Japan is heading towards another near-total shutdown of its nuclear reactors after regulators refused to extend deadlines for completing antiterrorism measures. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said it would enforce deadlines that expired next summer for many operating reactors. Electricity companies have said there was almost no chance they would be ready on time. The regulator’s stance is a fresh blow to a nuclear power sector that has never recovered from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011, when three reactors melted down after a tsunami knocked out their cooling systems. It is likely to result in a surge in Japanese demand for coal, oil and liquid natural gas as alternatives if most of the operating nuclear reactors have to go offline. Japan has struggled to restart its reactors in the face of strong public opposition and many are still offline. As of March 15, nine out of Japan’s 57 reactors had restarted. Several others have restarted only to shut down again because of injunctions issued by local courts. The national energy strategy calls on Japan to use nuclear power for the foreseeable future given the low cost of running existing reactors, the need to reduce carbon emissions and the country’s dependence on imported energy. However, the national government has not pushed for restarts, leaving it in the hands of regulators, utilities, courts and local politicians. The long-term future of the sector is therefore in doubt.
FT 25th April 2019 read more »