An Update on Fukushima Recovery and Reactor Restarts

For the next several weeks, the Forum on Energy will be featuring content from the recent 7th annual U.S.-Japan Roundtable conference.


Mr. Taizo Takahashi, Deputy Commissioner Agency for Natural Resources and Energy at the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, outlined Japan’s strategic energy plan at the recent U.S.- Japan Roundtable Conference. The plan is built around what it refers to as “3E+S” for energy security, economic efficiency, the environment, and safety. As part of the 3E+S strategy, nuclear power is identified as a key element of the Japanese energy mix. Mr. Takahashi also emphasized the governments laser-like focus on the decontamination and decommissioning of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant and on building Japan’s nuclear industry through technological advancement, research, and international partnerships.

>>View his full presentation below:


Japan’s strategic energy plan balances basic safety and environmental health with economics. Taking these three requirements into account, the plan aims to strengthen the country’s agility to respond to external and internal challenges such as deteriorated public confidence in government and safe nuclear operations, trade imbalances, increased energy dependence on the Middle East regions and increased pressure to reduce CO2 emissions. The government recognizes that nuclear is an important base-load power and that shutting the power plants down has had detrimental effects to the economy, the environment and the country’s energy security. But nuclear’s continued use rests on individual power plants ability to pass NRA inspections.

Twenty nuclear reactor units are currently under review for restart. Two reactors in Kyushu, Sendai 1 and 2 received permission to restart, which will probably occur at the beginning of 2015. After Sendai, other power plants in Oi, Ikata, Tomori, Genkai will be next in line for consideration. Despite the opening of these plants, in view of public resistance, dependency on nuclear power generation will be lowered to the greatest extent possible, with consideration given to ensuring stable energy supply, cost reduction, global warming, and maintaining nuclear technologies and human resources.

Japan has set up new institutions with safety and economics in mind. These include the Nuclear Risk Research Center to produce safety research on a framework of Probabilistic Risk Assessments. Japan also recently created a working group on how best to develop new technological capabilities for use in domestic and export to the global market.

Liberalization of the electricity market is ongoing. Japan will have full retail competition in 2016. But this effort will complicate the nuclear restart. Nuclear power business requires long and stable payback. The experiences of other countries which have already liberalized their market indicate that it is very difficult to liberalize the market and promote nuclear power at the same time. There are many different pricing schemes to achieve this.  Japan is analyzing the U.S. and UK and other cases to decide how to manage this.

Unlike its previous strategy, in which the government asked for municipalities to volunteer without success, the Japanese government drive the determination for a final nuclear waste disposal location. The government will also lead in identifying locations for dry cask and other medium term solutions. In addition, there will be a focus on reducing the volume of waste through reprocessing. Reprocessing allows for a volume reduction and radiation half-life. Breeders are also a possible part of the solution.

The utility Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) expects to complete the Rokkasho Reprocessing Facility in March 2016. MOX fuel fabrication plant at Rokkasho is expected to be complete by October 2017. However, the Government of Japan remains committed to policy of not possessing plutonium without a specified purpose.

Japan remains committed to ensuring the peaceful use of nuclear energy around the world. As nuclear power usage increases (especially in Asia), it is Japan’s obligation to support safe usage of nuclear power, safe decommissioning, and global nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation. Japan will continue in this focus.