This week, the Japanese government will issue a new energy plan incorporating the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) recommendation that the government “utilize all available policy resources to make it possible to bring nuclear power operations to zero in the 2030s.” While not nearly as ambitious as Germany’s plan, the idea is a bold one for a small island nation with few resources of its own. The plan, if actually enacted, would still leave room for extending the timeline or otherwise making changes to keep the country powered with nuclear energy if necessary.
Before the tsunami of last year, Japan generated around 1/4 of its energy from nuclear power. What is interesting, however, is that for most of the year I have been living in Japan, the country has been functioning without nuclear power and I haven’t noticed any specific drop in quality of life or impacts on daily living. It makes you wonder whether nuclear power was really necessary in the first place, though one of the true reasons for turning to nuclear power was to diversify the energy supply and have some domestic control over energy production. While the nuclear fuel still needs to be imported from abroad, it was thought that the Japanese government would have more control over the industry. It also allowed the government to reduce imports of dirtier burning fuels such as coal.
While popular and political sentiment is more favorable for renewable energy, the business community is skeptical about how quickly and economically a transition to renewables can be made. This is still a situation much in flux and we’ll update should any big developments occur.