South China Morning Post, Friday, 11 April, 2014, 9:59am
Reuters in Tokyo
Decision to switch mothballed nuclear power production back on likely to be unpopular as Tepco continues to wrestle with problems at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima plant
Japan’s Cabinet on Friday approved an energy policy reversing the previous government’s plans to gradually mothball nuclear power plants, a move likely to be unpopular with a wary public following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
But the plan may too little too late for the country’s moribund atomic industry, which is floundering under the weight of estimated losses of almost US$50 billion, forcing two utilities to ask the government for capital last week.
Plant operators have had to pay out almost US$90 billion on replacement fossil fuels, with local media saying they have also spent an estimated 1.6 trillion yen (HK$122 billion) on nuclear plant upgrades to meet new safety guidelines.
Recent analysis shows as many as two-thirds of the country’s 48 idled nuclear reactors may have to be left closed because of the high cost of further upgrades, local opposition or seismic risks.
“I think it is unavoidable that the Japanese utilities will write off most of their nuclear ‘assets’ and move on,” said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent energy consultant.
The plan defines nuclear as an “important baseload power source” meaning it can feed constant power to the grid to meet minimum requirements. But the policy document did not specify the amount that nuclear should make up in the nation’s energy mix.
“Given the slim realistic prospects for a major nuclear share, the challenge will be flexibility and the whole baseload concept flies out of the window,” Schneider said.
The government also names coal and hydro-electric power as baseload sources.
Reuters (UK): Japan approves energy plan reinstating nuclear power (UPDATE 3)
Chicago Tribune (US): Japan approves energy plan reinstating nuclear power
The Telegraph (UK): Japan risks public outcry as it brings back nuclear power
GlobalPost.Com (US): Japan approves energy plan reinstating nuclear power