Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.8
April 2000

Nuclear Fuel Cycle:
Shouldering Japan's 21st Century Energy Needs

OIL, COAL, natural gas, uranium. They are the energy sources that sustain and support the daily activities of our lives as well as our industries. Yet these resources will only be available for a limited number of years.

There are, however, key differences between them. Unlike oil or coal, uranium offers a number of advantages over fossil fuels. One of its biggest merits is that it is recyclable: Some 97% of spent fuel can be reused, with a portion converted back into fuel. This fact has tremendous appeal for Japan, as it relies on 80% of its energy requirements from abroad. Uranium's recyclability therefore makes it a semi-domestic' energy source for resource-poor Japan.

Spiraling Demand for Energy

ENERGY RESOURCE availability is a major issue that will grow more serious in the years ahead. Why? Because the energy consumption of developing nations, not only in Asia but the rest of the world, is projected to rise. Asia (excluding Japan) and other developing nations consumed 24% of the world's energy in 1996. Yet that ratio is expected to jump to 39% by 2010 showing that these countries are bound to become major energy consumers in the near-future.

Yet the estimated recoverable energy reserves of oil are forecast to last only another 43 years, natural gas for 63 years, coal-by far the most abundant energy resource-for 231 years, and uranium for 72 years. To avoid the escalation of international tension and conflict in a scramble for energy, it is imperative to secure sources of energy to supplement those currently available.

Generated Electricity by Fuel for Ten Companies, Wholesale Electric Utilities, Wholesale Suppliers and Others

Nuclear Power: A Global Choice

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY sources such as solar and wind power are attractive options in that they are clean and inexhaustible. And while their use will no doubt grow over the years, such resources remain hamstrung by a variety of drawbacks, from their susceptibility to the vagaries of weather and poor energy conversion rates to inferior cost efficiency.

Continuous efforts will be made in research and development in order to utilize such alternative energy sources. However, until the technological hurdles obstructing them-and there are many- are overcome, nuclear power remains among the most viable means of power generation. It is compact in that a 1-million kilowatt nuclearpower plant requires 30 tons of fuel per year versus 1.4 million tons of oil needed to fuel conventional plants. This edge allows for lower costs and less energy expenditure to extract, transport and store uranium.

Nuclear power is also less disruptive to the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, carbon dioxide and sulfurous oxides-the two leading culprits in global warming and acid rain-emitted from nuclear energy are minimal.

Which is why as in the end of 1999, 31 countries today are using 425 nuclear reactors with a generating capacity of 360 million kw. France, for instance, relies on nuclear power for 75% of its electricity needs; Japan, which finds itself in a similar energy predicament as France, depends on 37% of its electricity needs.

Fuel Required to Operate a 1Million Kilowatt Power Plant for One Year