Environmental impacts of nuclear power plant closures in Tokyo


A research team from Hiroshima University studied how CO2 Emissions in Tokyo have suffered following the closure of three of its nuclear power plants.

Since 2003 – when nuclear plant shutdowns began – scientists suspected this would have negative implications for the city’s CO consumption.2 emissions, because the electricity was supplied by other means. To understand the long-term implications of this change on Tokyo’s power grid, researchers from the University of Hiroshima (HU) studied how CO2 emissions in Tokyo have changed as a result of power plant shutdowns.

The results of this study were recently published in Urban climate.

“In this study, we analyzed changes in Tokyo’s responsibility for carbon mitigation after the electricity supply shock caused by nuclear power plant accidents to examine how dependence on electricity supply affects CO2 emissions. In other words, we examined whether the suspension of the nuclear power plant had an impact on Tokyo’s carbon dioxide emissions,” explained Ayyoob Sharifi, corresponding author and professor at HU’s IDEC Institute.

Shutting down nuclear power plants: understanding Tokyo’s carbon mitigation responsibility

The three nuclear power plants that supplied Tokyo with electricity were shut down due to an inspection in 2003, the Niigata Chuetsu-Oki earthquake in 2007, and the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Since the closure power stations, the electricity produced by nuclear energy has been reduced by a third. Thus, understanding the difference of CO2 emissions before and after the shutdown of nuclear power plants could help researchers understand Tokyo’s future responsibility for mitigating carbon emissions and meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

Scientists have observed that it is important to study Tokyo in terms of global carbon mitigation efforts. Tokyo has evolved from an industrial city to a service city, which means that a majority of the goods and services consumed by the region are produced outside the city rather than inside. Every year Tokyo’s population grows and with it the demand for goods and services.

“We found that there was no significant change in consumption-related emissions from Tokyo. In addition, due to the shift from nuclear to thermal power plants, CO2 emissions contained in electricity imported from outside the city have increased. We argue that since local governments in Japan report their emission data based on electricity imported from outside the city limits, their reported data (on their responsibility for climate change mitigation) is underestimated,” said Masaru Ichihashi, co-author and professor at Hiroshima University’s IDEC Institute.

From nuclear to thermal

This increase in CO2 emissions from generating, storing and transporting electricity from outside the city were directly linked to the switch from nuclear to thermal power.

“Appropriate emissions accounting should also consider other emissions, including those associated with other services and imported goods and products. Since Tokyo’s consumption structure has remained stable over the past decades, we assume that Tokyo’s responsibility for emissions will not change unless there is a major shift to consumption and production patterns. more low-carbon and sustainable in the city,” added Shinji Kaneko, co-author and professor at the IDEC Institute at Hiroshima University. “That would involve finding a more sustainable way to generate electricity for the city.”

Looking ahead, the researchers intend to continuously monitor how Tokyo’s CO2 emissions change over time.

“We would also like to examine how local initiatives such as waste recycling and renewable energy generation are developed and implemented in the city and how successful they are in facilitating the transition to the low carbon economy. and achieve the city’s ambitious climate change mitigation goals (aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement),” concluded Kae Murakami, lead author from Hiroshima City.

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