Yesterday, the Japanese government published the new long term energy strategy. It is available as a PDF file at the Prime Minister’s Website, and in Html format at Tokyo Shimbun. My comments here are based on the original PDF file.
In this post, I will address the question of nuclear energy. Other areas of the policy will be the topic of other posts.
I blogged on the last long term strategy of summer 2010 last March. At the time, the goal was to get to 70 percent electricity from nuclear and renewable combined until 2030, up from 34% in 2010. For that to happen the plan was to build at least 14 new reactors until 2030 and increase the capacity factor to 90 % (up from only 60 % in 2008).
The new strategy starts out with the desire to get rid of nuclear energy as soon as possible.
For that to happen, it decides that no nuclear plant will be allowed to operate longer than 40 years, that only those that are decided to be safe by the Nuclear Regulation Commission will be allowed to operate, and that there will be no new plants built.
The German decision to get rid of nuclear energy was somewhat easier to read, since it tells everyone exactly when which plant will be retired. There is some uncertainty left. Which plants will be restarted for the rest of their remaining operation period of 40 years maximum? We will have to wait and see.
But it is quite clear that nuclear is dead in Japan in the long run.
As far as my interest is concerned (low carbon energy and global warming), it would be rather reckless to count on a large contribution from nuclear in Japan. Just as in Germany, renewable energy will have to do the job on its own.
Since a large majority of Japanese citizens is firmly opposed to nuclear energy, this is exactly what is supposed to happen in a democracy.
Of course, there are still supporters of nuclear energy in Japan. Maybe they can get another government elected that changes the policy again.
I for one won’t count on it.