Japan plans to abandon nuclear power by 2030


JAPAN’S GOVERNMENT will announce that it is abandoning nuclear power generation in the next three decades and massively promoting the use of renewable energy sources, according to the local media.

The new energy policy, set to be announced shortly, is a dramatic turnaround from a strategy that aimed to meet half the country’s energy needs with atomic energy by 2030.

Sources quoted in the Asahi newspaper and other outlets say the government aims to invest in “all possible policy resources to make it possible to exit nuclear power in the 2030s”.

However the move, which follows last year’s triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is likely to be strongly contested by the country’s powerful business lobby and by any incoming administration.

The government of prime minister Yoshihiko Noda is considered unlikely to survive the next general election, which many commentators believe could come as early as next month.

Conservative politicians and the country’s largest business lobby, the Keidanren, have repeatedly warned that scrapping the nation’s reactors would raise electricity costs and damage industrial competitiveness.

“The government’s move is important because it sends a signal that there is no future for nuclear power in Japan,” said the head of Greenpeace Japan Junichi Sato, “but this is nothing more than a statement. If it’s not really adopted it will not stand.”

Post-Fukushima polls indicate that a majority of the Japanese public wants the country to exit nuclear power as quickly as possible. A series of a summer demonstrations climaxed last month when Mr Noda agreed to an unprecedented but inconclusive meeting with anti-nuclear protesters.

The protests began after Mr Noda agreed to restart two idled reactors in June. Japan’s 48 remaining commercial reactors remain offline amid bitter controversy over their safety in the event of another earthquake.

The governor of Fukui Prefecture, host of the two restarted reactors, was among the first to criticise the new energy plans yesterday, calling them “unrealistic”. Issei Nishikawa demanded that the government decommission all the nuclear plants in his prefecture and “return the sites to their original state”, if the policy went ahead, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The new energy policy guidelines are likely to recommend that the idled reactors be turned back on to avoid electricity shortages while the country develops alternatives, according to the Mainichi newspaper.

They will also pledge to cap the operation of old nuclear plants at 40 years and to only approve reactor restarts after stringent safety checks.

Eighteen months after the March 11th earthquake triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the impact continues to ripple across the world. Protests against a new nuclear plant in India turned violent this week when police fired on demonstrations, killing one person.

Germany, the world’s fourth-largest industrial nation, committed itself last year to replacing its reactors with renewables by 2022.

Italy has voted overwhelmingly by referendum to abandon plans to restart its nuclear programme and Switzerland has ordered a freeze on building new plants.