Nuclear power plant cooling towers Thomas Niedermueller, Getty Images

Why Is Nuclear Power Important for Japan?

With a nuclear reactor back up and running in Japan, some quick questions and answers about the country's nuclear power industry.

TOKYO — Nuclear power had been an integral source of electricity for Japan until the Fukushima crisis led to the government shutting down all reactors.

With one of those reactors up and running again this week, here are some key questions and answers about Japan’s nuclear power industry:

How important was nuclear power for Japan’s electricity mix and how did it make up for the loss?

Nuclear power accounted for a quarter of Japan’s electricity production before the Fukushima crisis. Japan increased imports and production of gas, oil and coal to overcome the lack of nuclear power. By March, about 91% of Japan’s electricity came from fossil fuels and 8.5% from hydropower.

What has been the cost of shutting down the nuclear power industry?

Japan has spent about 3.6 trillion yen ($28.82 billion) annually buying more fossil fuel imports to make up for the shortfall, according to Masakazu Toyoda, from Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics. This has led to large trade deficits and, with electricity prices going up by more than 20%, a dampening of economic activity that has curtailed tax revenues.

With one reactor turned back on, how much nuclear energy does Japan hope to produce?

The government has set a target of 20% to 22% of its total electricity coming from nuclear by 2030. This will come from more than 40 existing reactors, although some of them may never restart because they are too old or because of opposition from local communities. The government might also build new reactors, although there are no plans yet. Environmental group Greenpeace believes only between 2% and 8% of electricity will be nuclear by then, because of technical issues and widespread public opposition to the industry.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

TAGS: The Economy
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