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Last efforts to finalise energy policy - End of nukes in the 2030's

September 13, 2012
Japan to aim for nuclear phaseout in 2030s: draft energy policy



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government is contemplating setting a target to abolish nuclear power generation in the 2030s under a new national energy policy, in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis last year, according to a draft of the policy obtained by Kyodo News on Wednesday.

"We will devote all policy resources to achieving zero nuclear power generation in the 2030s," the draft said.

The draft said Japan will begin research on directly disposing of spent nuclear fuel, suggesting a shift in the current policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.

The draft also said the government will keep its word not to make Aomori Prefecture, which has accepted facilities for the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and storage of radioactive waste under the current nuclear fuel recycling plan, a final disposal site.

It added that the government will review Japan's new energy policy, which may be finalized this week, every year through 2015 and every three years afterwards.

The government has been struggling to balance the pros and cons of nuclear power. The review of the energy policy is intended to give consideration to the concerns of some local governments, as well as the United States, over the possible phasing out of nuclear power generation by Japan in the 2030s, government officials said.

In the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster, the government has been working to create a new national energy strategy as the current policy, which calls for increased reliance on nuclear power, is no longer tenable.

The Democratic Party of Japan, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, has proposed that the government set a goal of completely eliminating nuclear power generation in the 2030s in the new policy.

On Wednesday, Noda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and other relevant ministers discussed how to address the concerns of local governments that are still willing to keep nuclear facilities as well as the United States, with which Japan has a civilian nuclear cooperation pact.

Noda also sent his special adviser Akihisa Nagashima and Hiroshi Ogushi, a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, to Washington to explain the new policy.

Under the plan, the government has listed 10 areas in which it will review energy policy, including Japan's relations with the international community and local cooperation on hosting nuclear facilities.

The draft said the government would transform the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture into a research reactor.

To achieve a society that does not rely on nuclear power, Japan plans to limit the operation of existing reactors to up to 40 years since they first went online and not allow utilities to build new ones, according to the draft.

In the meantime, Japan will use existing nuclear reactors if they are confirmed as safe by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, it said.

Japan will also consider providing new support to local governments that have hosted nuclear plants for many years and receive subsidies to that end, the draft said.

The government is making last-ditch efforts to finalize the energy policy on Friday.




September 12, 2012



Zero-nuclear policy ready for inclusion in new energy and environment strategy



The government has entered the final stage of incorporating a zero-nuclear policy into a new energy and environment strategy that is expected to be determined as early as the end of this week, government sources have revealed.

The zero-nuclear policy is to stipulate halting the operations of all nuclear power stations in Japan by the 2030s, and comes in response to mounting calls among the public for eliminating all nuclear reactors in the country in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The sources said the government has apparently informed Aomori Prefecture -- host to the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant for a nuclear fuel cycle and a staunch opponent of a nuclear-zero policy -- of the outlines of the new energy policy and presented it with alternative regional promotion measures to make up for the drastic policy change and to minimize adverse effects on local economies.

The government will make a formal decision on the new energy and environment strategy at an Energy and Environment Council meeting to be convened as early as the end of this week.

After the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) made policy proposals on Sept. 6 that "all necessary policy and resources will be devoted to achieving the zero-nuclear policy goal by the 2030s," the industrial circle and Aomori Prefecture fiercely opposed the plan, prompting the government to push back the date for the final decision on the new energy policy from Sept. 10 to the end of this weekend at the earliest.

Government sources said Aomori Prefecture is still strongly concerned that the zero-nuclear policy would lead to the abandonment of the nation's nuclear fuel cycle policy and is apparently reluctant to show understanding of the new policy anytime soon. The government is poised to seek the prefecture's understanding by drawing up outlines of new pump-priming measures in lieu of nuclear fuel reprocessing and dispatching Cabinet ministers there after finalizing the new energy strategy, the sources said.

The government is also making fully fledged coordination with the U.S. government over the new energy and environment strategy after Washington showed a strong interest in Japan's atomic energy policy.

At a press conference on Sept. 10, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda clearly stated that the government will abide by the three DPJ-proposed principles on the country's future nuclear policy -- no new or additional construction of nuclear reactors; the strict application of the 40-year limit to the operation of existing reactors; and only reactors that were confirmed to be safe by the nuclear regulatory commission will be allowed to be reactivated. Several senior government officials admitted on Sept. 11 that "the prime minister's position won't change."

The government is further intending to gain Cabinet approval of the new energy and environment strategy. Under the current legal system, the country's energy policy is required to be reviewed every three years. The energy policy is also subject to modification if the regime changes after the next House of Representatives election.


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