Japan Scraps Plan for 14 New Nuclear Plants

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.


Related Stories:

Beyond Japan — What About Nuclear Power?

Saying No to the Nuclear Option

Obama Lacks Vision on Energy, Stomach to Defend EPA


Photo from naitokz via flickr
Written by Joe, a Climate Progress blogger


W. C
W. C2 months ago


William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you.

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago

let's see what actually unfolds

Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago

The article says in a link that Japan has enormous wind and solar potential.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago

What a relief!

Charles Wallace
Charles Wallace6 years ago

Smartest decision the Japanese have ever made.

pete M.
peter m6 years ago

I hope that the Chinese follow the Japanese and Cancel the nearly two dozen Nuclear plants already on order from G.E.
G.E. the producer of one of the largest amount of plants with a unsafe shutdown system running right under the core that melts down and screws of the entire safety system. 30% of all U.S.plants are ill-equipped with this defect and Congress gave the nuclear system a approval and also gave your insurance company the right to not cover you for any nuclear accident.
death plus financial disaster from American Corporations paying OFF OUR POLITICIANS.

pete M.
peter m6 years ago

Howard C, Didn't you ever hear of sacrifice!

Howard C.
Howard Crosse6 years ago

The Japanese are a very innovitive people and the news that they are turning their attentions toward developing alternative forms of energy production can only be really good news for all of us. The thing is that we all enjoy using energy (although we might not think of it this way; I 'enjoy' driving in my car, it wouldn't be much fun if I didn't use petrol to make it go along!) so either we find a way of producing alternatives forms of energy cheaply or we carry on as we are until fossil fuels run out and nuclear energy is the only alternative. Nuclear power hits the headlines when it goes wrong but look at open cast coal mines, they are not without their cost too; or maybe the BP oil spill, if we didn't use so much oil the demand wouldn't be there (neither would the profit). At the end of the day oil companies produce oil, and exploit the environment, for exactly the same reason as nuclear polwer plants are built - we want ever increasing amounts of energy.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Good! It sounds like they're learning from the tragedy, their own shortcomings and the evils of nuclear energy. Hopefully in time they'll embrace more innovative ideas in terms of energy and come to see all the awesome possibilities renewable resources have.