Japan Adopts New Policy to Promote Nuclear Energy and Achieve Carbon Neutrality
Japan has adopted a new policy promoting greater use of nuclear energy to secure a stable power supply and reduce carbon emissions, reversing its previous plan to phase out nuclear energy by 2030. The new policy calls for the maximum use of existing nuclear reactors by restarting as many as possible and extending the operating life of old reactors beyond their 60-year limit, as well as developing next-generation reactors to replace them. The Economy and Industry Ministry has drafted a plan to allow extensions every 10 years for reactors after 30 years of operation, and to permit utilities to subtract offline periods in calculating reactors’ operational life beyond the 60-year limit. The plan was approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, paving the way for the new policy to be adopted.
Safety Concerns and Anti-Nuclear Sentiment
- Anti-nuclear sentiment and safety concerns rose significantly in Japan after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and restart approvals have been slow under stricter safety standards.
- Utility companies have applied for restarts at 27 reactors over the past decade, with 17 passing safety checks and only 10 resuming operations.
- The new policy states that nuclear power provides stable output and serves an important role as a carbon-free base load energy source in achieving supply stability and carbon neutrality. It also pledges to sustain the use of nuclear power in the future.
Next-Generation Innovative Reactors
- In addition to extending the operational life of existing reactors, the new policy also calls for the development and construction of next-generation innovative reactors with safer features to replace approximately 20 reactors currently set for decommissioning.
- These next-generation reactors are expected to have a greater role in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Renewable Energy and Other Options
- The GX (Green Transformation) Implementation Council, launched by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in order to consider all options for addressing global fuel shortages and achieving carbon neutrality, has also adopted plans to make renewables Japan’s main energy source and further promote hydrogen and ammonia as well as offshore wind power and other forms of energy.
Challenges and Criticisms
- While the new policy aims to increase the share of nuclear energy in Japan’s energy supply from its current level of less than 7% to 20-22% by 2030, some experts believe this goal is not achievable.
- Developing next-generation reactors involves significant costs and uncertain prospects, and extending the operational life of old reactors has been criticized as unsafe.
- Additionally, restarting reactors as quickly as the government hopes may be challenging due to delays in safety upgrades and other obstacles, including obtaining local consent.
Japan’s new policy promoting the greater use of nuclear energy represents a major reversal of its previous plan to phase out nuclear energy by 2030. The policy calls for the maximum use of existing nuclear reactors, the extension of the operational life of old reactors, and the development of next-generation innovative reactors. While the policy aims to increase the share of nuclear energy in Japan’s energy supply, it has faced criticism and challenges, including concerns about safety and the uncertain prospects and costs of developing next-generation reactors. The GX Implementation Council has also adopted plans to promote renewable energy and other options as part of Japan’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality.
Category: International / World Current Affairs
Topics: Fukushima disaster • Japan • Nucelar Energy
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