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Economy & Tech

EDITORIAL | COP28 Opens Doors for Japan to Lead in Nuclear Power Sector

The COP28 declaration to triple renewable energy sources is an opportunity for Japan to share its advanced technology for nuclear power development overseas.

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Leaders and ministers declare the triple expansion of nuclear power generation in conjunction with the COP28 summit meeting in Dubai on December 2. (©AP/Kyodo)

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, more than 20 countries at the COP28 climate change conference agreed to a "Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy by 2050."It is part of their strategy for preventing global warming. 

Twenty-two nations signed the declaration proposed by the United States. Among them are Japan, the conference chair UAE, the United Kingdom, France, and Canada. We hope to see growing support for this realistic approach. It encourages both decarbonization to prevent global warming and energy security

The United Nations has noted the rise in temperatures experienced in the second half of the 20th century. It has attributed this to increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These, it says, are the result of the expansion of thermal power generation and industrial activity. 

Japan's green spaces outside of urban areas are covered with solar panels.

A Look at Clean Energy Options

At COP28, Japan and many other countries have expressed support for the goal of tripling renewable energy sources by 2030. That includes such sources as solar and wind power. The fact remains, however, that renewable energy has certain drawbacks. For example, it provides unstable power generation and requires large surface areas.

In comparison, nuclear power generation can provide a stable supply of large amounts of power on a limited site. 

The sticking point is the damage that could occur in a severe accident. By taking to heart lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi Power Station, the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan has greatly improved. Overseas, too, nuclear power plants capable of coping with an accidental core meltdown are being developed. 

The declaration on nuclear power also refers to high-temperature gas reactors, a sector where Japan leads. Such innovative nuclear reactors can provide electricity even while producing hydrogen

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Japan's PM Fumio Kishida delivers a statement during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, on December 1, 2023. (©REUTERS by Thaier Al Sudani)

Global Target for Nuclear Capacity

The declaration's goal of tripling the power generation capacity of nuclear power stations is not meant to be a uniform concept for all countries. Rather, it is an overall target for the world as a whole. 

This is an opportunity for Japan to become aggressively involved in nuclear power station development overseas. It has been more than a decade since a new nuclear power station was constructed in Japan. There is an urgent need to participate in overseas construction projects to maintain and pass on the advanced technology we have already developed. 

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant Unit No 7 in Niigata is preparing to go back online. On November 6 (©Sankei by Aya Yonezawa)

Improving Japan's Nuclear Power Production

Only 12 of the 33 existing nuclear reactors in Japan are currently in operation. Improving the efficiency of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority's safety review procedures is essential to restoring the status of nuclear power in Japan as a mainstay among decarbonized power sources. 

Also, looking ahead about 30 years, it is inevitable that existing nuclear power plants will have to be rebuilt or expanded. To do so, the completion of a reprocessing plant for spent fuel must be hastened. Furthermore, a site for an underground bedrock facility for nuclear waste must be identified.

These are areas where the national government must take the lead. Electric power is the lifeblood of a nation. We would like to see this declaration on nuclear power agreed to by some two dozen nations at COP28 become the springboard for setting Japan's nuclear power generation on a recovery track.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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