TOKYO: A nuclear renaissance might be happening in the most unlikely of places.
Just over a decade on from Fukushima, the northern Japanese region that became globally synonymous with the dangers of nuclear power, Tokyo seems ready to embrace atomic energy once more.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to push not just for the restart of operations including Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the largest nuclear power facility in the world — he’s also looking to reverse a decade of policy and mull the building of new nuclear plants. The country will also consider extending the lifespan of existing reactors beyond the current 60 years.
This has been coming: After scares earlier this year, Japan is facing another winter where electricity demand is expected to be right up against supply. The reality is dawning that it can’t oppose Russian energy, climate change and nuclear power all at once.
But the about-face is striking nonetheless. Just last year, the energy ministry’s basic plan called for “reducing dependency on nuclear as much as possible.”
While Kishida has previously embraced restarting existing units, building new ones presents entirely different challenges. For a prime minister whose popularity is already plummeting, Kishida won’t find it easy to convince the public to stop worrying and love nuclear power again.
TSUNAMI AND MELTDOWN AT FUKUSHIMA CHANGED EVERYTHING
Japan was previously a staunch, if initially unlikely, proponent of nuclear power, viewing it as the solution to reducing its dependency on foreign energy.
In the space of just 20 years, nuclear became the country’s primary source of electricity generation, helping to fuel the post-oil-crisis stage of its economic miracle. By the turn of the millennium, it provided more than a third of the nation’s power.