Future of nuclear power in Japan still in confusion

Posted at September 20, 2012 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Future of nuclear power in Japan still in confusion

Following the announcement earlier in the week that Japan is to phase out nuclear power, the cabinet has failed to endorse a 2040 deadline for the phasing out of the technology.

The lack of agreement brings into the question the government’s commitment to a non-nuclear future, despite strong public opposition to the technology.

Up until the Fukushima crisis in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami last year, Japan had planned to increase its nuclear capacity from 49 GW to 68 GW by 2030.

But the public backlash against nuclear power has mothballed those plans and led to the shutdown of existing plants.

“The sudden turn against, and mothballing of, this technology in the aftermath of Fukushima has created significant economic burdens for both utilities and communities while increased fossil fuel use has spiked CO2 emissions,” says Chris Gadomski, nuclear analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It is not surprising that elements within Japanese society oppose a 40 year lifetime for nuclear power plants,” he adds.

The Japanese government has only partially approved the plans laid out earlier in the week and have removed mention of a specific deadline.

Gadomski says the industry has learned from the mistakes made during the Fukushima crisis and is developing new practices and technologies that will make the technology safer to operate.

“In the face of rising greenhouse gas emissions, newer nuclear technologies together with an increased reliance on renewable technologies and energy efficiency may provide the best pathway forward for a greener generating portfolio,” he says.

There is also the consideration that Japan’s existing nuclear power plants have left a legacy of spent nuclear fuel that must be disposed of – or reused in fast-breeder reactors, which is being investigated by General Electric Hitachi.

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Related stories:
Japan to phase out nuclear power by 2040 (17-Sept)
Japan sets sights on a $628 billion green energy market (11-Jul)
Belgium could join other European nations scrapping nuclear power (1-Nov 2011)
Siemens follows German lead pulling plug on nuclear power (21-Sept 2011)

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