Japan is planning to shut down all nuclear power plants by the 2030s, according to Japanese media.
The reports, carried by the public broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo News agency, said government ministers were meeting to finalize a new policy on transforming Japan into a nuclear-free nation.
Kyodo News quoted a draft policy that indicated an official announcement on the gradual nuclear shutdown was imminent, and could come as early as this week.
The move would indicate a major shift for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government, which, before the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, had planned to boost its nuclear energy production levels to over 50% of national supply.
Abandoning atomic energy would mean increased reliance on fossil fuels to run power stations, and would see Japan become the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas and the third-largest oil importer.
Last week, the government said that immediately cutting off all nuclear energy would cost in excess of $40 billion a year in increased fuel imports.
Noda’s government has been discussing a number of policies for long-term energy management, including the complete phase-out of nuclear power. Other alternatives suggest the best way forward is to gradually decrease reliance on nuclear to around 15%-25% of electricity supply.
During a recent party leadership debate, Noda acknowledged that the majority of Japanese want a zero-nuclear future, and said that his Democratic Party of Japan was also in favor of the 2030s phase out target.
“There could be different views about how we can achieve that goal, and by factoring those into consideration our party last week proposed we should aim for a nuclear-free society,” Noda was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Before the phase out begins, however, Noda’s government looks likely to restart many of the nuclear reactors shut down in the wake of Fukushima, providing they are declared safe by a new atomic regulatory body.
Anti-nuclear sentiment is growing across the country. The move would anger many Japanese voters ahead of a possible election later this year, in which analysts predict the government will be dealt a landslide defeat.
In recent months, Japan has boosted investment in renewable energy initiatives; excluding hydro-electric dams, it currently accounts for around 1% of electricity supply.
Key Statistics - World Nuclear Power Industry
- The global nuclear energy industry is expected to reach a value of over $272 billion in 2015, which represents a rise of more than 25% since 2010. (source: MarketLine)
- In 2015, the volume of the global nuclear energy industry is expected to rise to 3 million GWh – or over 18% higher than in 2010. (source: MarketLine)
- Europe accounts for around 48% of the global nuclear energy industry value. (source: MarketLine)
- Before 2011, nuclear energy in Japan accounted for some 30% of the total electricity supply. (source: World Nuclear Power Association)