Japan's energy policy is at a crossroads. The government's basic energy plan revised in 2014 — after the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima No. 1 plant led to the shutdown of most of the nation's nuclear power reactors — continued the heavy reliance on nuclear power and the fossil fuel-based energy supply. But developments in the years since have cast further doubts on the policy's viability, in particular its pursuit of a nuclear fuel cycle program, while the large share of coal-fired thermal power plants in electricity production runs counter to the global trend toward a low-carbon society to fight climate change.
The policy seems incongruous with the reality surrounding nuclear power in this country, where restarts of idled reactors continue at a snail's pace amid safety concerns, and the government's bid for a nuclear fuel cycle remains elusive due to the failure or delays of costly projects. It is time for the policy to get a major overhaul that will significantly expand the role of renewable energy sources.
The basic plan adopted by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which overturned the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government's call for a phaseout of nuclear power by the 2030s following the disaster in Fukushima, left a lot of ambiguities in the direction of the nation's energy policy. While it called for reducing the dependency on nuclear power as much as possible and accelerating as much as possible the use of renewable sources such as solar and wind, it positioned nuclear energy as a low-cost and stable baseload power supply source.