Japan’s long-term energy policy will reach another milestone in March 2018 when the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) finalises a revised national energy strategy that extends to fiscal year 2030/31 (April–March), its second update since the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011. Given the political dominance of the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party, the existing policy priority of reinstating nuclear power plants will remain in place. However, anti-nuclear grassroots sentiment and local government boycotts continue to hinder progress on reactor restarts, blurring the outlook for the national government’s plan to make nuclear energy handle 20–22% of electricity supply by 2030/31. The nuclear component of the Basic Energy Plan envisages about 30 reactors pumping out electricity in 2030/31. An energy policy advisory group of pro-nuclear lawmakers within the LDP is advocating a scenario of 35 reactors in operation. It is a tall order, given the slow pace of reactor restarts and the uncertain prospects for adding new nuclear reactors to inventory. Japan currently has an inventory of 42 operable reactors, including three approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to operate beyond the 40-year standard life span. The NRA has received applications to restart 26 nuclear reactors. Seven of these have so far been approved, with five of these currently in operation while the other two could be restarted by the end of 2017. Japan has 16 reactors that have not yet filed restart applications with the NRA and might never be brought back online. The slow pace of progress does not bode well for the government’s 2030/31 target, making it necessary to either speed up restarts, build new reactors or revise downwards the target. The Economist Intelligence Unit believes that the government will do the latter.
Economist 5th Sept 2017 read more »