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Japan’s trade deficit could mean a rebound for nuclear energy

Nuclear power station on the river bank

The massive tsunami that rocked the Japanese people in March of 2010 is still fresh in many minds, especially the nuclear disaster that followed as a result. This scare has has hurt the global demand for nuclear power as well as uranium and other peripheral industries. This lack of nuclear power in Japan however has created a hue trade imbalance for foreign energy and is now pushing officials to promote turning back on their nuclear power plants. The Washington Post reports on the shift in policy and what it means for the energy industry:

Japan posted its biggest first-half trade deficit on record, according to government figures released Wednesday, highlighting the economic consequences as this nuclear-averse country imports fossil fuels to meet its energy needs.

The Ministry of Finance reported a 2.92 trillion yen (or $37.3 billion) trade deficit, which reflected not only Japan’s surging need for oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG), but also weakened exports to slumping markets like Europe and China.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has lobbied for months about the need to resume use of nuclear power, which once supplied a third of Japan’s energy. For now, though, only two of the nation’s 50 atomic reactors are online. Many regions face energy-saving targets, handcuffing manufacturers.

Japan’s trade numbers last year moved into the red for the first time since 1980, and analysts say that Japan will continue to carry a deficit until it restarts more reactors — or devises a homegrown alternative, perhaps by boosting use of renewables.

According to the government statistics, so-called “mineral fuels” — oil, LNG and coal — accounted for 35.5 percent of Japan’s imports between January and June, up 21 percent compared with a year earlier. LNG imports were up 49.2 percent, and oil imports were up 15.7 percent.

Japan’s central government hopes the energy void is temporary. But a majority in Japan, in the wake of last year’s triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, say they have doubts about the safety of nuclear power. Noda’s push to restart two reactors in western Japan has sparked a series of weekly mass-scale protests, a rare showing of social activism in a country known for its pacifist personality.

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