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Japanese Prime Minister sees push to nuclear power to fight energy crisis

#Japanese #Prime #Minister #sees #push #nuclear #power #fight #energy #crisis

Japan’s prime minister on Wednesday called for a push to revive the country’s nuclear industry to cope with rising imported energy costs linked to the Ukraine war.

Such a move could prove controversial after the 2011 Fukushima disaster led to the shutdown of many nuclear reactors over safety concerns.

But like many other countries, Japan — which aims to become carbon-neutral by 2050 — has been facing an energy shortage since Russian troops invaded Ukraine six months ago.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally changed the world’s energy landscape,” and therefore “Japan must keep an eye on potential crisis scenarios,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at an energy policy meeting.

Japan should consider building next-generation nuclear reactors, he said, while the government will also discuss bringing more nuclear power plants online and extending the life of reactors if safety can be guaranteed.

Kishida called for “concrete conclusions by the end of the year” on the issue, which remains a hot topic after a deadly tsunami in March 2011 that melted down the Fukushima power plant, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Eleven years later, 10 of Japan’s 33 nuclear reactors are back in operation, although not all operate year-round and the country is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels.

The national nuclear safety regulator has in principle approved the restarting of seven more reactors, but these moves often face opposition from local communities.

– “Politically challenging” –

“In addition to ensuring the operation of the 10 reactors that are already back online, the government will make every effort to restart the others whose safety has been approved,” Kishida said.

The prime minister, who attended the meeting remotely after testing positive for Covid-19, also urged policymakers to “consider building next-generation nuclear reactors with new safety mechanisms.”

Before the Fukushima disaster, a third of Japan’s electricity generation came from nuclear power, but in 2020 the share was less than five percent.

Tom O’Sullivan, a Tokyo-based energy consultant at Mathyos Advisory, said building next-generation reactors in Japan is a “big step” because “all current reactors are conventional reactors.”

Commissioning of additional existing nuclear plants will have to be approved by local governors, which could prove “politically challenging,” O’Sullivan told AFP.

“But after the Ukraine war, the environment is different again,” he said.

To the Japanese public: “I don’t think it’s just the cost of electricity. It’s dependence on Russia for natural gas, oil and coal… the Japanese public has really woken up.”

Japanese nuclear-related shares rose sharply in afternoon trade as local media reported on the possible plans, with Tokyo Electric Power ending up 9.96 percent and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries up 6.85 percent.

Japan, along with other G7 countries, has imposed sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

The government has also pledged efforts to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, which supplies about 8 percent of Japan’s LNG needs.

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#Japanese #Prime #Minister #sees #push #nuclear #power #fight #energy #crisis

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