The Institute of Energy Economics Japan says that their forecast is that the first nuclear reactor to restart will be by July 2014. This is also in line with what Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioner Kenzo Oshima said last month, in that they are projecting that some of the units may restart a year from now, but as of now they do not know how many that will be.
Out of Japan’s 50 reactors, only two have been online since they were forcibly shut down in 2011, following the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. With the rising costs of fossil fuel imports and the country’s strong reliance on nuclear power for its electricity supply, there is an enormous pressure to bring the reactors back online. This is in spite of the growing public disapproval of nuclear power.
The NRA has already begun accepting applications from utility operators that can comply with the new safety requirements issued. But the regulator has said it will take at least a year for them to finish all the necessary checks and evaluations needed to ensure that bringing them back online would not endanger anyone, particularly the residents who live near the plants, which is one of the painful lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster. “It is hard to imagine that all the applications would be rejected, though we don’t know what the outcome will be at the moment,” Oshima said earlier this month.
With that forecast, if Japan restarts 16 reactors by March 2015, annual fossil fuel imports would have increased by 7 trillion yen by that period, as compared to March 2011. They are also predicting that Japan will reach record highs in importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), with an increase of 1.7 percent to 88.3 million tons from March 2012 to March 2014, and another 1.5 percent to 89.7 million tons from March 2014 to March 2015. At present, Japan is already the third largest importer of LNG globally.