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EDITORIAL | Revise Japan's Energy Plan to Harness Nuclear Power

The new energy plan must balance decarbonization, an anticipated rise in demand due to technological advances, and the need for a cheap, stable energy supply.



Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Takeshi Saito addresses an expert meeting held in Tokyo on May 15 to discuss the Seventh Strategic Energy Plan. (©Sankei by Atsushi Oda)

Discussions have begun on Japan's next "Strategic Energy Plan." This will set the basic guidelines for the nation's energy policies. Officials will revise the current plan within this fiscal year , considering the optimum power source mix for FY2040. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine completely changed the energy picture, making energy security all the more important. For the next-term plan, Japan needs a strategy that balances decarbonization with an inexpensive and stable energy supply.

To achieve that ambitious objective, there must be an increase in the utilization of nuclear power plants. 

Experts meet to discuss the 7th Basic Energy Plan on May 15 in Tokyo. (©Sankei by Atsushi Oda)

Japan's Energy Initiatives

The Kishida administration changed course in its "GX (Green Transformation) Basic Policy" compiled in December 2022 to maximize the use of nuclear power. Furthermore, nuclear power plants would be capable of supplying the huge increase in demand for electricity that is expected in the future. This increased need is anticipated by the diffusion of artificial intelligence and other factors. 

The current basic plan calls for nuclear power to account for 20-22% of the power source mix in FY2030. However, the actual figure for FY2022 was a mere 5.6%. 

To expand the use of nuclear power, Japan needs to steadily restart nuclear power plants that have passed the new regulatory standards. Likewise, existing installations must be revamped and new nuclear power plants constructed. We hope the government will clearly spell this out in its next-term plan and then take the initiative to make it happen. 

To promote decarbonization, another issue also needs to be thrashed out. That is expanding the introduction of renewable energy. However, if we increase the use of renewables, which are subject to changes in weather, the nation's power supply will inevitably remain unstable. Furthermore, friction with local residents is increasing regarding the siting of renewable energy facilities.  

In addition, there must be a discussion about solving other transmission and distribution network problems. For example, tackling the issues related to the installation of storage batteries

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Saito and others hold a press conference after the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers' meeting on April 30 in Turin, Italy. (via YouTube)

Developing Non-Emitting Power Plants With Coal

Weighing the pros and cons of coal-fired power generation is also necessary, considering the large volume of CO2 emissions that result. The G7 ministers for climate, energy, and the environment have agreed on a phase-out plan. It would phase out coal-fired power plants that have not taken measures to reduce CO2 emissions by 2035. Yet, as of FY2022, Japan continued to depend on coal-fired power for more than 30% of its electricity. 

Also, Japan is developing technology to burn a mixture of coal and ammonia which will not emit CO2. If the technology works as expected, it should contribute to decarbonization in Asia, a region with a high proportion of coal-fired power. 

The government is slated to formulate a new energy strategy by the end of 2024. Importantly, this will set the direction for decarbonization and industrial policy through 2040. In line with this next-term energy plan, we also need to support corporate investment and strengthen the competitiveness of Japan's domestic industry. 

Junichiro Koizumi global warming
Osaki CoolGen Plant Tests Japan's Clean Coal Technology. Hiroshima, Japan (Provided by J-POWER)


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun