For more than two decades prior to the destruction of Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, nuclear provided roughly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.
But in the wake of the March 2011 disaster, as facilities shut down for scheduled maintenance, operators were required to perform computer-simulated stress tests to confirm their ability to operate safely in the event of another natural disaster. By May 2012, the last of Japan’s 54 nuclear generating reactors had been shut down, and since then, only two have been restarted.
To make up for the loss of nuclear capacity — which last year accounted for only 2% of Japan’s total electricity output — the island nation has become dependent upon fossil fuels for 90% of of its power.
Compared to 2011, combined use of natural gas, oil, and coal was up 21% last year, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) — up 15% — making up most of the difference.
Today, Japan is the world’s largest importer of LNG, second largest importer of coal and the third largest net importer of oil. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan was the world’s third largest producer of nuclear power behind the US and France.