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JAPAN AND NUCLEAR POWER

  • By Admin
  • May 10, 2024
  • 127 Views

On March 11, 2011, the fourth most powerful earthquake occurred off the cost of Japan, triggering a tsunami that resulted in over 18,000 deaths and an estimated $220 Billion in damages, not only in Japan, but also globally in places including Hawaii, California, French Polynesia, Galapagos Islands, Peru, and Chili. A significant result of the tsunami is now known as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster where all three nuclear cores of the Japan plant experienced meltdown in the first few days.

Before the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station accident, Japan had embraced nuclear power with 54 commercial nuclear reactors in operation and a total generation capacity of 48,847 MW. After the accident, nuclear reactors in the country were gradually shut down due to safety concerns and political pressure. As of May 2012, there were no reactors in operation. The question arises, what is the state of nuclear power in Japan now?

Nuclear safety in Japan is now regulated by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an administrative body of the Cabinet of Japan and part of the Ministry of the Environment. In July 2013, the new regulatory requirements set forth by the NRA were put into effect to review, decommission, or restart plants. In August and October 2015, Japan restarted its first reactors since the Fukushima disaster. As of early this year, Japan has restarted 12 nuclear reactors, bringing the total operating capacity to 11 GW. The remaining 14 reactors are at various stages in the restart approval process.

As far as nuclear waste, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan reports reprocessing spent nuclear fuel recovers approx. 95% of reusable uranium and plutonium, and separates out the remaining approx. 5%, which is vitrified in stable form and temporarily stored at high-level radioactive waste storage facilities for 30-50 years before the final disposal. Low-level radioactive wastes are packed in metal drums and laid underground in the Low-level Radioactive Waste Storage Center in Rokkasho village, Aomori Prefecture (pictured).

Overall, while nuclear power continues to play a role in Japan’s energy strategy, its future trajectory depends on various factors including regulatory approvals, public acceptance, safety concerns, and the development of alternative energy sources.

Photo credit: Wikipedia