Fukushima's Damage to Japan's Power Industry

Diana Kim
March 6, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Nuclear Power Plants. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On March 11th, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake followed by the tsunami caused a series of massive meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Especially because Japan so hugely relied on nuclear power prior to Fukushima disaster, the damage that Fukushima caused to Japan's power industry was enormous, especially because of Japan's overdependence on nuclear energy.

Dependence on Nuclear Energy

Because it is an island nation, Japan needs to import approximately 84% of its energy requirements. Nuclear energy, which the cost is only 20% of the cost of energy that it generates and which the production of electricity energy is continuous, seemed like the perfect source to solve the problem. Subsequently, nuclear energy has been a national strategic priority since 1973. More than 50 of the country's main reactors have provided 30% of the country's electricity and this was expected to increase to at least 440% by 2017. [1] Fig. 1 is the picture of nuclear reactors.

The Damage to Power Industry

Fig. 2: Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after Fukushima disaster. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Reactors 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi were operating and automatically shut down when the quake struck, while reactors 4, 5, and 6 were already shut down for routine inspections. The damage to these reactors was tremendous as TEPCO estimated the tsunami's height at Fukushima Daiichi to be 14 meters. The damage caused by Fukushima disaster itself cost at least $110 billion. Japan has gone from operating 35 nuclear reactors to just two. The net income of Japan's Electric Power Companies (EPCos) is only just over half of what it was prior to the disaster. Public has faced their electricity bills rise about 20% over the last five years. Since the accident, Japan's energy prices have skyrocketed to be among the highest in the world. Public lost faith in their monopoly power companies and demanded a change. [1,2] Fig. 2 shows the picture of nuclear plant right after Fukushima disaster.


Now that Japan has experienced huge damage to its power industry, the country is seeking for an alternative energy source. For instance, in 2016, Japan launched massive electric sector deregulation. [3] Deregulation could bring much-needed competition to the market, allowing the power sector to become more efficient and lower costs. Until now, because of the monopoly market, it had little incentive to improve. Now Japan has the opportunity to lead the way in creating innovative policies to ensure lower prices for consumers and an improved economy. Moreover, some of nuclear reactors have restarted. As of January 2016, three reactors total have been restarted in the Sendai and Kyoto Nuclear Power Plants, with another planned in February. These re-started reactors will hopefully off-set the costs of imported fossil fuels after reactor shutdowns. The Japanese government stated that it will establish nuclear energy as 20-22% of its energy sector by 2030. [4]

© Diana Kim. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. Holt, "Fukushima Nuclear Disaster," Congressional Research Service, R41694, January 2012.

[2] D. Poneman, Nuclear Power in the Developing World (Unwin Hyman,1982).

[3] M. Matsuura, et al., "Efforts to Improve Safety of Nuclear Power Plants," Hitachi Review 63, 191 (2014).

[4] T. Ohnishi, "The Disaster at Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after the March 11, 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami, and the Resulting Spread of Radioisotope Contamination," Radiat. Res. 177, 1 (2012).