An analysis report by the Reuters news organization says that probably only one-thirds of Japan’s currently idle nuclear reactors will be able to restart, despite the government’s push to revive nuclear power. This is due to the stricter safety standards that have been implemented by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in the aftermath of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant back in 2011.
According to Reuter’s analysis, there are numerous “seismological, economic, logistical and political hurdles” that the utility operators need to overcome in order to get the approval of the NRA to restart the 48 remaining reactors, all of whom are now offline for the safety review. They estimate that 14 will restart at some point in the future, the fate of 17 more hang in the balance and the other 17 will probably never restart. If this will happen, nuclear power will just account for 10% of Japan’s energy supply, a far cry from the 30% it supplied before the 2011 disaster, when all 54 nuclear reactors were online and active. At that time, Japan had the third highest number of reactors in the world, only behind France and the United States.
While anti-nuclear activists will be pleased with this number, this will mean that Japan, a country that has numerous electronic devices and gadgets per household and per person, will have to heavily rely on imported fossil fuels. This means that the world’s third largest economy will once again have to struggle financially, as fossil fuel is one of the most expensive to import. Electric utilities will have to raise fees in order to offset the import costs and also to pay for the decommissioning of the inactive reactors. Environmentally speaking, the burning of more coal and gas will also make it difficult for Japan to meet their greenhouse-gas emission reduction targets.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is expected to revise their energy framework in the next three years in order to solve this dilemma. If the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is still in power by then, they will probably push for building more nuclear reactors in order to replace the old ones, according to Tatsujiro Suzuki, the recently resigned vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. He also believes that by the time, the public may be more accepting of nuclear power again, as the events of 2011 may just be a distant, painful memory for most.