Examining Japan’s Energy Policy Updates

On October 13, 2015, Mr. Hiromichi Nakahara, Director of METI’s Office for International Nuclear Cooperation, addressed the quarterly meeting of the U.S.-Japan Roundtable with an update on Japan’s current nuclear energy policy. His presentation was thorough and extremely informative. Forum on Energy has compiled a quick, at-a-glance summary of the most salient topics of his address.

1)    Japan’s Energy Best Mix

Mr. Nakahara emphasized the commitment that Japan has demonstrated to determining its best energy mix for the long-term. He particularly outlined three considerations:

  • Self-sufficiency: The government has now indicated its intention to achieve a self-sufficiency rate of approx. 25%, though it is currently stands at approx. 6%. Before Fukushima, the country had a goal of 20% self-sufficiency in the long term.
  • Electricity cost: Economic efficiency and cost reduction are significant goals for the government, as electricity prices for households have risen approx. 20% since Fukushima.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: As 2013 was the worst recorded year of energy-generated GHG emissions, the Japanese government seeks to set an internationally comparable target of emissions reductions for its future energy mix.

METI officially announced the energy mix plan on July 16, 2015, setting a goal of 20-22% nuclear energy by 2030 and making the restart of nuclear reactors a top priority.

2)    The Nuclear Restart

Nakahara japan map

Presenting an updated version of the graphic that Mr. Kayama used in his June presentation, Mr. Nakahara demonstrated that the past several months have been significant for the nuclear industry, with the restart of Sendai No. 1, the first reactor to go back online. (**NOTE** Sendai No. 2 was restarted two days after the presentation)

Mr. Nakahara proceeded to present the government’s path forward in its pursuit of nuclear restart, summarizing the safety reviews and inspections process of the Nuclear Regulation Authority in a comprehensive graphic:

nakahara roadmap

3)    The New Business Environment of Reprocessing

In addition to providing a roadmap for how Japan intends to reform its electricity market, Mr. Nakahara delineated challenges under the new deregulated market:

  • Funds: Increasing competition among utilities and uncertainty surrounding funds for the reprocessing project will be addressed by reviewing the current institutional system.
  • Implementation structure: In the deregulated marketplace, it may prove more difficult for competing companies to cooperate in the manner to which the industry is accustomed. The government’s involvement will be increased, among other measures to address this concern.
  • Appropriate and efficient projects: As the interests of utilities differ, a system must be established to ensure the utilities’ commitment to the reprocessing project.

4)    Spent Fuel Management

Mr. Nakahara presented “The Action Plan for the Spent Fuel Management,” which was recently endorsed by the Ministerial Meeting. It entails the following steps:

  1. Establish a coordinating body between government and utilities
  2. Request each utility formulate a plan for the promotion of spent fuel management
  3. Review subsidy systems for local communities, focused on incentivizing dry cask storage
  4. Promote public understanding of spent fuel management
  5. Implement nuclear fuel cycle policy, including Rokkasho and Mutsu Interim Storage Facility

5)    Fukushima Update

Progress in the decommissioning and contaminated water management at the Fukushima Daiichi site was outlined by Mr. Nakahara. He emphasized the significance of the water decontamination system that came online in September 2015, allowing previously contaminated water to be released into the ocean.

fukushima water system6)    The Global Nuclear Market

Finally, Mr. Nakahara addressed significant developments in the global nuclear market, with particular focus on the increased activities from both China and Russia. Both countries are engaging in global nuclear activity on a new scale, disrupting the status quo in a manner that merits attention and analysis. Specific cases cited by Mr. Nakahara are found on the last five slides of his presentation, which can be viewed in full here.

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