Two of the four contenders in the race to become Japan’s next prime minister called Sunday for introducing small modular reactors and nuclear fusion reactors as part of efforts to achieve the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and former communications minister Sanae Takaichi also said Japan should in the meantime restart its currently idled nuclear reactors in order to maintain a stable and feasible power supply source.
Small modular reactors are said to be cheaper to produce and safer to run than conventional reactors, while nuclear fusion reactors do not emit high-level radioactive waste.
“I will eventually seek technologies such as SMRs or nuclear fusion,” Kishida said in an NHK program joined by the three other candidates in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Sept. 29 presidential election.
Takaichi said she would seek to introduce domestically built SMRs underground and nuclear fusion reactors as a safer and more efficient source of energy.
Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been offline since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The LDP vote will effectively decide the successor of outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as the LDP currently controls the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber of the Diet.
Vaccination minister Taro Kono pushed for a significant increase in the use of renewable energy, saying the government needs to invest in port building for offshore wind power generation and development of storage cells.
Seiko Noda, the party’s executive acting secretary-general, said the government needs to present its view on the best energy mix to the public and vowed to utilize geothermal power generation, which uses heat from deep within the Earth to create steam and generate power.
Japan is set to revise its basic energy plan and increase the percentage of renewables in electricity generation to 36% to 38% in fiscal 2030, more than double the fiscal 2019 level, while retaining the current target for nuclear power at 20% to 22%.
The plan, however, could change depending on the new prime minister’s energy policy.
In a separate TV program also involving the four candidates, Kono expressed a cautious stance about acquiring strike capabilities against foreign bases while Kishida and Takaichi expressed an eagerness to do so.
Talking about deterrence against an increasingly assertive China, Kono told Fuji TV, “When we think about how we should convey the message of Japan’s capability to China, we should not just cry out brave slogans.”
He added that strike capabilities could be a destabilizing factor and suggested that deterrence could be achieved by making China and North Korea more aware of the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
In contrast, Kishida said Japan should think about preparing such capabilities, while Takaichi called for introducing precision-guided missiles to “disable enemy bases as quickly as possible.”
Noda said Japan must step up its information-gathering capabilities in coordination with the United States, South Korea and other countries.
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