Lack of nuclear energy and air pollution from China makes bad air quality in Japan

The restart of the third nuclear reactor in Japan to clear post-Fukushima safety rules on Friday is a small step in the country’s quest to reestablish atomic energy as part of its energy mix.

Kansai Electric Power Co. resumed operations at the No. 3 unit of its Takahama plant near the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto

Japan’s 40 other operable reactors remain shut in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that caused a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi facility. Twenty-five have applied to restart.

More nuclear-powered electricity generation will help reduce Japan’s fuel import bill and lead to lower electricity rates for consumers. The restart will also help the government reach its goal of having nuclear power make up as much as 22 percent of the nation’s energy needs by 2030. A total of about 30 to 33 reactors will need to restart to meet the government’s target, according to Syusaku Nishikawa, a Tokyo-based analyst at Daiwa Securities Co.

Rob Chang, a managing director and head of metals and mining for Canada, forecasts three other Japanese reactors will come back online in 2016, bringing the nation’s total to five. Eight more will start in 2017 and a total of 37 reactors will be online by 2020.

Japan imported about 85 million metric tons of LNG last year, down 3.9 percent from the previous year in the first decline since 2009, according to data from the country’s finance ministry. Thermal coal imports rose to a record.

The country’s LNG imports will fall by 2.4 million tons this year and by a further 2.2 million tons in 2017, largely because of the restart of nuclear plants.

50 trillion BTU = 1 million tons of LNG

Each 1 million BTU of LNG costs japan about $8.75 and that was as high as $18. Each 50 trillion BTU or 1 million tons of LNG is costing Japan $440 million.

As of 2012, the PM2.5 pollution level (particulate matter of 2.5 micron size) had exceeded the per-cubic-meter safety ceiling of 15 micrograms (annual average) and 35 micrograms (daily average) at about 60 percent of the monitoring sites around the country.

Japan already had significant air pollution deaths before fukushima. Since 2011 air quality has gotten worse

Japan’s air quality is bad because of air pollution blown in from China and because of increased coal and fossil fuel usage.

Feb 27, 2014 in Tokyo. China had an air pollution event and it effected Japan. Japan also produces substantial air pollution.

Japan went from about 65% power from non-fossil fuel sources to 90% power from fossil fuel (coal, oil and natural gas) after shutting down the nuclear reactors.

Most of the new energy construction plans in Japan have been for so-called “base-load” coal-fired plants.

In 2014, Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, and other regional monopolies were planning to add 11,000 megawatts (MW) of gas- and coal-fired electrical capacity.

If the plans all come to fruition, Japan’s coal-fired power capacity would increase to around 47 gigawatts over the next decade or so, up 21% from the time right before the Fukushima accident.

In 2009, Japan agreed, along with the other G8 nations, to reduce its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. The 43 coal plants would have a combined carbon footprint equal to 10 percent of Japan’s current total emissions, and equal to 50 percent of the total emissions it had aimed to have in 2050.