The High Cost For Japan Of Going Nuclear-Free

This is the first time in over 40 years that Japan has been 100% nuclear-free.  Late Saturday night, Japan shut down the last of its 54 nuclear reactors, bowing to pressure from the Japanese populous who are worried of another nuclear meltdown.  Now worries of a different kind are beginning to take hold.

With summer coming in Japan, the government is already warning of impending rolling blackouts, and electricity rationing is already being discussed. 

Before the tsunami of March 2011, 30% of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear plants. Since those plants have now been removed from the equation, Japan is scrambling to fill the void.  At a cost of $100 million dollars per day, Japan is now forced to import substantially more oil and natural gas, 90% of which comes from the turbulent Middle East.  The increased use of fossil fuels is expected to increase Japan’s greenhouse gas emmissions by over 15%, and still there will not be enough power to avoid rolling blackouts this summer.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, recently told The Washington Post that the country desperately needs to restart the reactors, and do so soon. “I think it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that there won’t be too much stress on the people and on mid- to small-size corporations,” Noda said. “So we must explain to the people of Japan clearly, with that in mind.”

If Japan began switching its nuclear reactors back on this summer, the economy could expect to grow 1.9% this year and would be able to run a trade surplus for the year, instead of the projected $57 billion trade deficit it is staring at due to the tremendous amount of oil and gas it is having to purchase.