Wednesday, October 5

Japan marks return to nuclear power after blackout since Fukushima disaster

Japan contemplates the construction of a new generation of nuclear plants and extend the useful life of its reactors above 60 years, with the aim of reducing its CO2 emissions, according to a plan announced on Wednesday by the Executive.

These proposals, which represent an important change in the Japanese government’s policy of not building new plants, also include the reactivation of a total of 17 reactors for next summer, after the nuclear blackout after the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

The measures have been raised by the Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, during a meeting of the government initiative called “Green Transformation” (GX) between the Japanese Prime Minister himself and members of the Executive. “Japan must solve its problems for the future while promoting energy transformation”, Kishida pointed out during the meeting.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has been studying the development of new generation nuclear power plants and had previously published a strategy for upgrading active reactors with better safety functions by 2030.

The plan would also include the extension of the maximum life of the reactors so that they can operate beyond 60 years, since after the Fukushima disaster, stricter measures were introduced and this number was reduced to 40.

However, operating during those extra 20 years would be possible if a series of safety improvements are made and the reactors pass the necessary checks, with the aim of the country increasing the percentage of electricity supply that it consumes from 20% to 22% or 24%. It is obtained through nuclear energy.

In relation to the reactivation of the plants, the Ministry also plans to have a total of 17 operational nuclear reactors, including 10 that have already been approved to operate, with the aim of better preparing for a possible shortage of electricity supply, especially in the months of winter.

Japan entered a “nuclear blackout” after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant triggered by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. The Government and the new regulatory authority for atomic energy established stricter safety criteria as a result of this crises that forced all plants in the country to suspend operations until they met the new standards.

However, 42 existing reactors in technical operating conditions have not passed the new safety standards of the Japanese regulator or have been disapproved by the courts and only a few have received the go-ahead from the authorities to return to work.