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Japan Decides to Go Back on Decision to Reduce Nuclear Power Dependence


Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant opened to foreign media, Fukushima, Japan - 28 Feb 2012When the nuclear meltdown occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan a couple of years ago, the Japanese government decided to cut down on nuclear energy. Now Japan is prepared to go back on that decision by reverting to nuclear power once again.

Before the Fukushima meltdown disaster, Japan was planning to increase its nuclear dependency from 30% to about 50% by 2030. However, the disaster prompted a decision to cut down completely on nuclear power by phasing out their 50 reactors by the year 2040.

That decision then represented real hope for anti-nuclear activists, who hoped that the Japanese government would now begin to shift their focus to renewable energy.

Nearly two years down the line, and the government has performed another U-turn to increase nuclear dependency once again. This was as a result of the return to power last month of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Shinzo Abe. Right on cue, just days after LDP’s victory, the company that owns the Fukushima Daiichi plant had a substantial share price increase, though not up to pre-disaster levels.

In the nuclear phase-out review by the new government, they stated that reactors would be put back into operation only if these passed safety tests, though they did not say if the review would include the construction of new reactors.

This may have been as a result of criticism of Japan’s current policy of relying on costly imported oil and gas in the wake of taking all except two of its reactors offline since the Fukushima disaster and how these are impacting on the environment.

Toshimitsu Motegi, the trade minister, made it known that the government’s aim of putting the economy back on track would not be set back by nuclear non-dependence, saying that they needed to “reconsider the previous administration’s policy.”

It would probably take some months – even years – for the majority of nuclear reactors to be put back online.  Even though the general election saw poor performances from anti-nuclear candidates, the general public is still concerned that the nuclear industry would be back to its old ways of colluding with pro-nuclear politicians and nuclear regulators.

The sceptics, however, are unlikely to be heard by the LDP, which is responsible for Japan’s development of a “nuclear village”, that is, power utilities, MPs and bureaucrats who preached nuclear dependency without the inhibition of strict regulation.

Thus, the future of Japan is looking ever nuclear dependent, as this pronouncement by the new prime minister indicates, “A strong economy is the source of energy for Japan. Without regaining a strong economy, there is no future for Japan.”

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