The Japanese government has unveiled their plan to phase out nuclear power in the country, hopefully completely, by the 2030s.
The announcement comes after a devastating earthquake unleashed the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, reports ABC News. The proposed policy will call for more reliance on renewable energy, more conservation, and sustainable use of fossil fuels.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, stated that the nuclear-free decision has put the country “at the starting line.” Noda went on to say that, “This is a difficult issue, but we can no longer afford to postpone our decision.”
The Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdowns, which forced power companies to shut down all 50 of the country’s nuclear reactors, has also caused the country to review their long-standing energy policy. Until that time, Japan was relying on nuclear energy for one-third of its energy consumption.
The restart of two reactors was approved in July, in order to avoid power outages throughout the summer, but the restart of those reactors caused mass rallies to be held by anti-nuclear activists, who demanded that the country end their current policy.
Reuters notes that the policy statement read:
“This is a strategy to create a new future. It is not pie in the sky. It is a practical strategy.”
With their shift away from nuclear energy, Japan will continue to be the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas, as well as the third-largest purchaser of oil, which will be used to feed the country’s power stations. Coal is also a large import, and the country will likely increase their reliance on the fossil fuel.
The government noted in their report that they will most likely need to spend about 3.1 trillion yen (or $40.03 billion) more on fuel imports a year, if they were to completely ban nuclear power immediately.
Along with business lobbies arguing against the ban of nuclear energy, the shift will also threaten the financial viability of the country’s nuclear operators, who will be forced to pay high decommissioning costs. Hiromasa Yonekura, the chairman of the biggest business lobby, stated that, “To consider such an energy policy runs counter to a growth strategy.”
But anti-nuclear advocates believe that warnings of economic damage have been greatly exaggerated, as the policy shift will allow corporate profits in areas like renewable energy. Surveys have shown that a majority of voters in Japan are for exiting nuclear power at some point.