Japan to phase out nuclear energy by 2040

Sep 14, 2012 by Harumi Ozawa
This general view shows the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ni nuclear power station, pictured in July. Japan said it planned to phase out nuclear power over three decades in an apparent bow to public pressure after last year's Fukushima disaster, the worst atomic accident in a generation.

Japan on Friday said it planned to phase out nuclear power over three decades in an apparent bow to public pressure after last year's Fukushima disaster, the worst atomic accident in a generation.

Tokyo's ambitious goal would see the nation work to cut its use of nuclear energy to zero by 2040, permanently shutting down a stable of that once supplied resource-poor Japan with about one-third of its energy.

"We will introduce policies to bring down to zero within the 2030s... so that we can build a society that does not rely on nuclear power as early as possible," national policy minister Motohisa Furukawa told a press briefing in Tokyo.

But a government paper also released Friday acknowledged that "opinions are divided over how soon or exactly how such a society can be achieved".

The move would bring Japan into line with Italy, Switzerland and Germany, which has said it will wean itself off nuclear power by 2022.

Ahead of a expected this autumn, nuclear energy has become a hot issue in Japan with protests that sometimes attract tens of thousands of people calling for it to be ditched.

The issuing of a policy goal is not binding on any future government, and a could reverse the plan.

Japan said it planned to phase out nuclear power over three decades in an apparent bow to public pressure after last year's Fukushima disaster, the worst atomic accident in a generation.

Some protesters who had gathered for the weekly demonstration at the Prime Minister's office welcomed the decision.

"I think it is one step forward that the government said it will aim to bring nuclear power down to zero, even if it is only formality," said Yasumichi Noma, 46.

But others were sceptical. "It is so phony. The government has no intention to drop nuclear, that's what I believe," said 53-year-old Tomoyasu Kuzuoka.

Last week Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's ruling of Japan (DPJ) recommended the country make greater use of and take further energy saving measures, including the use of smart metering.

It also said Japan should develop resources in nearby waters and look to cheaper procurement of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels.

But Japan's powerful business lobby has worked hard to push for a restart of shuttered reactors, fearing power shortages and warning of soaring utility bills.

"There is no way we can accept this—I cannot think this is technologically possible," Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Keidanren, or Japan Business Federation, said of the new policy.

Japan is set to decide on a post-Fukushima energy policy that will see it abandon nuclear power within the next three decades. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's, pictured on September 12, cabinet was reportedly due to meet later in the day on Friday, with Tokyo expected to announce soon after it would permanently shut down the entire fleet of atomic reactors by some time in the 2030s.

Many critics view a nuclear-free Japan as unrealistic and warn that the move away from atomic power could have severe consequences for manufacturers and the world's third-largest economy.

Tokyo's new energy policy calls for shutting down reactors that are more than 40 years old, not building any new nuclear reactors and only restarting existing reactors if they pass standards issued by a new regulatory agency.

Greenpeace "cautiously welcomed" the new policy, but said the decades-long timeline was unnecessary since all but two of Japan's 50 reactors remain switched off in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.

"The government and energy utilities must make every effort to rapidly phase out nuclear power and deploy renewable solutions to avoid future disasters," it said in a statement.

The decision comes a year-and-a-half after a huge tsunami swamped reactor cooling systems at the Daiichi plant, sparking meltdowns and radiation leaks in the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

In the months that followed, all of Japan's working reactors were shut down for routine safety checks, with only two of them ever having been restarted, and those in spite of strengthening anti-nuclear public opinion.

Japan is now heavily dependent on Middle East oil and has been forced to ramp up its imports to make up the energy shortfall since the accident.

Germany last year said it would shut down its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022 and the German government on Friday offered technical help with the shift away from .

In Italy a referendum rejected any resumption of generation after the Chernobyl accident. Switzerland intends to close its five reactors by 2034. However a number of Asian countries are expanding their nuclear programmes.

