Japan May Set Target of 20% Nuclear Share By 2030

(NucNet): Japan’s policy-setting Atomic Energy Commission has called for nuclear power to remain a key component of the nation’s energy supply, recommending in a report that nuclear power account for at least 20% of Japan’s energy supply in 2030.

Before Fukushima, Japan generated about 30% of its electricity from nuclear and had planned to increase that to 40%.

It said rising utility costs caused by expensive fossil fuel imports and slow reactor restarts have affected the economy. The 322-page “nuclear white paper” is the commission’s first since the accident at Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011.

Much of it explains government efforts to clean up the damaged plant and tighten safety standards.

“The government should make clear the long-term benefit of nuclear power generation and consider measures that need to be taken,” the report said.

The country shut down all nuclear reactors after the 2011 accident but has restarted five of them. With up to four reactors operating last year, they accounted for around 2% of Japan’s power.

TEPCO gets OK to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear reactors, with conditions

(The Asahi Shimbun) The nation’s nuclear watchdog gave conditional approval Sept. 13 to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s application to resume operations of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

It marks the first time that reactors operated by TEPCO, which manages the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have passed more stringent reactor regulations imposed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the Fukushima crisis in 2011.

The two reactors at the plant in Niigata Prefecture–the No. 6 and No. 7 units–are the first boiling-water reactors in Japan to clear the regulations. They are the same type as the reactors at the Fukushima plant.

The NRA already accepts that TEPCO has the technological know-how to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world’s largest.

But it wrote that it has doubts about the company’s fitness to operate a nuclear plant, given its tendency to put its balance sheet ahead of safety precautions.

The NRA ordered TEPCO to provide in the legally required safety code a detailed explanation of procedures it will take to ensure that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is operated safely.

It will also closely monitor the utility’s actions in adhering to the safety code once the NRA approves the measures proposed by TEPCO.

Despite the NRA’s conditional approval, the utility will need to gain consent from local governments for a restart.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who took office last year, has made it clear that he will not agree to the restart until the prefectural government completes its investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster to determine what went wrong. The investigation is expected to take several years. In effect he wants a perpetual “no” vote on restart of any of the reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

At some point the central government may address the issue of veto power by provincial governments over reactor restarts.  It will have to prove that the NRA has sufficient independence and power to control TEPCO and other nuclear utilities in Japan.

The NRA said, partially in response to this issue, that if TEPCO fails to adhere to its “promise” to heed to safety, it will exercise the power to suspend the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s operations or revoke its license to operate it.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has seven reactors. The No. 6 reactor and the No. 7 reactor started operations in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Each has a capacity of 1350 MW.

Chinese nuclear giant may bid for Toshiba’s £15bn Cumbrian NuGen plant

A Chinese nuclear firm is considering a bid for the £15bn NuGen nuclear plant on the Cumbrian coast that is owned by Toshiba, according to reports. That firm has been struggling to exist from the nuclear energy business as Westinghouse, its U.S. business unit, struggles with a complex bankruptcy case involving the cancellation of the V C Summer power station in South Carolina.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has taken equity stakes in a number of UK nuclear projects, including a 33 percent holding in the consortium building Hinkley Point C in Somerset and a 20 percent stake in a project at Sizewell, Suffolk, and it will eventually own 66.5 per cent of a plant at Bradwell, Essex, where it will install its HPR1000 reactor also known as a Hualong One..

The Sunday Times reported (paywall) CGN was considering an equity strake in the Cumbrian new build as it looks to showcase its reactor technology in the UK before exporting it more widely around the world.

NuGen’s planned nuclear reactor will have a gross capacity of  3800 MW, enough to power up to six million homes in the UK. The entire nuclear new build is a vital piece of the UK’s future energy mix. However, the project is being reviewed after Westinghouse, Toshiba’s nuclear arm, went bankrupt earlier this year, causing France’s Engie to back out, selling its 40 percent stake to Toshiba.

Other bidders have expressed interest in the site, including South Korea’s Kepco and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation.

World Nuclear Association issues ‘call to action’

(WNA) World Nuclear Association Director-General Agneta Rising has called on governments, expert bodies and the nuclear industry to do more to ensure that nuclear energy can make the full contribution that society requires to meet its future clean energy needs. Rising spoke at a press event at the World Nuclear Association Symposium held in London last week.

Rising said that nuclear generation has been providing low-carbon electricity for more than 60 years, Rising said she was issuing a “call to action.”

“The world is not on track to provide reliable and affordable electricity to our global population, while meeting our environmental targets,” Rising said. “Access to electricity remains out of reach to hundreds of millions of people.”

She noted that, at the Paris climate change conference nearly two years ago, governments pledged to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees. She said the actions they set out, however, will “barely limit” the temperature rise to 3 degrees.

“We need to do more. Nuclear power is a proven source of reliable, cost effective and clean power with significant public benefits. In 2015 and 2016, 20 new nuclear power plants started supplying electricity. Around 10 GWe of new nuclear capacity was added to the grid in each year. This is a higher amount than seen over the preceding 25 years. Nuclear generation has increased every year for the last four years.”

The Association’s latest Fuel Report projections, released today, suggest that – unless action is taken – the pace of growth in nuclear generation will slow.

Rising said: “Under our reference case the projection for 2035 is 482 GWe. The upper scenario, where governments and companies succeed in meeting their declared plans for nuclear, global capacity is projected to reach 625 GWe.”

“But even our upper scenario would not be enough to meet this climate goal. Nuclear needs to do more. Action is required in three key areas to enable nuclear generation to grow at a faster rate. This will require reform of energy markets, regulation and our perception of safety to make it possible.”

In many countries electricity markets are “failing to deliver the energy choices” needed.
“We need a level playing field in energy markets that utilizes existing low-carbon energy resources already in place and drives investment in additional clean energy resources.

A key component of this is that nuclear energy must be included along all other low-carbon technologies. As the only zero-emission generating resource that can be scaled to meet actual demand, nuclear power must also receive recognition and compensation for its contribution to system reliability and for other public benefits,” she said.

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