Electricity

Nuclear power makes comeback to Japan’s energy plans

Ikata Nuclear Powerplant / Foto: Newsliner~commonswiki / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en

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December 24, 2022

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Published:

December 24, 2022

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The Japanese government is changing the regulations on nuclear energy to extend the life of existing nuclear power plants, replace some old ones, and install new reactors. Following the announcement of the complete abandonment of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan is now heading in a different direction. The government is turning to nuclear power to secure electricity supplies, but it also points out that this will enable the country to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has approved a draft of a new regulation that will allow nuclear reactors in the country to operate for longer than the current limit of 60 years, the World Nuclear News reports. After 30 years of nuclear plant operation, further permits can be extended every ten years, according to the plan.

This new amendment to the regulation of nuclear energy should be approved by parliament next year. This will enable Japan to launch a large number of existing reactors, but also to develop newer generation reactors, according to proponents of nuclear policy in the country.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida advocates a pro-nuclear energy policy and believes restarting nuclear power plants that were shut down after the Fukushima disaster is vital to the country.

Japan was getting one-third of its energy from 54 nuclear reactors across the country before the Fukushima disaster of 2011. Following the meltdown at Fukushima, however, stricter safety standards were set in Japan, delaying approvals to restart some stand-by and non-operational reactors. Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors in the aftermath of Fukushima, but the government decided in 2014 to issue restart approvals gradually after security checks. Energy companies applied to restart 27 reactors, but only 10 were granted permission.

The government intends to increase the share of nuclear energy in the energy mix to 22% by 2030

Nuclear energy accounted for about 4% of Japan’s energy mix in 2021. The government intends to increase this share to 22% by 2030, which calls for restarting 27 reactors. Also, according to the new plan, nuclear reactors intended for decommissioning will be replaced by safer, next-generation reactors. Innovative reactors should replace about 20 older reactors.

The government plans nuclear to provide energy security

The advisory body that prepared these changes claims that a return to nuclear power is necessary to maintain the country’s energy security. Japan’s vision of nuclear energy is in the context of the energy crisis and electricity supply. But it is also a way to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.

Japan views nuclear energy in the context of the energy crisis and as a way to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century

The new amendment to the regulations on nuclear energy is part of a broader plan for long-term goals of a transition towards renewable energy sources, which the government adopted this week. With this review of Japan’s nuclear energy policy, Prime Minister Kishida’s administration has taken a major turn from the phasing-out plan embraced by all previous governments since 2011.

Criticism over the absence of public consultations

According to the Japanese daily Mainichi, the government’s plan to make this turn and maximize the use of nuclear energy without public participation and broader debate is unacceptable.

Critics of such a move also note that there is still no solution to the problem of nuclear waste, which continues to accumulate. The government has said it will deal with the final disposal of nuclear waste, the Japanese daily reports, noting that such promises have so far failed to be fulfilled after decades of trial and error.

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