In fuel crisis, Japan apologizes to nuclear power plant

The Fukushima disaster 11 years ago censored Japanese nuclear power. Many nuclear power plants have been temporarily decommissioned and public opinion and businesses have turned to renewable energy sources. The desire for decarbonization has however shown that at the current technical level, the atom offers a good cost-effect ratio in the field of clean energies. The Russian attack on Ukraine and the resulting turmoil in oil and gas markets has become another argument for greater energy independence, thus rewarding nuclear power.

  • Given the growing global interest in nuclear energy, Japanese companies offering complete and innovative solutions can count on great interest from customers.
  • The game is worth the candle. According to the American Institute of Nuclear Energy, in the years 2020-2050, the value of the global nuclear energy market could even increase fourfold, reaching the level of 400 billion dollars.
  • The Japanese can create an attractive nuclear energy supply, especially for countries with poor infrastructure.

Japan began to apologize to nuclear … In recent months, work on a fusion power plant has been carried out there, and it has also resumed in the case of the fast reactor.

Interest in the construction of nuclear power plants is shown not only by European countries, such as Great Britain, France or Poland, but also by a growing group of Asian countries, including Indonesia and Singapore.

Ministry with incentives

Until now, Russia dominated this sector. Russian companies have been most involved in the construction of facilities in third countries, for example in Hungary at the Paks power plant. The reason was simple: Russia retained the most skills in building nuclear power plants. Other countries have not been able to offer full services or – for various reasons – have not wanted, and sometimes have not been able to do so, and have limited themselves to building power stations for their own needs.

Japan belongs to this latter group. Local power plants in no less than 90 percent. use domestic sub-assemblies and components. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has decided to take advantage of this advantage.

The ministry is preparing to encourage and support Japanese companies applying for foreign contracts. Assistance includes researching potential contracts, establishing contacts, preparing tenders and obtaining the necessary certificates.

METI intends to include its nuclear plans already in next year’s draft budget. The idea is not entirely new. The Japanese are following the example of South Korea, which launched such a project in 2021.

Small (still) is beautiful

Small commercial reactors can be a big opportunity. Work on such a device was carried out by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which intended to introduce it into commercial operation at the end of the 1930s. A small mobile reactor, transportable in a container by a truck, was intended to supply energy from isolated or disaster-stricken areas.

The microreactor should be 3 m high and 4 m wide. Expected maximum power? 500kW. One of the advantages is the possibility of burying the reactor in the ground. In this way, vulnerability to the effects of natural disasters or terrorist attacks must be reduced. The device should also require minimal maintenance.

Mitsubishi intends to use highly enriched uranium as fuel, which will not require replacement for the entire period of approximately 25 years of operation. After the fuel has been exhausted, the entire microreactor can be recovered.

Mitsubishi plans to take a new approach to reduce the risk of overheating. Instead of a coolant, a semiconductor graphite material with high thermal conductivity will be used here. During normal operation, graphite surrounds the core and transfers heat to the power generation system. In the event of a failure, the excess heat from the core is evacuated by natural cooling of the environment.

Where infrastructure is poor

The cost of the mobile microreactor is currently estimated at tens of millions of dollars, although Mitsubishi does not even provide an approximate value. The production of one kWh of energy will be more expensive than with normal reactors, but this cost must be “absorbed” by lower energy transmission costs. Remember that the device is designed for remote and isolated areas.

In this way, Mitsubishi can create an attractive offer for countries with poor infrastructure. In this case, the microreactors will provide access to a zero-emission energy source, and above all: economical.

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