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency that figure was about 5.1% in 2020.

In 2021, before Mr Kishida assumed office, Japan adopted a new energy policy that promoted nuclear and renewables as sources of clean energy to achieve the country’s pledge of reaching carbon neutrality in 2050. It kept the target for nuclear power unchanged at 20-22% and said reactor restarts are key to meeting emissions targets.

Nine regional power utilities and a wholesaler, Japan Atomic Power Company (Japco), now have 33 reactors available for commercial use. The companies had 54 reactors operating before Fukushima.

Before nuclear plants can resume operation they need to meet stringent guidelines introduced following Fukushima.

With the restart of Sendai-1 in January 2022, Japan has nine commercial nuclear reactors in operation. They are Genkai-3, Genkai-4, Ikata-3, Ohi-3, Ohi-4, Sendai-1, Sendai-2, Takahama-3 and Takahama-4.

In a March 2021 report, the International Energy Agency called on Japan to speed up reactor restarts as a way to achieve its national climate commitments.

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