Minister of Economy Edano’s recent book “Tatakaretemo iwaneba naranai koto” (What I have to say even if I get beaten up for it) has a chapter on energy issues.
He states that he, personally, wants to get rid of nuclear energy as soon as possible (ichinichi demo hayaku, 一日でもはやく), which is exactly the way the new government energy strategy frames the issue. This is not a phase-out until 2040, as many have misunderstood. It is a phase-out that should take place tomorrow, if possible. On the day the society is not any more dependent on nuclear, the remaining plants get shut down permanently.
The book adds some more detail on the order in which nuclear plants are supposed to be shut down. The German phase-out legislation gave exact dates for when which nuclear plant gets shut down. The Japanese energy strategy only says that no plant will operate longer than 40 years.
Edano explains that there will be an order of urgency eventually, evaluating all existing plants. This will take some time, since it is not only a matter of when each plant started operation. If that was the only thing to consider, such an order would be established in a couple of minutes. The exercise of developing this order will also consider factors like earthquake risk, which is different in different areas of Japan, and the potential damage and scale of evacuation if an accident happens.
He also confirms that the outdated monopolies for utilities need to be abolished, and unbundling of generation and grid management is necessary.
Then he says that for the time nuclear energy remains in Japan, it needs to be put under government control. It is not adequate in his opinion to have private corporations collect the profits from nuclear, while the taxpayer is stuck with the bill for damage compensation.
He then also says that, contrary to many assertions, phasing nuclear out will lead to stimulating the Japanese economy, since there will be two large new fields of demand with renewable energy and energy efficiency.
I agree with most of these positions. And anyone discussing Japanese government energy policy would be well advised to read this book. That is especially true for pro-nuclear positions, who adopt the wishful thinking that Japan is not serious about phasing out nuclear.
I hoped that Edano might mention the “Asia Super Grid” proposal or the idea of energy from the Mongolian Gobi desert. I could not find any such mention in the chapter on energy. I regret this state of affairs. It shows that the concept of energy from the desert still has a long way to go in Japan compared to the situation in Europe.