Kansai Electric Power Co said its 1,180-megawatt No. 4 reactor at its Ohi nuclear plant resumed supplying electricity to the grid on Saturday, Japan's second nuclear unit to regain power since last year's Fukushima crisis led to the shutdown of all units.
The move came three days after the unit was restarted, and the reactor is set to begin full-capacity power generation around July 25-28.
All but two of the country's 50 nuclear reactors have been offline for checks amid concerns about safety, and the gap is being met by firing up costly fossil fuel units and through energy-saving steps.
In 2011, Japan had to severely reduce its use of electricity with a big impact on domestic and industrial routines, while the utilities have switched to alternative fuels for power generation. The result was a jump of 25.2% in fossil fuel imports, which last year made up almost one third of Japan's total overseas spending. Oil, gas and coal were all in demand from foreign markets.
In total during 2011 Japan spent ¥21.7 trillion ($277 billion) on fossil fuel imports, up from ¥17.4 trillion ($222 billion) the year before. This increase of ¥4.3 trillion ($55 billion) is clearly a major factor in the country's overall trade deficit of ¥2.5 trillion ($32 billion), the first posted by Japan since 1980.
For 2011 and 2012, it will probably cost Japan more than $100 billion in extra fossil fuel imports to have the vast majority of its nuclear power shutoff. This does not include the business and econonomic cost caused by rationing of electricity.
As I have noted, Japan could have left the working nuclear reactors operating as normal but then garnished the income those reactors produced to enable tens of billions to be spent on vastly superior safety remediation and rapid response heavy equipment to contain any future nuclear accident within a couple of days. The Fukushima plants did not start releasing radiation for several days and if larger containment buildings were rapidly constructed over the problem areas then the radiation would have been localized to just the Fukushima plant.
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