Nu­clear should pro­vide fifth of elec­tric­ity sup­ply: Ja­pan


A fifth of Ja­pan’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply should come from nu­clear power gen­er­a­tion, the coun­try’s in­dus­try min­istry said Tues­day, de­spite wide­spread op­po­si­tion in the af­ter­math of the Fukushima dis­as­ter.

With none of the na­tion’s vi­able nu­clear re­ac­tors in op­er­a­tion, the tar­get in­di­cates an in­ten­tion to bring most, if not all of them, back on­line.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists Green­peace said the propo­si­tion showed the gov­ern­ment was “de­lud­ing it­self.”

Ja­pan’s in­tended en­ergy mix — what pro­por­tion of power comes from which sources — has been a sub­ject of hot de­bate for months, not least be­cause with­out it, Tokyo has been un­able to make in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions.

In its pro­posal, which will be de­bated by the gov­ern­ment by the end of next month, the in­dus­try min­istry said about 20-22 per­cent of the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity should come from nu­clear power by 2030.

Sup­ply from re­new­ables such as so­lar and wind power should also be dou­bled to 22-24 per­cent.

The in­dus­try min­istry fa­vors nu­clear power as a way to cut emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide and other green­house gases, de­spite a groundswell of public op­po­si­tion since the nu­clear cri­sis in Fukushima.

Re­ac­tors at the Fukushima Dai­ichi plant went into melt­down in March 2011 af­ter a tsunami swamped their cool­ing sys­tems — set­ting off the worst nu­clear dis­as­ter since Ch­er­nobyl in 1986.

Ja­pan’s en­tire nu­clear sta­ble was grad­u­ally switched off fol­low­ing the cri­sis, while tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were evac­u­ated due to con­cerns about ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure.

Many lo­cal res­i­dents are still un­able to re­turn to their homes and sci­en­tists have warned that some ar­eas around the plant may re­main un­in­hab­it­able for decades or more.

‘De­lud­ing it­self’

Pro-nu­clear pre­mier Shinzo Abe and the coun­try’s busi­ness sec­tor have since pushed to restart plants that once sup­plied more than one quar­ter of Ja­pan’s elec­tric­ity, as a plung­ing yen has sent en­ergy im­port bills through the roof.

Abe’s gov­ern­ment has pledged to lower the coun­try’s de­pen­dence on nu­clear power and pro­mote so­called “green en­ergy,” but in­sists it is un­re­al­is­tic to rely too much on re­new­ables be­cause of cost and sta­bil­ity is­sues.

Ja­pan’s pro-nu­clear lobby said last week that 2015 would be the year re­ac­tors are restarted, de­spite public wari­ness.

Four re­ac­tors were de­com­mis­sioned on Mon­day af­ter fail­ing to meet new, stricter safety stan­dards, and an­other will be per­ma­nently taken out of op­er­a­tion on Thurs­day, Jiji Press re­ported.

But the 20- 22 per­cent sup­ply fig­ure in­di­cates that most, if not all, of the re­main­ing 43 re­ac­tors will have to be restarted, though most have yet to re­ceive the green light from reg­u­la­tors.

Shaun Burnie, nu­clear spe­cial­ist at Green­peace Ger­many, said many of th­ese re­ac­tors would never come back on­line.

“The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment is de­lud­ing it­self if it thinks that nu­clear power will play a sig­nif­i­cant role in its fu­ture en­ergy sup­ply,” he said.

“The scale of the chal­lenges fac­ing the nu­clear in­dus­try are such that gen­er­a­tion from re­ac­tors is likely to col­lapse dur­ing the com­ing decade. Many re­ac­tors will never restart, and most re­ac­tors over the com­ing years will be too old to op­er­ate.”

The in­dus­try min­istry said if the pro­posed en­ergy mix is im­ple­mented, Ja­pan will be able to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 21.9 per­cent in 2030 from 2013 lev­els.

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