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Japan Considers Building New Nuclear Plants in Major Policy Shift

Japan has set a target for nuclear power generation to account for 20 to 22 percent of its electricity supply in fiscal 2030.

Japan is considering constructing next-generation nuclear power plants to support its goals of reducing carbon emissions and providing a stable supply of electricity, sources close to the matter said Wednesday, marking a major shift in the government’s no new nuclear energy policy.

The plan, which will also consider extending the maximum service period for the country’s existing nuclear reactors beyond 60 years, will be announced at a conference on industrial transformation and decarbonization later in the day.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has been studying the development of next-generation nuclear power plants, and previously released the envisioned development process of upgrading to reactors with enhanced safety features in the 2030s.

The government, which may adopt this plan, is also expected to consider effectively extending the operational life of nuclear power plants by not including the periods in which they were shut down while under review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

But such an extension could spur concerns about the safety of aging reactors that are more prone to accidents.

Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, Japan introduced stricter safety standards limiting the operation of nuclear reactors to 40 years in principle.

But operation for an additional 20 years is possible if safety upgrades are made and a reactor passes screening by regulators.

Japan has set a target for nuclear power generation to account for 20 to 22 percent of its electricity supply in fiscal 2030.

Of the 17 nuclear power plants that have already passed screening, 10 have been restarted. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last month the aim is to restart up to nine reactors to prepare for an expected electricity shortage this winter.

The remaining seven have remained out of operation due to delays in receiving approval from local authorities as they await safety measures to be implemented. The government will consider ways to bring these reactors back online as soon as possible next year.

In June last year, the No. 3 unit at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, became the country’s first reactor to operate beyond 40 years under the new rules.

From Kyodo News

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