Skip to main content

The Price Point in Japan

fourth-reactor-building-ohi-nuclear-power-plant-433250Outside Japan, it seemed inevitable:

Japan has given final approval for the restart of two nuclear reactors, a move that will end a total shutdown of the atomic power sector caused by safety fears raised by last year’s crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Inevitable because the Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda worked hard to get the approval of the prefecture (state) officials because all signs were that Japan would suffer brownouts and blackouts without the Oi (I’ve also seen it as Ohi) reactors in Fukui Prefecture. In any event, though the announcement is notable, it will still take awhile to get the reactors back online.

Kansai Electric said that further tests and checks were required for the two Oi reactors, but it expected to be able to start generating electricity with the No 3 unit in early July, with No 4 following later in the month. It would take each reactor a few days after being restarted to reach full output, the company said.

Which sounds like good timing. The Japanese, much like Americans, appreciate air conditioning. More seriously, Japan’s industrial sector stands to be seriously hemmed in, though the story says this particular restart is more about the air conditioning, allowing Kansai Electric to just about meet its forecast of need output for the summer.

But it’s just the beginning.

Japanese media said leading candidates [to be brought back online] would be a reactor at Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata plant in Ehime prefecture and two units at Hokkaido Electric Power’s Tomari plant on the northern island of Hokkaido.

---

Japan has not yet released in energy roadmap, expected sometime this summer. But it has already taken a larger interest in renewable energy sources.

Industry Minister Yukio Edano approved the introduction of feed-in tariffs (FIT), which means higher rates will be paid for renewable energy. The move could expand revenue from renewable generation and related equipment to more than $30 billion by 2016, brokerage CLSA estimates.

Whatever happens to the nuclear reactors, it certainly isn’t a bad idea to use what resource-poor Japan has on hand. The problem is that nuclear energy is relatively (a lot) less expensive.

The scheme requires Japanese utilities to buy electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal at pre-set premiums for up to 20 years. Costs will be passed on to consumers through higher bills.

We can’t guess what Japan will do with its energy mix. Using nuclear, wind and solar energy in tandem and shutting down fossil fuel plants will allow Japan to lower its carbon emissions. Other combinations will not.

Odd detail:

Wind power will be subsidized at least 23.1 yen per kwh, compared with as low as 4.87 euro cents (6 U.S. cents) in Germany.

That doesn’t tell you anything, does it? In fact, 23.1 yen is 29 cents – not good at all. This story from World Nuclear News provides some sense of relative cost within Japan:

Cost estimates made in 2004 by a Japanese government sub-committee put the cost of nuclear generation at ¥5.30 ($0.07) per kWh, by far the cheapest means of generating electricity, with oil at ¥10.70 ($0.14), coal at ¥5.70 ($0.07), gas at ¥6.20 ($0.08) and hydro at ¥11.90 ($0.16).

According to the story, the accident at Fukushima Daiichi raises that cost by, at most, another two cents per kWh. That makes coal and natural gas more competitive, but not renewable energy sources – wind energy not at all – certainly not with those subsides in place.

The O(h)I facility.

Comments

Joffan said…
Ohi's phase-1 safety review was approved ages ago. Is there an online source for the approval status of the other Japanese reactors?
jimwg said…
Japan almost religiously prides its scenic treasures, so I wonder how they're going to wrap themselves around windmills razing forests and mountainsides for noisy intermittent power. Vermont, take note!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…