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Energy Facts: Fossil Fuels Replace Nuclear in Japan

Jesse Jenkins's picture

Jesse is a researcher, consultant, and writer with ten years of experience in the energy sector and expertise in electric power systems, electricity regulation, energy and climate change policy...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Mar 16, 2013

Here are your Friday Energy Facts for the week: Japan’s use of fossil fuels for power generation increased 21 percent in 2012 after the March 11th, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Those events triggered a shutdown of virtually all of the nation’s nuclear power stations, which prior to the tsunami provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity. As the graphic below indicates, power generation from coal, oil, and natural gas-fired plants increased output to fill the void left by the nuclear shutdown. CO2 emissions and fossil fuel imports have also risen sharply as a result.

Fossil fuels replace nuclear energy in Japan

 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Note: this post is part of my (semi)regular series, “Friday Energy Facts,” which provides simple facts and graphs on energy and climate without editorial comment. Stay tuned for more…

Here are more graphics from the EIA:
Fossil fuel use rises in Japan
Fuel oil use in Japan's electric power sector

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Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on Mar 15, 2013


How much additional revenue did the global fossil fuel industry capture as a result of that market shift? With your understanding of the market shift, can you get your mind around the magnitude of the number of dollars (yen) involved?

Do you still reject the notion that fossil fuel advertising might have had something to do with the Fukushima Frenzy that forced Japanese political leaders to think they had to shut down perfectly well functioning, undamaged nuclear plants as a result of an accident caused by the confluence of two unlikely natural disasters of a type that do not threaten many of the plants.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Mar 15, 2013

Jesse, your data indicates that the Japanese were fortunate to have substantial spare petroleum and natural gas backup power generation capacity to restore at least 95% percent of their total power demand following shutdown of most their nuclear power generation capacity.  This is another large example of the reality of the current state of renewable power/energy development.  Following major weather events and disasters such as the Tohoku caused Tsunami or Super Storm Sandy, what is the current primary emergency energy supply source?  Fossil fuels.  This trend will continue in the future until industrial scale and high energy intensity renewable power/fuels storage becomes a cost effective and physical reality.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Mar 16, 2013

I guess the good new is that their coal consumption has not increased (perhaps their plants were already running at full capacity), but all of that extra oil use has got to put a squeeze on people's budgets.

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