A panel of nuclear experts on Monday largely approved a government report saying that atomic power remains the cheapest source of electricity despite the rising safety costs triggered by the 2011 Fukushima core meltdowns.
Despite an expected glut in solar power, the government is looking to make nuclear power account for 20 to 22 percent of Japan’s electricity supply by 2030, underscoring its policy of sticking with atomic power even though the majority of the public remains opposed to restarting its idled reactors.
According to the latest estimate of power generation costs by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, atomic power would cost at least ¥10.3 per kilowatt-hour in 2030 — cheaper than power derived from fossil fuels, natural gas, wind and solar energy.
That’s higher than the ¥8.9 projected in 2011 and is based on a projection that costs for plant decommissioning and compensation from a severe accident would jump to ¥9.1 trillion from the ¥5.8 trillion estimated in 2011, reflecting the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
METI also said additional safety measures required to run a nuclear reactor would cost an average of ¥60.1 billion.
But the increase in overall generation costs is limited because the probability of a nuclear accident would decrease after utilities complete their safety measures, it said.
In the report, the ministry also estimates that coal-fired power will cost ¥12.9 per kwh and liquefied natural gas ¥13.4 per kwh, compared with earlier projections of ¥10.3 and ¥10.9, respectively.
Wind power would cost up to ¥34.7, solar power up to ¥16.4, geothermal power ¥16.8, and hydropower up to ¥27.1 per kwh, the report said.
In its national energy policy adopted last year, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to reduce reliance on nuclear power and promote renewable energy as much as possible, while standing by nuclear as a key power source, citing the importance of a stable electricity supply to economic growth.
Japan is expecting a glut in solar power because utilities refuse to upgrade their power grids to purchase all the energy as mandated under the feed-in tariff system. A study has found that seven of the nation’s utilities lack the transmission network capacity to accept all of the solar power energy that suppliers plan to generate, METI says.
Combined, they can only accept 58 percent of the total, METI said. METI began looking into their transmission capacities after five utilities decided to cap their clean energy intake, revolting against the government’s plan to increase generation of renewable energy in light of the Fukushima disaster.
Under the feed-in tariff system, utilities are obliged to purchase all electricity generated from such sources as solar, wind and geothermal power at fixed rates for a set period.
But the system ran into a roadblock after new suppliers flooded the solar power business, prompting the utilities to suspend signing power-purchasing contracts in September amid fears that overcapacity could cause blackouts..
Currently, all of Japan’s commercial nuclear reactors remain offline to pass a beefed-up safety screenings based on new, more stringent regulations drafted after the Fukushima meltdowns. The government is planning to restart reactors that have met the post-Fukushima safety requirements.