Japan’s Nuclear Power PlantsSociety
On March 11, 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors in operation in Japan supplying approximately 30% of the country’s electric power. However, the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami that brought disaster to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station transformed attitudes and nuclear energy usage nationwide.
In July 2013, the Japanese government established new regulatory standards for nuclear power plants. To withstand earthquakes and tsunami, new stricter safety regulations must be met, involving huge costs to implement necessary safety countermeasures. Additionally, in municipalities where plants are located, whether operations are allowed to resume has become an election point for local politicians, and residents continue to file injunctions against bringing plants online again. Even if the hugely expensive safety countermeasures are implemented, numerous hurdles remain to be overcome.
As of July 12, 2018, there are five plants with a total of nine reactors that have met the new standards: Ōi and Takahama (Kansai Electric Power Company), Genkai and Sendai (Kyūshū Electric Power Company), and Ikata (Shikoku Electric Power Company). Meanwhile, it has been decided that 19 reactors will be decommissioned.
The nine reactors that have resumed operations are based in western Japan. All of them are pressurized water reactors, thereby differing from the Fukushima Daiichi plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), where the accident occurred. When it comes to nuclear plants that have the same boiling water reactor system as Fukushima Daiichi, reactors 6 and 7 of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (TEPCO) have passed the new standards review and Tōkai Daini (Japan Atomic Power Company) is now at the final stage awaiting official approval. However, as they are the same types of reactors as Fukushima Daiichi and memories of the huge earthquake are still strong in people’s minds in eastern Japan, it is difficult to gain approval from local residents and municipalities. No plans have been set for restarting them.
According to the Fifth Energy Basic Plan adopted by Cabinet decision on July 3, 2018, the aim is for nuclear energy to account for 20%–22% of energy output by 2030. This will require some 30 reactors to be operating, which appears difficult to achieve at this stage.(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Kyūshū Electric Power Company. © Pixta.)