National

Government mulls 15%-20% target for nuclear power output by 2030

Kyodo

Japan is mulling setting the proportion of electricity to be generated by nuclear power at around 15 to 20 percent in 2030, lower than the 28.6 percent in fiscal 2010 before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, government officials said Thursday.

The government will also consider providing ranges to the proportions of nuclear power and renewable energy to avoid setting clear percentages amid strong antinuclear sentiment, the officials said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has pledged to reduce the country’s dependence on nuclear power and introduce clean energy as much as possible, while placing nuclear power as an “important base-load power source” despite the nuclear accident.

The industry ministry will convene a panel of experts on Jan. 30 to begin full-fledged debate on the so-called energy mix to reach a conclusion before a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations slated for June in Germany, where Japan hopes to show its stance to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Japan, one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, has not set a post-2020 emission target due to uncertainty over how many of its 48 commercial reactors — all of which were gradually taken offline after the Fukushima meltdowns —will go back online.

A dominant view within the government is that the combined proportion of electricity generated by nuclear power and renewable energy be set at around 45 percent in light of a need to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

The government has also yet to make its stance clear about whether to allow construction of new nuclear power plants down the road.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa has said the government “does not envision” replacing reactors that are too old to be restarted with new ones.

But if the percentage was to be set at 20 percent for electricity to be generated by nuclear power, such replacement would be necessary.

Under new nuclear safety regulations adopted following the Fukushima meltdowns, nuclear reactors are not allowed to operate more than 40 years in principle to ensure safety, which means installed capacity of nuclear plants would be less than 20 percent the current level in 2036.