Explore further: First of four Fukushima reactors cleared of nuclear fuel

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

80% in Japan 'support nuclear phase-out'

Mar 18, 2012

Eighty percent of Japanese want to phase out the country's reliance on nuclear power and eventually eliminate it, a poll said Sunday, a year after Japan was hit by a massive nuclear disaster.

Japan says plant clean-up will take decades

Jul 09, 2011

Japan's prime minister said on Saturday the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant would take decades, in the first government announcement of a long-term timeframe for the clean-up.

Japan opens solar energy parks

Jul 01, 2012

Japan opened several solar energy parks on Sunday as a new law came into force requiring companies to purchase renewable energy at a fixed price in a push for alternatives to nuclear power.

Japan vows to continue nuclear plant exports

Aug 05, 2011

Japan said Friday it will continue exporting atomic power plants, despite uncertainty over its own use of them as it continues to grapple with a crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

Japan reactor back to full power after shutdown

Jul 09, 2012

A nuclear reactor in western Japan began full operations on Monday, the first restart since the country shut down its atomic stations in the wake of last year's crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Japan PM renews plea for nuclear restart

Jun 08, 2012

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Friday renewed his call for the re-firing of idle nuclear reactors, saying Japan could not do without atomic energy, but stopped short of ordering a restart.

Recommended for you

The state of shale

Dec 19, 2014

University of Pittsburgh researchers have shared their findings from three studies related to shale gas in a recent special issue of the journal Energy Technology, edited by Götz Veser, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Che ...

Website shines light on renewable energy resources

Dec 18, 2014

A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the ...

Better software cuts computer energy use

Dec 18, 2014

An EU research project is developing tools to help software engineers create energy-efficient code, which could reduce electricity consumption at data centres by up to 50% and improve battery life in smart ...

User comments : 22

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (11) Sep 14, 2012
Finally, someone is showing some sense.
Judgeking
4.1 / 5 (9) Sep 14, 2012
How is bowing to special interest groups sensible? Nuclear is the cleanest form of reliable energy we have right now. I can count the number of major nuclear accidents in the last 50 years on one hand. You can't run a society on wind and solar, wake up!
antialias_physorg
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2012
How is bowing to special interest groups sensible?

Since when is the entire population a 'special' interest group?

IIRC the people is the ONLY interest group that government is supposed to work for.
kochevnik
2 / 5 (8) Sep 14, 2012
@Judgeking Nuclear is the cleanest form of reliable energy we have right now. I can count the number of major nuclear accidents in the last 50 years on one hand.
Nuclear makes the most lethal, toxic waste virtually indestructible for millions of years. In scientific engineering, the risk cycle of nuclear power reactors cannot be fully validated as safe until waste can be permanently removed, stored, and degraded. Thermal pollution is ten times higher than any other power generation.

Although nuclear power makes up only 16% of the worlds energy supply, it has a much higher incident and failure rate. Every year there is at least one accident.

Food in Japan is now permanently contaminated. You are a pathetic liar.
dan42day
1 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2012
You can't run a society on wind and solar, wake up!


Judgeking - You underestimate the resourceful Japanese. They are currently working on a massive and concentrated array of wind powered generators. Once it is completed all that is left to do is lure Mothra to the site where her legs will be ensnared in a web of titanium cables and her powerful beating wings will supply Japan with all the power they need as she futilely tries to fly away.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2012
You can't run a society on wind and solar, wake up!


Judgeking - You underestimate the resourceful Japanese. They are currently working on a massive and concentrated array of wind powered generators. Once it is completed all that is left to do is lure Mothra to the site where her legs will be ensnared in a web of titanium cables and her powerful beating wings will supply Japan with all the power they need as she futilely tries to fly away.


