Japan can't afford to leave nuclear power switched off

• By Vlado Vivoda, Griffith University, Australia • Recent data shows Japan posted a record high trade deficit of ¥6.93tn (A$73.16bn) in 2012. Japan is struggling with rising imports as it tries to replace the energy lost when it shut down of most of its nuclear reactors following the March 11, 2011 Fukushima disaster. A glance at Japan’s energy trade statistics reveals the cost of mineral fuel imports increased from ¥17.4tn in 2010 to ¥21.8tn in 2011 and then to ¥24.1tn in 2012. The increased cost of imported fuels accounted for a lion’s share of Japan trade deficits over the past two years. The cost of power has caused some Japanese companies to relocate production overseas and have otherwise made Japanese-produced goods less competitive. Between May and July 2012, all of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors were offline. Two reactors were restarted in Ōi in July to tackle looming electricity shortages in the Kansai region during summer. According to the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, restarting 26 of the nuclear power stations in 2014 would lower electricity fuel cost by ¥1.8tn. Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power accounted for 25-30% of Japan’s electricity supply. For a resource-poor and import dependent country, nuclear power was seen as a cheap option. At the same time it could enhance energy security, as it was considered to be a domestic energy source. After the Fukushima disaster, Naoto Kan’s and Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) governments hinted at nuclear phase-out by 2040. They did not commit to such policy through a new Basic Energy Plan, but they seemed to favour such an option, which was also supported by public opinion. However, in mid-December 2012, Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a landslide victory in Japan’s general election, defeating the DPJ. Before the election, Shinzo Abe declared a move away from nuclear power was irresponsible and would damage the already ailing Japanese economy ...Zum vollständigen Artikel

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