"Japan will continue to rely on nuclear power as a central part of its energy policy under a draft government plan, effectively overturning a pledge by a previous administration to phase out all nuclear plants."
As energy official Toshikazu Okuya says in the story, the nuclear cut "has increased our dependence on fossil fuels," and "money has flowed out of the country and electricity prices have risen."
Prime Minister Abe has been pushing for a return to nuclear since he took office in December, 2012. His government's new draft energy policy makes clear his intentions. As the WSJ reports:
It says that "nuclear power is an important baseload electricity source," meaning that nuclear plants would remain at the core of power production along with coal-fired and hydroelectric power plants.
The plan puts forth an energy strategy for the next 20 years, the story notes. Nuclear's contribution would not necessarily return to 30 percent.
The country's nuclear regulator has imposed stricter rules, and is reviewing 17 reactors for a possible restart.
Japanese citizens are divided on the subject. In a recent survey by Fuji Television 53 percent of respondents said they opposed restarting nuclear, but the same percentage also said they approved of Abe's government. Tokyo elected a pro-nuclear mayor earlier this month.
The government's proposal "will become official after an expected approval by the cabinet," the WSJ stated.
The proposal comes as signs emerge in Germany that the pendulum there could swing back to supporting nuclear. Germany decided to abandon nuclear after Fukushima and, like Japan, its CO2 emissions have surged.
In the U.S, the Obama administration recently warned that more nuclear plant closures such as the four premature shutdowns of the last two years could cause the country to miss its climate goals.
Nuclear emits no CO2 during the generation and has a very low CO2 footprint over its lifecycle, from mining to construction to retirement; in that sense it is comparable to wind and it trumps solar.
Technologies such as thorium fuel and nonconventional reactors that use molten salt, pebble bed, "fast neutron" and other designs augur significant improvements in nuclear waste management, safety, weapons threats, efficiency and costs. Unlike traditional reactors, many of them could also serve as sources of clean heat for high temperature industrial process.
They could also power water desalination, which is one reason why Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (where Japan is supporting South Korean reactors) are ramping up nuclear programs. Are you listening, drought stricken California?
Photo is from Press Information Bureau, Government of India, via Wikimedia
Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K.
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Mark does not have financial holdings that would influence how or what he covers.
He writes for SmartPlanet and is not an employee of CBS.
I don't mind nuclear power plants for generation of electricity.
However, in the case of Japan, I would be very leery about their nuclear plants. Japan sits on the "ring of fire", and everything built there will be susceptible to earthquakes and volcanoes and Tsunamis. Another disaster triggered by earthquakes that strike on Japan proper, could have very disastrous effects on their nuclear plants, and one or several of them could turn into major disasters, which might render major portions of Japan useless and could cause major evacuations. Where would those people evacuate to? The rest of the world had better be ready to take in huge numbers of Japanese, because, if the disasters turn out to be major, they won't really have a homeland that is livable.
Yeah, I'm looking at the worst case scenario, but, Japan sits on the worst case scenario for disasters. But, let's just hope for the best, and continue as if there wasn't a wake-up call for them a few years back. People forgot very quickly how it was immediately after the Tsunami. Next time, they won't forget, but, it might also be too late.
But, dear AIT, if you meant that nuclear energy is so plentiful it is superior to all other sources, you'd be right. If you merely mean it's a threat like the so-called financial "experts" that are running so much of the world's economies, then you are wrong.
Sure enough. All those folks living around Fukushima who have lost their homes, their livelihood, their community have made a ruckus. But we shouldn't let a few expendable extremists slow down this industry or impair the continued flow of money to our shareholders...
After all, what are the safety and livelihoods of people compared with the overarching good that comes with greed?
@z2217 In April 1986, the USA's Argonne National Laboratory tested its Experimental Breeder Reactor, model 2, with exactly the absence-of-pumping-power condition that the floodwaters imposed upon the Japanese reactors, and that also, a week later in 1986, wrecked the obsolete Chernobyl reactor. EBR II was designed to respond to an increase in temperature beyond its designed operating range, by shutting down. It did so. So did the Fukushima reactors, by the way. But unlike them, the EBR II had passive coolant capacity, liquid sodium in a double-walled steel tank, under an inert atmosphere of argon, sufficient to convect away the heat of mere fission product radioactivity calmly and safely.
I also suspect that you do not know how little profit nuclear brings to energy companies, compared with how valuable it actually is to people who prefer not to have the lights go out at night when the wind drops.
I never mentioned the residents of Fukushima, and my heart goes out to there plight - and the rest of the people in Japan affected by the Natural Disaster of the Tsunami.
What I was getting at was the knee-jerk reaction to shut all nuclear power stations, which has seriously affected Japan's Trade Surplus, and has hammered their economy - which has been stagnating for nigh on 15 years now since their property driven crisis/recession. All that has happened, is that they will be back on line soon, and the last 3-4 years will have been expensively lost. Similar in Germany.