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Japan plans nuclear return with seven dormant plants revived

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant on the island of Shikoku. It was partially restarted in 2016 (Newsliner/CC BY-SA 2.5)
Japan plans to bring seven dormant nuclear plants back online this year and to start building a new fleet of state-of-the-art reactors to meet its energy needs.

The move comes amid rising energy costs and its drive to meet zero net carbon goals.

The plan was outlined last summer but has been set out in more detail by the Green Transformation Executive Committee, set up by the government to oversee the country’s climate change efforts.

A meeting held on 22 December set out a 10-year road map, which included plans for a nuclear revival.

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011, all the country’s 33 reactors were shut down for safety checks. Nine were subsequently restarted, and are presently meeting 10% of demand – compared with 33% before the disaster, according to the Japan Times.

The government plans to bring seven more into service by the summer, a move that has been approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in August that Japan should consider building next-generation nuclear reactors, and should also extend the life of the existing fleet beyond their 40-year design lives, if safety can be guaranteed (see further reading). The aim is to generate up to 22% of the country’s electricity from nuclear sources by 2030.

Japan has set a goal of cutting carbon emission 46% by 2030, and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. At the 2021 G7 summit, Japan pledged to commit $60bn per year between 2021 and 2025 to tackle the climate emergency.

Nuclear is seen as essential to cutting the country’s dependence on coal-fired power plants, which presently generate around a third of its electricity. At present it imports around 200 million tonnes a year, mainly from Australia and Indonesia, making it the world’s sixth largest coal user.

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