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Japan has a history with nuclear energy, famed for generating most of its power from nuclear reactors that enabled it to keep its carbon emissions low and minimise pollution and damage to the environment. Just a few years ago plans were being set to increase the nation’s dependence on nuclear power from 30% to 50% by 2030.
Then, in 2011, Japan’s nuclear world was turned on its head as an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, sending three reactors into meltdown which cast tonnes of radioactive material into the atmosphere and surrounding area.
All but two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors were shut down, and in a complete turnaround the government pledged to phase out all working reactors by 2040. The announcement opened the door for a mass transition to renewable energy, and the public, whose faith in nuclear had been shattered, were happy.
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A new turn of events has changed everything once again. Last month the Shinzo Abe won the general elections with his conservative Liberal Democratic party, killing off any hope of a nuclear phase out.
The new government decided that it was going to review the phase out plans, and stated that reactors would be restarted if they passed safety tests; even going as far as to hint that new reactors may be built in the future.
Critics of the phase out had always questioned the negative impact on Japan’s economy caused by importing expensive oil and gas which were being used to replace the capacity lost with the nuclear sector. New trade minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, has shown support for the economy as he announced that plans to revive the economy would not be hindered by a commitment to go non-nuclear.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com