Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Japan Future Nuclear Mix -- The Debate Narrows Slightly

The last week in May saw a number of reports about deliberations of METI's Advisory Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  The Fundamental Issues Subcommittee issued a major report on December 20, 2011 flagging "Discussion Points" on the establishment of a new basic energy plan for Japan, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Each plan is assessed in terms of what kind of CO2 reductions can be achieved versus 1990 levels.

This subcommittee is, officially, where the "rethinking" is going on regarding Japanese energy policy.

Of course, the area of greatest focus, public attention, and indecision, is the future role of nuclear power.

The pre-Fukushima plan had looked to nuclear to grow to provide 45% of Japan's electricity needs by the year 2030, with renewables providing 20%, and a 31% reduction in CO2.

Over 24 meetings since last year, the subcommittee has not been able to decide on recommendations among 4 alternatives:

1. 0% nuclear, 35% renewables, 16% CO2 reduction.
2. 15% nuclear, 30% renewables, 20% reduction.
3. 20-25% nuclear, 25-30% renewables, 23% reduction.
4. 35% nuclear, 25% renewables, 28% reduction.

An additional option was that, based upon deregulation of electricity supplies, consumers can choose their power source (with an impact on the rate they pay) -- which I guess works if you can accurately assess surcharges to cover the externalities of each source.

Reports in the Nikkei Shimbun on May 27 and 29 suggest that the options have limited somewhat.

The 35% nuclear option is, effectively, off the table and out of the report.  (Did anyone think it would be achievable in practice?  or acceptable to the public?)

There are also numerous reports that the DPJ government, and especially Mr. Hosono, minister in charge of the response to the Fukushima accident, supports option #2 -- 15% nuclear power, 30% renewables, in the year 2030.  That plan provides for no construction of new nuclear plants, and that existing plants will not have their licenses renewed or extended beyond the initial 40 year operating period.  This option essentially would put nuclear power into a "run off" mode in Japan ... a very, very long run off.  This seems pretty realistic, though ultimately it is a decision for the Japanese people and their government.

While the debate over future mix continues, the mix as of May 2012 is nuclear 0%, renewables (mostly traditional hydro) less than 10%, and fossil fuels 90%.

Japan's "energy self sufficiency" in 2011 as reported by the IEA fell to 13%, the lowest since 1981, and it will probably be lower yet in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. June 6, the Nuclear Safety Agency approved an application for KEPCO's Mihama #2 reactor to operate for another 10 years, beyond its current 40 years. As they explained it, while legislation has been proposed to limit plants to a 40 year lifespan, with extremely limited exceptions, under the current law there was no reason not to grant the application ... and the situation will be revisited if and when the law changes.

    But before Mihama #2 could restart, it would still need to complete the procedure for full review of its "stress test" results, and would need to win support of the relevant prefecture and local communities. So this is being interpreted in the press as a bureaucracy going ahead with its bureaucratic procedures, and not likely to lead to an actual restart.