Nuclear Energy in Japan - Facts and Curiosities

Hello everyone, everything good? Almost everyone has heard that Japan is dependent on nuclear power plants. And in this article I will comment a little more about nuclear energy and the relationship that Japan has with this type of power generation, which is one of the most dangerous in this environment.

An example of its danger is the great accident in Fukushima that occurred after the tsunami of the year 2011. That after the various precautions and protective measures the radiation risks still incredibly affect the accident site, so much so that parts are still totally isolated. Anyway, I will discuss the matter more calmly throughout the article.

Japan and its energy industry

Japan's first commercial nuclear power reactor started operating in 1966, and nuclear power has been a national strategic priority since 1973. This came under question after the 2011 Fukushima accident, but it has been confirmed. After all, it is not a situation that can be solved only by wanting and doing.

By 2011, Japan had generated around 30% of electricity from its reactors and was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2017. The current outlook is two-thirds of that, from an exhausted fleet.

Today, 42 reactors are operable. The first two restarted in August and October 2015, with seven more having restarted since then. 17 reactors are currently in the process of restarting approval. This leaves us with a heavy question as to why they are doing this, even after the 2011 nuclear accident.

Despite being the only country to have suffered the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, Japan has adopted the peaceful use of nuclear technology to generate a substantial amount of its electricity.

However, after the tsunami that killed 19,000 people and caused the Fukushima nuclear accident, which despite not having made legal victims, left a huge trauma to the mental and physical health of people in that area and a feeling of regret across Japan and a lot of people around the world.

And with that, public sentiment changed dramatically, so that there were widespread public protests demanding that nuclear power be abandoned. The balance between this populist sentiment and the continued supply of reliable and affordable electricity is being discussed politically.

Nuclear power in japan - facts and curiosities

Japan's energy situation

Japan's scarcity of minerals and energy was a powerful influence on its politics and history in the 20th century. Nowadays it depends on imports for more than 90% of its primary energy needs. Which is extremely little for a country the size of Japan.

When he recovered from the losses of World War II and his industrial base grew in a relatively short time, he needed imports of fossil fuels, especially oil from the Middle East. This geographic and commodity fragility became unstable due to the oil shock in 1973.

At that time, Japan already had a growing nuclear industry, with five reactors in operation. The reassessment of the internal energy policy resulted in measures to diversify, in particular, an important nuclear construction program. A great deal of importance was devoted to reducing the country's dependence on oil imports.

However, after the Fukushima accident in October 2011, the government tried to reduce the role of nuclear energy, but it was not enough to satisfy the population, which resulted in the loss of the positions of most politicians in the elections.

Government after the Fukushima accident

The new government adopted in 2014 the 4th Basic Energy Plan, with a 20-year progression and affirming that nuclear energy is a basic energy source with basic charge and that it would still be used safely to obtain an energy supply for your demands. In addition to being a preventive measure against global warming.

In 2015, the government stated that it intended basic load sources to provide 60% of energy by 2030, a third of which would be nuclear power. The analysis by the Innovative Technology Research Institute for Earth estimated that energy costs would be reduced by $ 20 billion a year compared to the current state.

At the same time, it was announced that 43 coal power projects were planned or were in progress. As well as the revival of coal energy with a 20% growth in consumption, LNG imports from Japan grew from about US $ 20 billion in 2010 to US $ 70 billion in 2013.

Development of the nuclear program

In order not to leave details blank, I just put a general summary so far of the situation in Japan in relation to the topic, but from now on I will delve deeper into the issues and discuss them more fully but I will try to maintain the same level of ease. in understanding.

The nuclear research program began in 1954. The Basic Atomic Energy Law, which strictly limits the use of nuclear technology to peaceful purposes, was passed in 1955. This law promoted three principles - democratic methods, independent management and transparency - which are the foundation of nuclear research activities.

The inauguration of the Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) in 1956 helped in the development and use of nuclear energy, and with that several other institutions on the subject were created, soon after.

Nuclear power in japan - facts and curiosities

First steps towards Japan's Nuclear Energy

The first reactor to produce electricity in Japan was a prototype of a boiling water reactor: the Japan Power Demonstration Reactor (JPDR), which operated from 1963 to 1976 and provided a great deal of information for later commercial reactors. I believe that he makes a special participation in the history of Japan.

Japan imported its first commercial nuclear reactor from the UK, Tokai 1 - a 160 MWe gas-cooled reactor (Magnox) built by GEC. It started operating in July 1966 and continued until March 1998.

Upon completion of this unit, only light water reactors (LWRs) using enriched uranium - or boiling water reactors (BWRs) or pressurized water reactors (PWRs) - were built. As early as 1970, the first three of these reactors were completed and started commercial operation.

