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No reference to new reactors in energy plan

August 2, 2017


Updated basic energy plan will not refer to new reactors






The government will avoid any reference to building new reactors or replacing aging facilities in its basic long-term energy policy, in light of persistent, public opposition to reliance on nuclear energy.


“There has been no development in circumstances that calls for a change of the outline" of the nation's basic energy policy, industry minister Hiroshige Seko said Aug. 1, indicating that the key parts of the existing plan will remain unchanged.


Whether to mention the construction of new reactors had been the focus of attention as the government prepares to undertake its latest review of the plan, which is conducted roughly every three years.


Although the current plan, crafted in 2014, defines nuclear energy as an “important base load power source,” it does not refer to the government’s position with regard to the construction of new reactors.


The nuclear power industry, along with related business circles, have been pushing for the construction of new reactors.


But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the electricity industry, is hesistant to commit to new construction projects in the new energy plan, given the general outcry over nuclear energy following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.


Seko said the government’s decision in 2015 to ensure measures are taken so that nuclear energy accounts for 20 to 22 percent of the nation’s overall power output by fiscal 2030 will be achievable without adding new reactors.


We can attain the objective without building new reactors if existing ones are brought back online,” he said.


Seko added that an advisory panel will meet Aug. 9 to discuss the review of the basic energy plan.


The ministry also plans to hold an inaugural meeting of experts late this month to discuss energy policy through 2050 and whether Japan will need nuclear power plants in the long term.


Five reactors are now operating in Japan after they were certified as meeting more stringent new regulations put in place after the Fukushima disaster.


According to a ministry estimate, the goal of nuclear power accounting for 20 to 22 percent of the nation's energy needs in fiscal 2030 would be achieved if 30 or so existing reactors were in service.


Asahi Shimbun opinion polls since the Fukushima disaster have consistently shown that opposition to nuclear power is almost double that of those who are in favor.


(This article was written by Tokuhiko Saito and Tsuneo Sasai.)

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