The Japanese government has recently approved the 6th Strategic Energy Plan. Renewable energy will be "highest priority and maximum introduction", and the power source ratio of renewable energy in 2030 will be raised from the previous plan of 22 ~ 24% to 36 ~ 38%. On the other hand, the ratio of nuclear power generation that attracted attention was 20 ~ 22%, and the target value so far was left unchanged. (Photo quoted from Yahoo’s image)


Looking back on the political situation in recent months, there were many political events such as the announcement of the resignation of former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the implementation of the presidential election by the Liberal Democratic Party, the birth of the new Fumio Kishida administration, and the dissolution of the House of Representatives. A general election is approaching soon.


In addition to domestic political circumstances, the "26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" (COP26), an international conference to discuss measures against global warming, will start in Glasgow, England from the end of October.


On October 22, the Japanese government submitted to the COP secretariat "a target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 by 46% compared to FY2013." Immediately before COP26, the Cabinet decision on the strategic energy plan had to be hurried.


Misjudgment of energy policy has led to such unforeseen circumstances, such as Europe, which has caused soaring natural gas prices due to the rush to introduce renewable energy, and the recent power crisis in China due to coal shortages.


Regarding Japan's strategic energy plan, which emphasizes how to secure the immediate power supply in light of the need for decarbonization,  an energy analyst in Japan has also pointed out as follows."The power source ratio is a reasonable number and is well-balanced as a whole." 


However, it is also true that the discussion on nuclear energy policy was insufficient. As mentioned earlier on this site, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party mentioned the need for new expansion and rebuilding (replacement) this spring, not to mention the restart of nuclear power plants.


In April of this year, when Prime Minister Suga (at that time) declared a goal to reduce warming gas emissions in 2030 by 46% compared to 2013, the LDP Parliamentary League for the Promotion of Stable Power Supply was revised by the national nuclear energy policy. They submitted a proposal to the government to include future new expansion and rebuilding of nuclear power plants in the basic plan.


Former Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda of the Liberal Democratic Party, who is the chairman of the League, said that there was a problem with the stable supply of electricity in renewable energy, and he emphasized "To achieve the 46% target, we must utilize nuclear power plants."


 After the accident at the Fukushima No1 Nuclear Power Station in March 2011, 24 of the 60 nuclear power plants in Japan were decommissioned. In order to achieve the ratio of nuclear power plants included in this strategic energy plan, it is necessary to restart 27 nuclear power plants, and a high operating rate of 80% is indispensable. Currently, only 10 nuclear power plants are restarting in Japan. Under these circumstances, can the ratio of nuclear power plants be increased from the current 6% to 20-22%?


Regarding the Cabinet decision on the strategic energy plan, one energy analyst said, "It is not enough to discuss what percentage of nuclear power plants should be used in terms of power source ratio. There are a lot of issues to be solved. They should present energy policy not only from the immediate policy but also from a long-term perspective. "




Looking at the international community, the US administration of Biden has shown a positive attitude toward nuclear energy policy. Recently, British Prime Minister Johnson and French President Macron have announced their intention to promote their own nuclear energy policy. China and Russia are also active in nuclear energy policy. Will Japan keep pace with these movements? If not, what kind of future image do they envision?


As far as media reports are concerned, it seems that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's clear remarks about nuclear energy policy have not reached voters, perhaps because of the impact on the general election. The opposition party is also the same.


Instead of the slogans of promoting nuclear power or zero nuclear power, voters are demanding the presentation of concrete nuclear policies, such as the direction of the nuclear fuel cycle for reusing spent fuel and the selection of final disposal sites for radioactive waste.



Naoya Abe

 Tokyo bureau chief at Capitol Intelligence Group (Washington D.C.)

 Former Correspondent at Bloomberg News