Japan May Save 30% on Power by Restarting [Ed: Nuclear] Reactors, IEEJ Says
This is an informative report by Chou Hui Hong for Bloomberg Businessweek. Here is the opening
apan can cut its power costs by 30 percent if it restarts at least half the country's 50 nuclear reactors by 2014, a government adviser said.
The savings would amount to 1.8 trillion yen ($20.3 billion), the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, a Tokyo- based research group known as IEEJ, said in report posted today on its website. The country paid an estimated 6 trillion yen last year for its liquefied natural gas imports, twice as much as the year before, Yukio Edano, the country's former trade and industry minister, said at a conference in September.
LNG replaced nuclear power as Japan's primary power fuel after an earthquake and tsunami hit reactors at Fukushima in March 2011. Safety checks later that year and scheduled maintenance reduced the number of nuclear reactors operating to just two. Japan paid 5.48 trillion yen for its LNG imports from January to November 2012, according to data from Japan customs.
Phasing out oil-indexed long-term LNG prices would better reflect supply and demand in the LNG market, which isn't tied to crude, and help lower Japan's energy bills, the IEEJ reiterated.
Long-term LNG contracts are typically linked to Brent crude or Japan Customs Cleared crude prices. Two western Japanese utilities, Chubu Electric (9502) and Kansai Electric (9503), signed long-term contracts incorporating gas links as part of the price formula with BP Plc (BP/) last year.
To reduce the "Asia premium" for LNG prices, the IEEJ said Asia's LNG buyers should jointly purchase the fuel while investing in LNG and natural gas production assets.
The price of LNG spot cargoes delivered in four to eight weeks rose to $17.95 in northeast Asia, the World Gas Intelligence, an energy research company, said Jan. 14. Gas for February delivery traded as low as $3.566 per million British thermal units in electronic trading today on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
David Fuller's view Restarting nuclear plants may not be popular in Japan, at least initially for understandable reasons but the financial argument is compelling provided they are up to standard.
Meanwhile, Asia is not producing anywhere near enough natural gas judging from the $17.95 price shown in the article paragraph immediately above. The Asian region is known to have substantial reserves of shale gas and oil, although possibly not in Japan. However, Japan could develop the technology to produce shale supplies in other Asian countries. Surely this is on Shinzo Abe's agenda for a Japanese economic recovery.