Japan will be unable to meet 2020 emission targets because of reduced nuclear power

1. The Japanese government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan plan to reconsider Japan’s pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. “Achieving the target has become impossible in any way,” a government source said, because the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has made it impossible for Japan to significantly expand its nuclear power capacity.

Japan has premised its emission target on greater reliance on nuclear power because in generating electricity, nuclear power emits substantially fewer amounts of carbon dioxide, a substance that causes global warming, than thermal power.

But the 25 percent reduction target, which was first pledged in 2009 by then prime minister and DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, has become Japan’s international commitment under the U.N. climate change treaty.

Domestic businesses have long opposed Tokyo’s pledge to cut emissions by 25 percent on the grounds that they would be put at a competitive disadvantage when the United States, which never ratified the protocol, and China assume no obligations under the Kyoto framework.

The nuclear crisis triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March and the subsequent safety concerns raised by the public about nuclear power have forced the government to reconsider its plan to build nine new reactors by 2020.

2. The South Korean government plans to name Samcheok and Yeongdeok by no later than the end of next year as the final sites for the new nuclear power plants after conducting environmental impact assessments. The two sites would house four power plants each that will have a capacity of up to one-point-four million kilowatts.

3. Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), operator of the world’s biggest oil refinery complex, has invested in Terra Power LLC, a nuclear design and engineering company partly funded by Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates. The Mumbai-based energy explorer and refiner, is controlled by Indian billionaire Chairman Mukesh Ambani. Terra Power, based in Bellevue, Washington, counts Gates and Khosla Ventures, backed by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, among its investors.

4. Russia and the United States have an agreement for Russia to provide uranium enrichment services in 2013-2022 to the United States.

The new arrangements replace the HEU agreement that was signed in 1993 and expires in 2013.

Tenex, wholly owned by Rosatom, signed a $2.8 billion 10-year deal with the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) to supply low-enriched uranium. Under the deal, Russia will supply USEC with 21 million separate work units over a period of 10 years starting from 2013.

5. Saudi Arabia’s failure to secure a wide-ranging atomic energy treaty with the USA, continues to push the oil-rich country into the arms of other nuclear suiters, experts on the kingdom have argued. The Saudi’s plan is to invest USD112 billion over the next 20 years to build 16 nuclear power plants (NPPs) to offset rising domestic energy demand and retain its position as a leading hydrocarbons exporter.

A memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy was signed with the US in 2008, but the two countries have yet to sign Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, essentially a prerequisite for nuclear cooperation between the US and other nations.

Saudi Arabia is looking into alternative energies, from solar to nuclear power, to wean power generation off oil, with the kingdom already using 320 million barrels of crude per year. This is to triple by 2032 when power capacity is expected to reach 121,000MW, according to Saudi Arabia’s Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Authority (ECRA). Some USD140.3 billion is to be spent on conventional electricity projects over the next decade, according to ECRA, to provide an extra 3,000MW of electricity generation per year. A fifth of power generation is expected to come from nuclear power and renewable energy by 2020.

Two NPPs are slated to come online over the next decade, and then two more NPPs are to be operational per year until 2030

6. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has voted to approve a rule certifying an amended version of Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design for use in the United States. The NRC opened on January 19, 1975. This is the fourth reactor design that they have approved. The NRC is averaging one design certification every 9 years. The NRC seems to do a batch of three certifications every 20 years or so.

The NRC has over a billion dollar per year budget and almost 4000 staff.

The Advanced Passive 1000 is a larger version of the previously approved AP600 design (1999 certification), which is one of the three other approved designs. The NRC has certified three other standard reactor designs: the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, System 80+, and AP600.

The System 80+ (1997 certification) is a pressurized water reactor design by Combustion Engineering (which was subsequently bought by Asea Brown Boveri and eventually merged into the Westinghouse Electric Company ).

The advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR, certified 1997) was derived from a General Electric design and now promoted both by GE-Hitachi and Toshiba as a proven design

The NRC is currently reviewing six Combined License applications that reference the amended AP1000 design. The agency is currently reviewing applications to certify the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor, the U.S. Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor and the EPR pressurized-water reactor.

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