Editor’s note: In light of the tragic earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear disaster in Japan, the island nation is making smart choices by deciding to stay away from new nuclear power.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday that Japan would abandon plans to build new nuclear reactors, saying his country needed to “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy….
Mr. Kan said Japan would retain nuclear and fossil fuels as energy sources, but vowed to add two new pillars to Japan’s energy policy: renewable energy and conservation.
Even before Fukushima, nuclear power had priced itself out of the market in most industrialized countries (see “Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve?“) Back in October, Exelon CEO John Rowe explained that low gas prices and no carbon price pushed back nuclear renaissance a “decade, maybe two.”
After Fukushima, the myth that we could somehow cuts costs by accelerating the permitting and construction process and skimping on safety had its own melt down (see “The Nukes of Hazard”). And that myth was always going to take its hottest hit in Japan itself.
Last month, Kan made clear the future was going to be non-nuclear clean energy:
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said alternative new energy would become “a major pillar” after the Fukushima accident. “Taking this as a lesson, we will lead the world in clean energy such as solar and biomass, as we take a step toward resurrection,” he told lawmakers last week.
Now Kan is starting to take a more aggressive stance on this inevitable future, as the NYT reports today:
Tuesday’s decision will abandon a plan that the Kan government released last year to build 14 more nuclear reactors by 2030 and increase the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply to 50 percent. Japan currently has 54 reactors that before the earthquake produced 30 percent of its electricity….
The cancellation of the planned nuclear plants is the second time that Mr. Kan has suddenly announced big changes in Japanese nuclear policy without the usual endless committee meetings and media leaks that characterize the country’s consensus-driven decision making. Mr. Kan appears to be seeking a stronger leadership role after criticism of his government’s sometimes slow and indecisive handling of the Fukushima accident….
While Japan has been a global leader in energy conservation, it lags behind the United States and Europe in adopting solar and wind power, and other new energy sources….
Mr. Kan also appeared to pull back from his earlier vows to remain committed to nuclear power. His apparent about-face may be driven partly by public opinion, which has soured on nuclear power since the Fukushima accident.
The good news is that energy efficiency and renewable energy are ready now to take up any slack (see “Why clean energy can scale today.” See also “IPCC special report finds renewables could meet over three quarters (75%) of global energy needs in 2050” and Climate Connect’s post “Enormous wind, solar energy resource potential available in Japan: Govt report.”)
This post was originally published by Climate Progress.