Nuclear, Reactors

Nuclear power comeback in Japan impacting LNG imports

The U.S. and Japan seemed to have a perfect combination ready to answer each other’s mutal energy needs.

Japan is the world’s largest importer of liquified natural gas, using LNG to supply all of its natural gas needs, including power generation. Meanwhile, the shale gas revolution under way in the U.S. is making that nation a net exporter of LNG.

Yet a resurgence of nuclear power in Japan will likely cut into its LNG imports this year, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Last year, Japan restarted five of the nuclear reactors shut down in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The EIA estimated that the restarted nuclear reactors will displace some 5 million metric tons of LNG imports per year (an average of 700 million cubic feet per day). The decrease is equal to 10 percent of Japan’s natural gas consumption by the power sector.

Japan currently imports only three percent of its LNG from the U.S., but that share could change dramatically upward in coming years as Americans try to find a home for all the natural gas coming from their wells. More than a third of the Japanese LNG imports currently come from Australia, while Malaysia delivers some 12 percent, according to the EIA.

Japan’s current nuclear energy fleet totals nine units with 8.7 GW in capacity. The percent of gas-fired generation within the electricity mix has been declining since reaching a peak in 2014, according to reports.

The nation shut down all of its reactors after the Fukushima accident, but it’s long-term energy policy calls for nuclear to make up to 22 percent of the total electricity generation by 2030. Reaching that total would require some 30 reactors to be in operation, the EIA report says.

Japan is reliant on imported resources for more than 90 percent of its energy supply, according to reports. Its electricity generation mix mainly relies on hydro, coal and nuclear.