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This article appears in the February 12, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

[Print version of this article]

Japan Needs Its Reactors Back, and More

Feb. 4—Japan’s Energy Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told the Financial Times on February 3 that power shortages last month, due to heavy snowfall, showed Japan needs to go nuclear again. Kajiyama said: “Personally, I think nuclear power will be indispensable.” He described Japan’s electricity supply as “touch-and-go” during the snowfall last month, resulting in high electricity prices and tight supplies in some areas of the country. “Solar wasn’t generating. Wind wasn’t generating. I’m trying to persuade everybody that in the end we need nuclear power.”

Prior to the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan’s nuclear generating capacity had provided about 30% of the nation’s electricity. Within 14 months of the powerful tsunami and the accident, the country’s nuclear generation had been brought to a standstill pending regulatory change. So far, nine of Japan’s 39 operable reactors have cleared inspections confirming they meet the new regulatory safety standards, and have resumed operation. Another 18 reactors have applied to restart.

In 2019, nuclear energy provided just 7.5% of the country’s electricity. Japan’s Basic Energy Plan, set in 2018 and due for revision this year, targets 22-24% of its energy to come from renewables by 2030, along with 20-22% from nuclear power and 56% from fossil fuels. But the nation can start building new third- and fourth-generation nuclear reactors, and not keep suffering “Solar wasn’t generating. Wind wasn’t generating.”

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