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Japan Looks to Restart the World’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant

Japan is stepping up efforts to have local authorities approve the restart of the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility north of Tokyo, Japanese newspaper Niigata Nippo reported on Friday.

Next week, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ken Saito, is expected to ask the local governor of the Niigata prefecture to approve the restart of the power plant, according to the newspaper report.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Japan closed all its nuclear power plants that underwent rigorous safety checks and inspections.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa has been offline since 2012, while the Nuclear Regulation Authority in 2021 barred the plant’s operator, utility Tepco, from operating the facility due to safety breaches.

The regulator lifted the operational ban on Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in December 2023, paving the way for the restart, which needs the approvals of the Niigata prefecture, the city of Kashiwazaki, and the village of Kariwa to resume operations.

Japan is bringing back nuclear power as a key energy source, looking to protect its energy security in the wake of the energy crisis that led to surging fossil fuel prices. The resource-poor country which needs to import about 90% of its energy requirements, made a U-turn in its nuclear energy policy at the end of 2022, as its energy import bill soared amid the energy crisis and surging costs to import LNG at record-high prices.

The Japanese government confirmed in December 2022 a new policy for nuclear energy, which the country had mostly abandoned since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. A panel of experts under the Japanese Ministry of Industry has also decided that Japan would allow the development of new nuclear reactors and allow available reactors to operate after the current limit of 60 years.

Restarts of nuclear reactors, high natural gas inventories, and increased renewable power generation have dragged Japan’s LNG imports to multi-year lows in recent months.  

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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