08/25/2022, 10.28
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Tokyo to build new nuclear power plants

by Guido Alberto Casanova

The turning point in the plan officially presented by Kishida: new-generation reactors should come into operation in the thirties. There are also plans to extend the life of existing plants by not counting the post-Fukushima shutdown years. Currently, 17 of the current 33 nuclear reactors in Japan have received approval from government regulators to restart, which should be completed by summer 2023.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - More nuclear reactors, operating for longer. The Kishida government has decided to radically change the energy landscape in Japan, which had shut down all plants since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Since then, no new nuclear reactor has been built in the country.

The plan for the revival of nuclear power - announced yesterday at a conference but previously filtered through the Japanese media - is the result of months of research by the Ministry of the Economy, which has drawn up a plan to introduce new-generation reactors over the coming years. The new reactors, which are considered to be safer, should be built and come into operation in the 1930s. Details on the implementation of the plan, specific measures and timelines are expected to be made public by the end of the year.

In addition to new reactors, the government is also considering extending the lifespan of existing ones. According to Japanese regulations, after 40 years of operation each reactor must be shut down; this can become 60 if the plants pass inspections and make safety improvements. From what has emerged, it seems that the post-Fukushima shutdown years can be subtracted from the age of the reactors.

There are numerous reasons why Kishida has taken this historic step, and decarbonisation of the economy is one of them. "Nuclear power and renewables are essential to proceed with the green transformation," the prime minister said. Japan, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, has set a target for 2030 to generate at least 20 per cent of its energy consumption from nuclear sources.

A second, certainly more pressing reason concerns the shortage of supplies. Since this spring, several areas of Japan have been repeatedly at risk of blackouts due to a very low electricity production capacity compared to demand, which, also due to the record heat, has been very high. A final reason, which is also highly topical, concerns Tokyo's dependence on imports to meet its energy needs. Japan has to import large quantities of oil, coal and natural gas to produce electricity, and the soaring costs following the outbreak of war in Ukraine have weighed heavily on citizens and businesses. Reducing dependence on imports would also be a significant improvement for the country's economic security.

At the moment, only 17 of Japan's 33 existing nuclear reactors have received approval from government regulators for restarting them post-Fukushima. Seven of these still lack the green light from local authorities, but the government aims to have them back in operation by summer 2023. This nuclear revival, which has been under discussion in Tokyo for some time now, also seems to find broad support among the population. According to a poll last month, 48.4 per cent of Japanese agree with the recommissioning of nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed. Those against would be only 27.9%.

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