In Japan, there are 53 nuclear plants and its energetic consumption is based on 12% on nuclear plants , 53% on oil, and 13% on natural gas. But, because of the Fukushima nuclear accident and others that happened before (1999, Accident at the Tokai Mura fuel facility), people rise the possibility to close all nuclear plants. Public opinion is in favour of such view since « between 41 and 54 percent of Japanese support scrapping, or reducing the numbers of, nuclear power plants » . But to close all its facilities, Japan will have to pay a very high price.
Increasing public investment
First of all, in terms of public investment, it will cost a lot of money to close all Japanese nuclear plants and switch to other energies since nuclear energy has been a national strategic priority (what we call New Policy) since 1973 and accounts for almost 30% of the Japan’s total electricity production. According to the International Energy Agency, in the New Policies Scenario, Japan’s spending on imports of gas will “double to $66 billion between 2009 and 2035”, but would reach “$80 billion in the Low Nuclear Case”. In addition, we can mention the fact Japan was severly hit by the economic crisis and can’t put so much money on the table, at least in the current context.
A threat to Japan’s energy security
Second of all, Japan will lose the little energy independence that he has acquired over the past decades. Indeed, Japan have almost no indigenous hydro-carbon resources. Including nuclear power, Japan’s energy self-efficiency represents 16%, and this figure falls to 4% if we exclude nuclear power . According to the IEA, it intensifies concerns about Japan’s energy security .
Importing more fossil energies
Moreover, closing all its nuclear plants means importing other energies, which will be more costly than in any other country. Because, unlike countries in Europe or in North/South America, Japan has no cross-border oil and gas pipelines nor power-transmission lines, and importing other energies have an additional cost. A little historical fact can underline the price Japan will have to pay since its economic recovery after the oil shocks of 1970s is due its successful energy policies and attempt to become more and more energy-independent. According to the International Energy Agency, it is a concern since “spending on oil imports is near record highs” .
Another cost will be the environmental cost. In september 2009, former Prime Minister Hatoyama committed to a 25% reduction of GHG emissions by 2020, at the UN Climate Change Summit. According to the IEA in the Low Nuclear Case, Japan’s CO2 emissions are “50 Mt higher in 2035 than in the New Policies Scenario”.
As a conclusion, the low nuclear scenario will negatively impact Japan in terms of economic cost, energy security and increase of CO2 emissions, and rises important concerns.