Proponents of nuclear energy claim that the world is on the verge of a nuclear renaissance. The Japanese nuclear industry is pinning its hopes on Asia. Six Asian countries already possess nuclear power plants: Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, India and Pakistan. All of those countries have new plants under construction and all except Taiwan have plans for more plants. Indonesia and Vietnam do not yet have nuclear power plants, but they are believed to be very close to making a decision to introduce nuclear power. Table 1 shows the current situation for Asia as a whole. The numbers for planned and proposed plants are rather vague in some cases and the term "under construction" can be defined in various ways, so this list should not be taken to be precise.
Table 1: Asian Nuclear Power Plant Plans (pdf 56 KB)
There is fierce competition for contracts to construct new nuclear power plants in Asia. New construction contracts for China have been delayed, but on 16 December 2006 a memorandum of understanding was signed with Westinghouse for four AP1000s. Toshiba, which bought Westinghouse last year, is rejoicing, but the position of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which was a partner in the original bid, is unclear. There have been reports that South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. Ltd. may replace MHI as the component fabricator1. Although Vietnam and Indonesia have not yet made final decisions to introduce nuclear power, foreign governments and companies are going to great lengths to help them put the necessary systems in place. The following comment comes from a special on Vietnam in the October 2006 edition of the Japanese journal Energy Review:
It is believed that the country which carries out the feasibility study (FS) will be in a very favorable position and lively competition has already begun. So far seven countries have expressed interest: France, South Korea, Russia, India, China, Canada and Japan. (p.22)
Vietnam is proceeding cautiously. It is taking a long time to finalize the plan and one gets the impression that those hoping to sell reactors are feeling frustrated. Indonesia is just the opposite. Despite the fact that no formal decision has been made to introduce nuclear power, statements keep popping up that suggest that they are in a rush to get started. For example, the schedule currently being proposed would involve calling tenders in 2008 and finalizing a contract by 2010. However, it will not be possible to meet this schedule unless legal, safety and safeguards systems, as well as the necessary skilled labor force are in place. Table 2 shows the history and future plans for the nuclear programs of Vietnam and Indonesia. As with Table 1, the future plans should not be taken to be precise.
Table 2: Nuclear Power Plans for Indonesia and Vietnam (pdf 80 KB)
Map of proposed nuclear power plants in Indonesia and Vietnam
Before the 1997 Asian financial crisis there was a plan to build a nuclear power plant on the Muria Peninsula of Central Java (see map). This plan has resurfaced. Also the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) is proposing to build a small-scale "Smart" reactor for desalination on the island of Madura off the north-east coast of Java, although Indonesia does not appear to be particularly enthusiastic. Besides these proposals, in October 2006 a proposal suddenly emerged for Russian electricity trading company Raoues to develop a floating nuclear power plant off the coast of Gorontalo Province on Sulawesi Island. It is claimed that the 70MW plant could be built in just 20 months. Fortunately, the Indonesian government has not yet approved the plan.
The Japanese government and nuclear industry have great expectations of participating in the construction of new nuclear power plants in Asia. Shin'ichi Mizumoto of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy made the following comment:
Until around 2030, when the predicted period of large-scale construction begins in Japan, the number of nuclear power plants built in Japan will decrease. International development of Japan's nuclear industry is an effective way to maintain the depth of the industry's nuclear technology and skilled labor.2
Hopes are particularly high for Vietnam and Indonesia. When the Prime Ministers of Vietnam and Indonesia visited Japan in October and November 2006 respectively, joint prime ministerial statements were issued agreeing to promote cooperation in nuclear power development.
In order for Vietnam and Indonesia to introduce nuclear energy, it will be necessary for them to prepare their non-proliferation, regulatory and indemnity systems and to develop their labor force. The Japanese government takes the view that "clearly demonstrating a positive attitude towards providing support, from the stage when the various systems are being put in place, will promote the involvement of Japan's nuclear industry in those countries."3 The government therefore decided to send experts to both countries. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) was commissioned to carry out the project. JETRO is now carrying out a comprehensive survey of the current situation in regard to each country's plan to introduce nuclear power.
Raising finance will be difficult for countries which do not yet have nuclear power plants, such as Vietnam and Indonesia. The policy of the Japanese government is to help these countries solve this problem. "There is a high likelihood that raising finance will become a bottleneck...so Japan should continue to provide positive support...in the form of export finance through Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)."4 JBIC has provided finance in the past for nuclear-related projects. Table 3 shows the projects for which it has provided support since 1990.5 (Of course, there have been cases of Japanese nuclear-related exports which did not receive finance from JBIC.) Since April 2002, when JBIC's Guidelines for Confirmation of Environmental and Social Considerations were introduced, the nuclear-related projects for which financial support has been provided have all been assessed as "likely to have minimal or no adverse environmental impact" and classified accordingly as "Category C". Whereas JBIC's Guidelines make no mention of nuclear power, the OECD's Recommendation on Common Approaches on Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits classifies most nuclear power projects as Category A, on the grounds that they have "the potential to have significant adverse environmental impacts". Common Approaches is not binding on OECD countries, so in order to ensure that Japan gives due consideration to the environmental and social impacts of nuclear facilities, JBIC should amend its Guidelines to make specific reference to nuclear power.
Table 3: Export Credit Awarded by Japan Bank for International Cooperation Since 1990 (pdf 84 KB)
As the number of nuclear power plants being built in Japan decreases, it will be difficult for Japan to "maintain the depth of the industry's nuclear technology and skilled labor" from contracts for nuclear power plants in Asia alone. The roles played by Toshiba, Hitachi and MHI during 2006 in the reorganization of the international nuclear industry show that they have their eyes on the world market. However, in view of the considerable influence Japan has in Asia, particular attention should be given to Japan's involvement in the Asian market. It is important to keep track of the support provided by the Japanese government and nuclear industry to Asian countries seeking to develop nuclear energy. In particular, projects in which JETRO, JBIC and NEXI are involved should be watched closely. It is also important to provide information on the problems of and alternatives to nuclear power.
Nuclear energy in Asia is a big topic and it will be quite difficult to exert influence on the actors involved, but it is a topic that anyone who is interested in Asia's energy structure cannot ignore. Rather than worry about the magnitude of the topic, it is probably better to grasp the opportunity to strengthen and expand the anti-nuclear network.
Philip White (NIT editor)
1. Nucleonics Week, Vol. 47, No. 50, Platts, December 14, 2006
2. Energy Review, October 2006, p.10
3. Program to Support the Introduction of Nuclear Power in the Asian Region (part of the explanatory documents for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's 2006 Budget Proposal). 5.5 million yen allocated for the 2006 Fiscal Year. Program runs for 5 years from 2006-2010.
4. New National Energy Strategy: Nuclear Energy National Building, Report of the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, 8 August 2006, p.111
5. Data released by JBIC on 28 November 2006 in response to a request by the office of House of Councillors Member, Mizuho Fukushima.