TINSTAAFL: Mothra will die if not fed, the energy required to feed it will be greater than the energy generated by harnessing the wind blown by it's wings.
djr
3.3 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2012
"You can't run a society on wind and solar, wake up!" That may be true at this moment in time - but things are very fluid - and there is every evidence that we are approaching the time when we will be able to. Storage, grid integration and supply diversity will undoubtedly overcome the intermitency issues - don't be so fast to judge. Here is a couple of neat articles to show how far some countries have come already - and it is very early days on this journey. http://cleantechn...-graphs/

http://cleantechn...ewables/

For the record - I am a supporter of nuclear - but I also understand that the locomotive is rolling - it is not going to be stopped - and renewables are our future.
VendicarD
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2012
There are fewer than 500 nuclear reactors in the world.

"I can count the number of major nuclear accidents in the last 50 years on one hand." - JudgeKing

How many hands will you need should the 200,000 power reactors needed to produce a 100 percent nuclear powered global economy are constructed?

Think real hard....
kochevnik
3 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2012
With 200,000 power reactors operating people will mutate plenty of extra fingers and hands for counting.
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2012
"Since when is the entire population a 'special' interest group? " - Antialias

Since they decided to disagree with the person who wishes to hide his minority status by calling them a "special interest group."

I am a supporter of Nuclear Power. I think that the world could use another few hundred nuclear power facilities, but only if those facilities are run by competent, intelligent people, who can be trusted to turn the things off when they the safety systems tell them it is time to do so.

I don't trust monkeys to run nuclear power plants, and only a fool would put one in their hands.

antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2012
You can't run a society on wind and solar, wake up!

If anyone can then the Japanese. Not because they have so much better technology but because they have such a lot of coastline and mountains which are ideal for deploying wind, wave and solar energy harvesting schemes.

I can count the number of major nuclear accidents in the last 50 years on one hand.

And if you look at the amount of land that has become contaminated/unusable due to Chernobyl, Majak and Fukushima you should easily be able to see that increasing the number of reactors substantially is not a good idea if we want to have any land left to live on.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2012
I am a supporter of Nuclear Power.

I'm not. I've studied the designs at university and any technology that has an aspect of:
"If X goes wrong we and the surrounding area is seriously fucked with no idea how we'll ever clean it up"
is a technology that -in my opinion- should not be engaged in, UNTIL we have contingency plans for ALL possible eventualities (and not just the 'easy' ones)

This goes for nuclear, but also geoengineering and genetically altered foods (and to some extent stuff like deep-sea drilling).
cdt
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
The speed with which nuclear can be replaced by renewable depends entirely on government commitment. If governments were to commit to renewables at the same level as they have committed to nuclear in the past then we would have a renewable-based economy easily within 25 years. Japan is making baby steps at the moment by subsidizing solar roofs, which makes a fairly small impact, but if they changed building codes to require every new house to be able to renewably generate 50% of the projected energy consumption of its inhabitants then the impact would be huge. The problem is that this would start to take the guaranteed cash flow away from energy producing companies, which in Japan have had as strong a hold on the government as the military industrial complex does in the US.
Roderick
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
Antialias,

The cost of generating power depends on capacity utilization. One can run a nuclear power plant virtually all the time. Here in Europe a terrestrial wind turbine only generates electricity 25% of the time. And solar power panels probably operate only 5% to 10% of the time. So renewable energy is extremely capital intensive relative to the service it provides. And despite your assertions to the contrary, there is no cost effective way of storing wind and solar power. My assertions are corroborated by the extremely high feed in tariffs that Europe has been forced to offer to get power companies and households to invest in green energy.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
Nuclear materials production, wastes, containment, disposal, storage, usage of nuclear energy for both peace and war are all doable from a technical point of view. We have the tech, the designs, but not the political climate (and thus the necessary funding). The anti-nukers never utter a fart about the dangers and the wastes from production facilities of highly enriched radioactive materials for nuclear weapons. Cite one such protest, anyone? Such hypocrites. It is all well and good to pour billions to devise devices to wipe out millions in a blink of an eye. it is kosher to sustain the effort, modernize it now then and again to make them more reliable and lethal, the ultimate Damocles' swords hanging on the lesser monkey's heads. It is not kosher, however, to channel all that effort to peaceful ends, to put nuclear energy to good and widespread uses. War uses is the only good for humans, to the alphas, at least!
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
And despite your assertions to the contrary, there is no cost effective way of storing wind and solar power.
Except for that electric car battery in your garage and hydrostorage.
The anti-nukers never utter a fart about the dangers and the wastes from production facilities of highly enriched radioactive materials for nuclear weapons. Cite one such protest, anyone?

http://www.tri-ci...sts.html

Google showed about 431,000 results which took 0.43 seconds
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2012
The cost of generating power depends on capacity utilization. One can run a nuclear power plant virtually all the time. Here in Europe a terrestrial wind turbine only generates electricity 25% of the time.

