Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.1
August 1998

High Expectations for Nuclear Energy

Energy Capacity of Nuclear Power Plants in Operation in Major CountriesNUCLEAR ENERGY HAS COME a long way since the world's first commercial reactor which remains operational to this day began generating electricity in the United Kingdom in 1956. And expectations are quite strong, especially in Japan, that it will continue to contribute its part to meet the growing appetite for energy around the globe in the future.

At the end of December 1997, there were 429 nuclear power plants in operation in 32 countries around the world, capable of generating 364.7 million kW of electricity. The 94 plants either under construction or being planned at present would add as much as another 74.4 million kW or more to that figure.

By far, the leader in nuclear energy generation is the United States, with 104.5 million kW generated by the country's 107 plants in operation 51 more than its nearest rival, France, at 61.0 million kW. Nevertheless, the U.S. relies on nuclear energy for less than a quarter of its electric power needs, while French nuclear power plants, for instance, generate some three-quarters of that nation's power requirements.

Japan is currently the third-largest producer of nuclear energy, with 51 commercial plants capable of generating 44.9 million kW of electricity as of July 1998. The government's first experimental reactor successfully generated electricity as early as 1963, and the nation's first commercial reactor, the Tokai unit in Ibaraki Prefecture (just deactivated this year), came on-line in 1966.

Japanese nuclear power plants supply just over one-third of the nation's electricity needs 319.1 billion kWh in 1997, a figure that is expected to remain steady over the next nine years as the government gears up to boost its energy-generation infra-structure until 2007. In the ten-year period from 1997 to 2007, power plants will be constructed that will be capable of generating 68.1 million kW, including 11.3 million kW of nuclear power.

Nuclear Power Plants In Japan: Commercial Operations

Japan's dependence on nuclear power to meet these needs stems from some obvious drawbacks. Being the resource-destitute country that it is, for one, the nation must rely on imports for 80 percent of its primary energy requirements. Yet, as two oil embargoes have so painfully demonstrated in the past, reliance on one particular energy source can greatly undermine stability with regard to energy supplies.

Nonetheless, global demand for energy will continue to rise, a trend not all that unduly affected by the current economic turmoil in Asia. At the same time, there is rising concern over the impact of fossil fuels on global warming.