Japan approves plans to maximize nuclear power in major post-Fukushima shift

Japan Nuclear Policy
FILE – This aerial photo shows the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, on March 17, 2022. Japan on Thursday, Dec. 22, adopted a new policy promoting greater use of nuclear energy to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and reduce carbon emissions – a major reversal of its phase-out plan since the Fukushima crisis. (Shohei Miyano/Kyodo News via AP, File) Shohei Miyano/AP

Japan approves plans to maximize nuclear power in major post-Fukushima shift

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Japan adopted a plan Thursday to extend the lifespan of its existing nuclear reactors and build new, next-generation reactors to replace its old ones, a post-Fukushima policy U-turn motivated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the resulting energy supply crisis.

The policy, which was outlined by an advisory panel Thursday, calls for Japan to restart as many of its existing reactors as possible. It will also prolong the life of its older fleet beyond existing 60-year limits to serve as a bridge during the construction of the new reactors.

In announcing the plan, leaders said that nuclear energy had “an important role as a carbon-free baseload energy source in achieving supply stability and carbon neutrality,” and they also promised to “sustain use of nuclear power into the future.”

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the plans on Wednesday. From there, it will be signed into law, pending the approval of Japan’s Cabinet and the country’s parliament.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has pushed for a return to nuclear power, has also endorsed the effort.

The government hopes to raise nuclear’s share of power to 20-22% by the end of the decade — a massive increase from the 7% share it generates now.

As of this summer, Japan had just seven reactors in operation, with three others undergoing maintenance.

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Though no new nuclear facilities have been built in Japan since 2011, when a tsunami and earthquake triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, public opinion has shifted rapidly in recent years, especially following the war in Ukraine and an energy supply crisis that has threatened blackouts and sent prices soaring across the globe.

Japan, which imports 94% of its energy supplies and relies on Russia for 9% of its natural gas, has been especially hit by the price hikes.

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Nuclear is also embraced by many as a way to help reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and help meet its pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Whatever happens globally, we need to prepare every possible measure in advance to minimize the impact on people’s lives,” Kishida said this summer. “As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global energy situation has drastically changed.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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