Japan shifts to LNG dependency from nuclear, eyes US fuel
TOKYO – Hürriyet Daily NewsLiquefied Natural Gas (LNG) purchase, a post-Fukushima item in Japan’s imports list that sent country’s foreign trade figures to their first deficit in 31 years in 2011, will continue dominating the country’s energy near future, as officials confirm that they are in LNG trade talks with the U.S., not a traditional supplier. Qatar and Australia seem to be maintaining their top supply positions to the Japan with new deals, the country’s Nuclear Policy Unit has said.
Before the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami on May 11, 2011, Japan was planning to increase nuclear power’s share in its energy bucket to 50 percent as of 2030, from 26 percent at the time.
Today, the revised plans vary from zero to a maximum 25 percent of nuclear, the Nuclear Policy Unit Cabinet Secretariat Yoshinori Tanaka told journalists in Tokyo on Dec. 13.
Along with purchases from Qatar and Australia, the country is looking to buy LNG from the U.S., he also revealed. However, other officials have stated that the U.S. is primarily considering meeting its domestic demand first.
A new Japanese strategy document prioritizes renewables, but such projects will take time to fill the significant energy gap in Asia’s second largest economy.
Japan this year and in 2011 bought large amounts of LNG, along with coal and oil, to meet the gap that emerged after the closure of its nuclear facilities, the assistant press secretary of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Masaru Sato, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
This caused Japan’s first annual trade deficit in 31 years, Sato said, adding that the country had also re-activated a number of old-technology oil-burning facilities. “But this oil energy is expensive,” he said.
His colleague, Taisuke Mibae, said coal-burning facilities were also raising environmental concerns.
The country’s newly founded Nuclear Regulation Authority, a governmental body focusing exclusively on nuclear safety, will start inspecting nuclear plants to restart operations only in June 2013, showing that a nuclear comeback is also not on the agenda in the immediate short term.
The current government of Yoshihiko Noda rejects giving an exact date on the issue. His rival in Sunday’s general elections, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe, promises return to nuclear power within three years.
The country closed all of its remaining reactors before reopening two items this year. However, the location of the Tsuruga plant’s operational Unit 2 was discussed earlier this week, with some claiming that it is located on a fault line.