Just after Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) submitted a draft of its proposed new requirements for nuclear plants, a government advisory group released a statement saying how the country can save up to US$20 billion by restarting even just half of its nuclear reactors.
The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), which is overseen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, recommends that nuclear plants that will be deemed safe by the nuclear regulator should be steadily restarted. Even if only half of the country’s 52 reactors were restarted, energy costs could be slashed by as much as 30 percent, amounting to savings of 8 trillion yen (US$20.3 billion) by next year. All but two of the reactors have been shutdown pending safety inspections in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
The government has tried to fill in the energy gap with more financially and environmentally costly alternatives such as fossil fuel and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Japan imported twice as much LNG in year compared to the previous 12 months, which cost it 6 trillion yen (US$67.7 billion). An IEEJ associate warns of a potential economic catastrophe if the country does not return to nuclear power. While majority of the public expressed opposition to the use of nuclear power, it still opted to elect into office a party that is known to be pro-nuclear. Now, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to reverse the previous government’s commitment to eliminating nuclear from Japan’s energy mix by 2040. Nuclear reactors might be restarted as early as summer this year once the NRA’s more stringent regulations have been approved.[ via Smart Planet ]