A decade after Fukushima, Kishida seeks nuclear power revival

Ten years ago, the Great East Japan earthquake became a triple disaster: a magnitude 9.0 earthquake surge from the Pacific Ocean flattened more than 120,000 buildings, a tsunami wave of 128 feet hit the east coast of Japan and the 860-acre Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant nearly collapsed. The ordeal would result in the costliest natural disaster in history.

Once the waters receded, Japan’s appetite for nuclear power, which previously accounted for 30% of its energy mix, also increased. But Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may be turning over a new leaf. It is revitalizing a suite of inactive nuclear reactors shut down since the disaster and investing billions of dollars in next-generation nuclear technology. It’s part of a plan to put nuclear reactors back in the mix for the resource and energy-hungry country. Kishida wants to increase the fission share from the paltry 5% it had in 2020 to 22% by 2030.

The tricky part is in a country still traumatized by Hiroshima and Nagasaki and rocked by Fukushima, can an unpopular leader put Japan back on the path to energy security? In its favor is a global energy crisis and a growing clamor to fight climate change by embracing zero-emissions generation technologies, such as nuclear power. Against him is the historical malaise of Japanese public opinion towards nuclear energy in all its forms.

Ten years ago, the Great East Japan earthquake became a triple disaster: a magnitude 9.0 earthquake surge from the Pacific Ocean flattened more than 120,000 buildings, a tsunami wave of 128 feet hit the east coast of Japan and the 860-acre Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant nearly collapsed. The ordeal would result in the most expensive natural disaster in history.

Once the waters receded, Japan’s appetite for nuclear power, which previously accounted for 30% of its energy mix, also increased. But Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may be turning over a new leaf. He is conditioner a suite of inactive nuclear reactors shut down since the disaster and the investment billions of dollars in next-generation nuclear technology. It’s part of a plan to put nuclear reactors back in the mix for the resource and energy-hungry country. Kishida wants to increase fission share from the paltry 5% it had in 2020 to 22% by 2030.

The delicate part is in a country still traumatized by Hiroshima and Nagasaki and shaken by Fukushima, can we unpopular leader put Japan back on the path to energy security? In its favor is a global energy crisis and a growing clamor to fight climate change by embracing zero-emissions generation technologies, such as nuclear power. Against him is the historical malaise of Japanese public opinion towards nuclear energy in all its forms.

“Energy security and clean energy are, in some ways, competing demands for policy makers. And now there is research to find ways to achieve both of these goals,” said Tobias Harris, senior Asia fellow at the Center for American Progress. “That naturally makes nuclear a more attractive target.”

This is still a high bar to cross. At a United Nations General Assembly press conference on Thursday, Kishida announced that he had invited the public and private sectors to invest 150 trillion yen (about $1 trillion) in a new Security Council. implementation of the green transformation which “will use all means” to establish nuclear energy. and present concrete operational plans by the end of the year. At an energy meeting in August, Kishida repeatedly stressed the need for accelerate goose discussions for activation of the nuclear reactor. Of the 33 Japanese reactors currently in service, only 10 have received restart authorization from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (ANR); all were closed after the tsunami. Since 2011, 24 reactors have been downgradedJapanese fleet making much less tougher than he was. The alternative is to rely on imported gas or coal, which does not help the government-mandated emissions-neutrality climate targets by mid-century and wreaks havoc on the budget.

At a time of high energy prices and growing concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, the Japanese public is more lively on nuclear power than it has been at any time since 2011. But that support is contingent.

“One side, yes, the public is more open to [nuclear power]. On the other hand, if it looks like the government is pressuring regulators to take shortcuts, you can easily imagine the numbers moving in a negative direction again,” Harris said.

Currently, nine nuclear reactors are under review by the NRA, and Japanese policymakers are considering whether to extend the operating licenses of their current power plants, which has been done regularly in France and the United Statestwo of the largest operators of nuclear energy in the world.

Meanwhile, Japan continues to be the largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the third largest coal importer in the world. Amid the indirect effects of the global energy crisis, time is running out for Japan to find local solutions.

“Depending on the situation in Ukraine and economic trends in China, LNG supply may be at risk this winter and next,” said John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and public affairs at the Institute of nuclear energy, which is pushing for nuclear power. “They need to make more progress in restarting nuclear power plants. Certainly more plants need to be commissioned than there are now. »

Japan has few other choices when it comes to energy security. Given its small size and dense population, the country cannot harness wind power, solar power or other green energy resources in the same way as larger or landscaped countries. open; there are no great windswept plains on the island of Kyushu. United States plans to build thousands of offshore wind turbines extinguished his both ocean coasts. Japan is about the same size as California with more thrice the population, making the country dependent on the import 90 percent of its total energy partly because of its lack of space.

Further environmentally friendly investments and measures are yet to be determined by the end of the year by the Kishida Green Transformation Implementation Board, which was founded in July but has already seen difficult leadership changes after Japanese Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda resigned from his role as Minister for Green Transformation, in part due to his ties to the Unification Church. In his place, Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura took on both roles and is already to push a program to restart pro-nuclear reactors – and quickly.

Fukushima Daiichi, the reactor at the heart of Japan’s most recent nuclear trauma, may be out of commission, but the ghosts of its cataclysm are not. Clean damaged reactors will take another 30 yearsand the radioactive water will be dumped in the Pacific Ocean from 2023. But there are no easy answers for an island nation with no gas, little coal and a voracious appetite.

Energy security “is a concern that will never really go away unless Japan somehow finds a source of free energy and energy storage,” Harris said. “But failing that, these concerns will weigh on Japanese policymakers for a long time.”

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