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Japan Considers Extending Its 60-Year Limit On Nuclear Power Plants

Amid an energy crunch that served a severe blow to Japan’s economy, the government in Tokyo is considering extending the lives of the country’s nuclear power plant fleet beyond the maximum current lifespan of 60 years.

According to local reports cited by Reuters, the plan is to remove the limits on nuclear power plants’ lifetimes as a whole, which would open the door to serial extensions of these lifetimes. The changes will need to be approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Japan has 33 nuclear reactors, of which four have received approval to operate for a period of 60 years. This represents an extension on their original 40-year lifespans, as stipulated in the current nuclear power regulation that was implemented after the Fukushima tragedy. Currently, the regulations only allow one 20-year extension after the original 40-year period.

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Nuclear power has been an essential part of Japan’s energy mic because of the country’s resource scarcity, which has made it highly dependent on imported fossil fuels. Yet the Fukushima disaster in 2011 turned public opinion strongly against nuclear and the tide is only now turning again, this time in favor of nuclear.

All in all, per information from the IEA, Japan relies on fossil fuels for 88 percent of its primary energy generation, which makes it one of the most fossil fuel-dependent members of the organization.

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Nevertheless, Japan, like other IEA members, has ambitious net-zero plans for 2050, including a target of 60 percent for non-fossil fuel power generation by 2030. Nuclear is likely to play the star part in this shift given Japan’s physical constraints that prevent it to emulate China, for example, with solar.

Indeed, per the government’s plans, nuclear is seen accounting for 20 to 25 percent of total electricity generation in Japan in 2030. That would be down from pre-Fukushima times when nuclear generated about a third of Japan’s electricity, but a lot more than what it generated in 2020, which was about 5 percent of the total.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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