Soon Japanese companies had already acquired the ability to build these units, as they bought projects from the USA and were licensed to manage the next steps. Companies like Hitachi Co Ltd, Toshiba Co Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry Co Ltd have developed the ability to design and build LWRs on their own.

Nuclear Energy Improvement Measures in Japan

As the technologies always advance, the reactors needed to improve because they sinned in several aspects and needed constant revisions for their operation. Soon the Japanese government took steps to help develop and improve this technology that had become very important for the country.

And in 1975, the LWR Improvement and Standardization Program was launched by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the nuclear power industry. He sought to standardize LWR projects in three phases, until 1985.

In phases 1 and 2, existing BWR and PWR projects should be modified to improve their operation and maintenance. The third phase of the program included increasing the size of the reactor to 1300-1400 MWe and major changes in the projects. These would be Advanced BWR (ABWR) and Advanced PWR (APWR).

Nuclear Energy Research Centers in Japan

With the same objective of creating the program, the Japanese government has also created some research centers to help in this sector. Which shows the interest he had in advancing this technology and also the importance that nuclear energy was gaining in the country.

One of the main research centers and fuel cycle until the late 1990s was the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation, better known as PNC. Their activities ranged from uranium exploration in Australia to the disposal of high-level waste.

But after two accidents and the PNC's unsatisfactory response, the government in 1998 reconstituted the PNC as the most complete Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC), whose aim was to focus on the development of fast regeneration reactors, high combustion fuel, among others.

But a merger of JNC and JAERI soon took place in 2005, which was responsible for the creation of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which is currently an important integrated nuclear R & D organization. Role that it plays until today.

Nuclear power in japan - facts and curiosities

Changes in energy policy

Because of the Fukushima accident, the government was forced to cease a large part of two activities involving nuclear energy, this because of pressure from the population itself and also from outside pressure because this accident, together with the tragedy that happened in the country after the earthquake that has become news all over the world.

For these and several other reasons, the government had to make several changes so that the country did not suffer from an energy crisis of gigantic scales. And some of them I will explain from now on.

July 2011, the Energy and Environment Council (Enecan or EEC) was created by the cabinet of the Japanese Democratic Party (PDJ) Office as part of the National Policy Unit to drive Japan's energy future through 2050.

This body was intended to help National Policy focus on future dependence on nuclear energy. And his first recommendation was that the contribution of nuclear energy to electricity should be directed to 0%, 15% or 20-25% for the medium term.

The Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) and the Central Environment Council appeared to be under the command of Enecan in 2011, and in 2012 they were restored to their previous status. Meanwhile, large Japanese companies like Mitsui and Mitsubishi have started to invest heavily in LNG production capacity.

Recent events

In June 2015, the government's Electricity Generation Plan until 2030 was approved. This was nuclear in 20-22% in 2030, renewable 22-24%, LNG 27% and coal 26%. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 21.9% by 2030 compared to the 2013 level and to improve the energy self-sufficiency rate to 24.3%, from 6.3% in 2012.

In July of the same year, the government approved the 2014 White Paper on Energy. It showed that the percentage of energy from fossil fuels has grown from 62% to 88% over four years.

It also showed that the increase in fuel costs due to nuclear shutdowns was 2.3 billion JPY in 2011, JPY 3.1 billion in 2012 and JPY 3.6 trillion in 2013 (until March 2014). Domestic energy expenses increased by an average of 13.7% in the four years.

In July 2017, the cabinet approved the Basic Concept Project on the Use of Nuclear Energy, developed over two years by JAEC, including public consultation. It describes eight priority activities to achieve the basic goals for the safe use of nuclear energy, promoting its benefits.

Nuclear power in japan - facts and curiosities

My opinion

I honestly don't think that nuclear power plants are a danger to society. I would much more criticize countries that use nuclear energy as a means of demonstrating power, as well as Russia or the United States and their atomic arsenals for the sole purpose of serving as weapons of war.

Apart from that Japan is not usually negligent when it comes to infrastructure and security, they are always developing technologies to satisfy their needs, be they in commercial, urban, domestic or industrial infrastructure. They are always looking to improve, unlike negligent countries that only think about getting money.

In addition to all this, it is not as if Japan was rich in natural resources like Brazil, on the contrary, the resources are extremely limited as much as its plains. For those who do not know Japan is a predominantly mountainous country, which explains its need for space since the plains are scarce.

Opinions differ on this subject, leave yours there in the comments and see if we disagree or agree. But first remember that the accident only occurred because of the gigantic tsunami that hit Japan at the time, which killed thousands of people. And the earthquake was not the cause of the damage done to the plant's units.

Well, that's it for this article. If you have any questions, suggestions, criticism or the like, just leave your comment. In addition, thanks to you, my dear reader, for reading this article so far and until the next.

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