Many Asian economies have relied on nuclear power since the beginning of commercial use of the technology, and whereas Europe and North America have slowed down in the development of new nuclear power generating capacity, many Asian countries have continued building and developing new nuclear power plants well into the 21st century to keep up with growing power demand.
The events in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011 have caused the technology to once again be called into question and in 2012, for the first time since the 1970s, Japan was again (briefly) without nuclear power generation. After safety reviews and despite large protests, Japan has started to re-start its nuclear fleet. Once providing over 30% of Japan’s power needs, the shortfall left from taking nuclear offline is significant.
As an island nation with very few natural resources for the production of energy Japan relies heavily on imports for its electricity generation. Nuclear energy has helped Japan’s economy grow and meet the ever-increasing demands for energy. Unfortunately, Japan is also a very seismically active country and frequently deals with earthquakes. Nevertheless, this has not stopped Japan from actively pursuing nuclear technology and the country continues to prioritize its use and development.
Though it has been fully offline since 2011, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is considered the world’s largest nuclear power plant by capacity. The plant has a total of 7 reactors ranging in size from 1,100 to 1,356 MW. The plant was itself shut down due to an earthquake in 2007 and was not yet fully online at the time of the 2011 disaster. The earliest current projection to restart any of the 7 units at the plant is for early 2019.
Though public opinion has become quite opposed to nuclear power, Japan continues to explore its potential and develop safer, more reliable nuclear technology able to withstand the forces of nature. Many lessons have been learned, and optimism has certainly suffered when it comes to Japan’s nuclear fleet, but it does look like the technology is not yet written off.