The March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was flooded by the giant tsunami eight years ago, have not only changed the lives of tens of thousands of people in its vicinity, but also the energy landscape in Japan and the rest of the world. The massive extra costs of safety investments following the disaster made nuclear power more expensive and less competitive as a source of energy — in contrast to the growing use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, which has made them more cost-competitive. It should be examined again whether the government's energy policy since 2011 adequately reflects the post-Fukushima reality and is a feasible path for the future.
The changes have doomed Japanese companies' overseas nuclear power business. The collapse of Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. nuclear power unit of Toshiba Corp. — due to cost overruns and delays in its construction of nuclear power plants in the United States — and subsequent losses threw Toshiba itself into a financial crisis. In the face of declining domestic demand, the government promoted the export of nuclear power plants by Japanese makers. However, Hitachi Ltd. has effectively given up its plan to build two reactors in Britain, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is similarly expected to withdraw from its project in Turkey as costs balloon from the initial estimates.
At home, the Fukushima crisis led to the shutdown of all nuclear power reactors at one point. The Abe administration has since reversed the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government's policy of phasing out nuclear power and positioned nuclear power as a key baseload source of electricity supply that would account for 20 to 22 percent of power generation in 2030. It promotes restarting the idled reactors once they clear the new safety standards of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.