By Tsuyoshi Inajima, Takashi Hirokawa, and Yuji Okada
14 September 2012
Japan plans to scrap atomic power by the end of the 2030s, bowing to public pressure after the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused mass evacuations and left areas north of Tokyo uninhabitable for decades.
The country’s first post-Fukushima energy policy approved today by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda means the country will join Germany in abandoning the power source that helped both countries build world-beating economies and models for development from the destruction of World War II.
While the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) reactors in 2011 led nations from China to France to review atomic policies, including the phase-out ordered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, countries including Britain affirmed plans to rely more on atomic power. Even Japan’s new policy will allow idled reactors to restart during the 27-year wind-down period.
“A whole generation of Japanese will grow up during this transition,” said Vicente López-Ibor, president of Estudio Juridico Internacional, an energy law firm in Madrid. “They will have to decide which renewable-energy technologies should be used, such as offshore wind farms, and consider shale gas too.”
Under the approved policy, the government estimates spending on solar, wind and other types of renewable energy over the next two decades will total 38 trillion yen ($487 billion), with another 84 trillion yen investment in energy-efficient technology, and 6 trillion yen on co-generation systems.
The energy plan is in line with public opinion polls wanting an end to atomic power after the offshore earthquake and 13-meter (40-foot) tsunami triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. The decision follows almost all the recommendations made last week by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which may face elections as early as next month.
Japan should strictly enforce the 40-year limit on a reactor’s operational life and ban construction of new atomic plants, the government said in the 20-page report. In the three decades of phasing out nuclear, the policy does allow for restart of some reactors shut after Fukushima if approved by a new regulator.
The DPJ’s plan is a “desperate election gambit,” Richard Katz, an economist and editor-in-chief of the New York-based Oriental Economist Report, wrote in a Sept. 11 report. “If most existing plants are restarted and then they are all shut down after they reach age 40, nuclear power would still supply 15 percent of the country’s electricity as of 2030,” Katz wrote.
Katz’s point was acknowledged last week by Seiji Maehara, the chairman of the DPJ’s policy research committee that made the recommendations. Five reactors would still be operating in 2039 even if the 40-year operation rule is applied, so the country may bring forward the schedule for shutting them down, said Maehara.
The government should use “all its political resources” to achieve the zero-nuclear goal in the 2030s and if possible achieve it before then, Maehara said on Sept. 6.
Only two of Japan’s 50 reactors, located at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi plant, have restarted since the shutdowns ordered after the catastrophe.
“This announcement must become law, otherwise it will be seen as nothing but lip service to buy votes before the coming election,” said Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan in a statement.
“Right now Japan is replacing a lot of the power by revving up fossil fuel use,” said Mark Hibbs, a senior nuclear analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “There is a lot of room for Japan to do things which would help them to adjust to a no-nuclear policy, for example establishing a unified national power grid and quickly building up renewables sources, since these were largely neglected.”
Phasing out nuclear power means Japan will fail to meet its international pledge to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the figures in the government’s report. […]
By Ed King
14 September 2012
Today’s decision by Japan’s government to phase out Nuclear power by 2030 has been branded a potential ‘climate disaster’ by critics, who say it will leave the country relying heavily on coal, gas and oil.
Proposals released today reveal Nuclear reactors will be shut down by 2040, with emphasis placed on renewables and fossil fuels to fill the energy gap.
Until last year’s Fukushima disaster, Nuclear energy accounted for a third of the country’s electricity output, generated by 50 reactors across Japan. Tokyo had planned to expand that capacity by 50% by 2030.
According to the news agency AP, the Ministry of Environment projects that Japan will produce about 15% greenhouse gas emissions this fiscal year than it did in 1990, the baseline year for measuring progress in reducing emissions.
Meanwhile Reuters report Japan aims to triple the share of renewable power to 30% of its energy mix, but will remain a top importer of fossil fuels for the next decade.
As a result of its heavy reliance on Nuclear, Japan has a compartmentalised grid structure, meaning electricity cannot be moved easily between regions. Major investment will be needed to ensure it can cope with the more fluid supply that renewable energy provides.
Japan has already said it will not be signing up to an extension to the Kyoto Protocol. A member of its negotiating team at the UNFCCC Bangkok talks told RTCC it needed the flexibility post Fukushima to develop a new energy strategy without constraints.