The restart of nuclear reactors in Japan in 2019 is likely to replace generation from fossil fuel sources, in particular natural gas, the U.S.' Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a statement on Monday.
Japan imports all of its natural gas in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), however as nuclear plants restart operations, this is likely to reduce Japan's LNG imports for its electric power sector by as much as 10 percent in 2019, according to the EIA.
Since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, five nuclear reactors returned to start operations in 2018, providing Japan since then with nine operating nuclear units with a total electricity generation capacity of 8.7 gigawatts.
"Electricity generation produced by natural gas-fired plants in Japan has been declining annually from its peak in 2014 and is likely to decline further in 2019, while generation from nuclear units will likely increase," the statement said.
After Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011 resulting in a meltdown, the country shut down its nuclear reactors for safety inspections amid intense public demand for the revision of the country's energy policies.
Due to mandatory inspections and upgrades, the country was left with no nuclear power generation from September 2013 to August 2015, according to the EIA.
During that period, while existing coal-fired power plants were already operating near their full capacities, electric utilities had to import large volumes of LNG to meet electricity demand, it added.
As five nuclear reactors came back online in 2018, they started to offset natural gas-fired electricity generation, and LNG imports decreased as a result.
"In 2019, their first full year of operation, EIA estimates that the restarted nuclear reactors will further displace Japan’s LNG imports by about 5 million metric tons per year, or 0.7 billion cubic feet (19.82 million cubic meters) per day of LNG," the statement said.
"This amount is equivalent to 10 percent of the Japanese power sector's natural gas consumption and 6 percent of Japan’s LNG imports in 2018," it added.
Japan, the world's top LNG importer, bought a daily average of 11 billion cubic feet (311.5 million cubic meters) of LNG from 2016 through 2018, according to the EIA.
By Ovunc Kutlu