Japan’s decision to phase out nuclear could be ‘climate disaster’

By Ed King

Today’s decision by Japan’s government to phase out Nuclear power by 2030 has been branded a potential ‘climate disaster’ by critics, who say it will leave the country relying heavily on coal, gas and oil.

Proposals released today reveal Nuclear reactors will be shut down by 2040, with emphasis placed on renewables and fossil fuels to fill the energy gap.

Until last year’s Fukushima disaster, Nuclear energy accounted for a third of the country’s electricity output, generated by 50 reactors across Japan. Tokyo had planned to expand that capacity by 50% by 2030.

According to the news agency AP, the Ministry of Environment projects that Japan will produce about 15% more greenhouse gas emissions this fiscal year than it did in 1990, the baseline year for measuring progress in reducing emissions.

Meanwhile Reuters report Japan aims to triple the share of renewable power to 30% of its energy mix, but will remain a top importer of fossil fuels for the next decade.

As a result of its heavy reliance on Nuclear, Japan has a compartmentalised grid structure, meaning electricity cannot be moved easily between regions. Major investment will be needed to ensure it can cope with the more fluid supply that renewable energy provides.

Japan has already said it will not be signing up to an extension to the Kyoto Protocol. A member of its negotiating team at the UNFCCC Bangkok talks told RTCC it needed the flexibility post Fukushima to develop a new energy strategy without constraints.



Environmental commentator Mark Lynas, who has courted controversy by advocating Nuclear power as a tool to cut global carbon emissions told RTCC: “It is a terrible irony that in the same week arctic ice caps shrinks to its lowest ever extent that countries are phasing out the only source of low carbon power that can be deployed at sufficient scale to tackle our climate crisis.

“Japan has already increased CO2 emissions by more than 65 million tonnes since the accident at Fukushima and there is no prospect whatsoever of Japan meeting its climate change targets and also phasing out nuclear.

“Eliminating nuclear in Japan means renewed dependence on fossil fuels indefinitely and is therefore a disaster for the climate.”

The move has won the support of Greenpeace Japan, who argue this need not be a disaster for the climate.

In a statement it said: “Greenpeace demonstrated in its Energy [R]evolution scenario that Japan can support an economic recovery while meeting its 2020 obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without restarting any of its nuclear plants taken offline after the Fukushima disaster.

“The government’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) is already demonstrating strong results. On July 1, after just one month of operation, 560MW or 20% of the government’s total aim for nine-months was achieved, showing that right legislation is already kick-starting a renewable energy boom.”

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