Amid energy security concerns heightened by the war in Ukraine, the government has steadily moved toward a stronger embrace of nuclear power, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stating his intention to get more idled reactors back online. But late last month he seemed to go further, indicating that he wants to look at constructing new types of reactors.

The comments, made at an Aug. 24 meeting of experts debating a new green transformation policy, have been taken as a fundamental policy shift that could see Japan pursue smaller nuclear reactors. Supporters tout these as safer and more economically efficient. But massive political, economic and environmental challenges could greatly drive up costs.

Kishida’s policy on green transformation — referred to as "GX" in Japan — aims to give the nation the ability to meet both short-term electricity supply problems in the future and the country’s decarbonization goals. The government aims to have renewable energy provide 36% to 38% of its power by 2030, with nuclear accounting for 20% to 22%, and it has a goal of achieving full carbon neutrality by 2050.