Japan considers subsidy scheme to restart idled reactors after Fukushima

28 July 2023

Japan is considering a subsidy scheme intended to help utilities improve safety measures at existing NPPs to accelerate the restart of reactors that have been idled since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Stricter safety requirements were introduced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in the wake of the accident, obliging utilities to upgrade their facilities before they can restart.

Japan is planning to introduce a new auction programme in January 2024 to encourage the construction of new decarbonised power plants such as renewable and nuclear energy. The Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) has now proposed extending the scheme to existing NPPs. By taking part in the auction they could receive financial support for the necessary upgrades.

"The proposal is to help Japan make maximum use of existing nuclear energy," a METI official said, adding it will improve predictability on the utilities' returns on investment. To date only about a third of its Japan’s 33 operable reactors have restarted operation. Of the 54 reactors operating before the Fukushima disaster many have now closed and are awaiting decommissioning.

The programme, called "long-term decarbonised power supply auction," guarantees income for 20 years for electricity generation companies building new decarbonised power stations, using funds collected from electricity retailers. A panel of energy experts will discuss METI's proposal in coming months. However, no deadline has been set, the METI official noted, adding that a decision is unlikely be made in time for the first auction.

The programme also covers the construction of thermal power plants that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to zero with new technologies by 2050, the METI official said.

Image: Tomari nuclear power plant

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