Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan says the country will abandon existing plans to build new nuclear plants, and needs to “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy.
The announcement, made at a press conference today (10 May), ditches Japan’s target to build nine nuclear plants over the coming decade, and 14 by 2030, so that nuclear power would provide 50% of the country’s electricity. (Fifty-four reactors currently supply about a quarter of Japan’s electrical energy needs – this ‘Nuclear landscape’ graphic shows where they are).
Japan’s energy mix – and the plan it’s just scrapped.
That pre-Fukushima enthusiasm for nuclear, as Nature’s reporter Jeff Tollefson explained in his April examination of the country’s energy policy (‘Japan faces power struggle’), was because it seemed the best way to reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports, and to meet the country’s ambitious goals to cut carbon emissions – 25% from 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% by 2050.
According to the Guardian, Kan said Japan would have to compile its new energy policy in a report for the International Atomic Energy Agency in June. The prime minister didn’t provide any details, but said the country needed to look more at renewable energy (like solar, wind, and biomass), and on conserving energy – though Japan’s streamlined economy is already among the most energy-efficient in the world.
The New York Times notes that the energy review is “the second time that Mr. Kan has suddenly announced big changes in Japanese nuclear policy without the usual endless committee meetings and media leaks that characterize the country’s consensus-driven decision making.”
Last week, Kan requested that the Hamaoka nuclear plant be shut down; after which utility Chubu Electric Power suspended operations at the plant, which sits in an area considered overdue for a large earthquake.
Kan also said he was preparing for a commission that would undertake an “independent, open and comprehensive” investigation into the Fukushima disaster, and added that, from June, he would return his prime ministerial salary until there was prospect of a resolution at Fukushima. (Financial Times).