Yes. So? Cost isn't the issue why nuclear and fossil fuels are on their way out. They could be producing gold bars while being burned - as long as they are dangerous/polluting they are not an option for long term (or even mid term) usage.

Dollars earned only make sense when you don't have to spend 50 times more dollars to clean up the mess. and Dollars earned make absolutely no sense when there is no way to clean up the mess at all.
Looking at the state of the world economical considerations are more and more entirely besides the point.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012

http://www.tri-ci...sts.html

Google showed about 431,000 results which took 0.43 seconds


Your quote, unless you misdirected me to another issue, ..sorry it sucks. It has nothing to do with my question of "protests (or total lack of) to the state-run production of highly enriched and dangerous nuclear material for weapons" Try again, please.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
Looking at the state of the world economical considerations are more and more entirely besides the point.


Economical considerations are the ONLY point in the private sector... if you think any large corporation gives a damn about anything but their profits you're deluding yourself. If "green" energy is more profitable then private industry will migrate to green energy. This will eventually occur as fossil fuels become scarce or when governments ban their use or the use of nuclear reactors, or when governments subsidize green energy to the point that it becomes more profitable than alternatives.

What I am describing is the world as it actually exists, not as you wish it to be.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
if you think any large corporation gives a damn about anything but their profits you're deluding yourself

Oh, I agree. but that doesn't mean that its people who use products and want to live lives that are free of dangers.

Last time the private sector/power elite tried to disregard safety and environment they got presented the bill in various revolutions. having money is all good and dandy - but having a world to spend it in is more important.

If "green" energy is more profitable then private industry will migrate to green energy.

Which is already happening. Nations are taxing polluting enterprises (since those who pollute should pay for the cleanup). Green energy is already - taking everything into account- cheaper by FAR than all other means of producing energy (this includes nuclear and all fossil fuels)

And it's the people who decide who gets to play government (at least in some western countries)
Osiris1
1 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2012
Japan has basically sentenced itself to death as an independent nation. This determination to fail economically on a bibical scale will invite Chinese intervention to save them from literally freezing to death in the dark in the winter time. It gets really cold in Hokkaido!, and even a bit nippy in Sasebo! Like many said, no practical way to store the power of sometime producers. Photovoltaic is the most reliable green tech...can even produce s-o-m-e on a cloudy or whatever day, but it too requires storage. Best we have now is batteries. All the lead in the world is not gonna save them, and lead is a noxious poison everywhere it exists. Now the Chinese are going to build nuke power everywhere and do not give a tinkers dam for so called 'world opinion'. They have a ready answer for the protesters: shot, tank flattened, machinegunned, flayed for collagen, etc. No plausible military action will ever stop them from nuclear energy. They are gonna win..the world! China grows larger
cdt
5 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2012
Osiris1, your opinions seem so divorced from reality that it's hard to know where to start in addressing them. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have never actually been in Japan. That's where I've been living for the past 20 years, give or take, and I can assure you that almost nobody is even close to going without basic necessities, or even basic luxuries -- like heat and air conditioning. Aside from nuclear contamination, Japan has been very good at reducing polution and making the environment healthy -- and not just for the wealthy. Now they've woken up to the dangers of using nuclear power on a small island and have decided the costs far outweigh the benefits. That doesn't mean they're willing to go back to the dark ages. Far from it. You can count on Japan to come through this with all the power they need by the time the nuclear plants are all shut down.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.