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September 14th, 2012

Japan to end nuclear power by 2040; France plans to cut back

Published on September 14th, 2012 | By: pwray@ceramics.org
Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 September 2011

This is a bit of a surprise, and I have no idea how this will fully reverberate through the scientific and technical communities, but Japan and France apparently have made major decisions to back away from a reliance on nuclear power, and in the case of the former, move to embrace renewables on a much larger scale.

Nuclear power, obviously, has been a touchy subject in Japan ever since the Fukushima Daiichi mess. Reuters now reports that Japan, which once produced 10 percent of the world’s total nuclear power, will shut down all of its plants by 2040. If I understand the proposal correctly, no new reactors will be built and all existing reactors will be shut down as they reach the end of their 40-year life span. This apparently means the shutdowns will start in earnest around 2030. The country has about 50 reactors.

Japan can’t unilaterally lose that much energy-generation capacity, so it is also announcing that it is setting a target of making renewables 30 percent of its power portfolio.

On a lesser scale, but perhaps more profoundly because of its unflinching dedication to nuclear power, France is making news with its decision to initiate a big reduction in nuclear power in that nation’s portfolio. Reuters says President Fransois Hollande is pledging to shrink nuclear power from 75 percent of the mix to 50 percent.

To complicate matters, Hollande is also calling for the European Union to slash CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2040.

Previously, Italy, Switzerland and Germany also pledged to end their reliance on nuclear power by various dates. Germany has set the cutoff for 2022; Italy is aiming at 2034.

Returning to Japan’s policy, the BBC is predicting the decision may trigger a fight within industrial sectors:

The plan faces strong opposition from businesses. Before the nuclear disaster, Japan had wanted to raise its nuclear energy use to 50% by 2030.

“There is no way we can accept this—I cannot think this is technologically possible,” Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

Japan’s policy announcement also pledges to cut CO2 emissions by 10 percent from 2010 levels.

Neither country has outlined how the CO2 cuts will be achieved. In the short run, the AFP News Service says the country’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan mentions the use of smart metering, developing resources in nearby waters—presumably gas and oil, plus expanded use of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels.

ADDING: Science reports that one of the victims of the new policy is the Monju experimental fast breeder reactor.


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