Japan is considering building new nuclear reactors Business news

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday instructed his government to consider developing safer, smaller nuclear reactors, signaling a renewed focus on nuclear power years after many of the country’s plants were shut down.

Kishida made the comments at a “green transformation” conference dedicated to strengthening the country’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Japan has promised to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Anti-nuclear sentiment and safety concerns have risen sharply in Japan since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, but the government is pushing for a return to nuclear power amid concerns about power shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a global push to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The government, however, has previously insisted it is not considering building new plants or replacing aging reactors, apparently to avoid drawing criticism from a wary public. Kishida’s comment on Wednesday represents a dramatic reversal of that position.

Kishida said the group presented proposals for the design and construction of “new, innovative reactors designed with new safety mechanisms.” He urged his government to speed up consideration of “all possible measures” and make a decision by the end of the year.

“In order to overcome our inevitable power shortage crisis, we must do our best to mobilize all possible policies in the coming years and prepare for any emergency,” Kishida said.

“It is very important to provide all options for the reconstruction of a stable energy supply in our country,” Minister of Economy and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. – From this point of view, we will also consider all options regarding nuclear energy.”

Most of Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down after the Fukushima accident for safety checks to meet stricter standards.

In March 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami destroyed key cooling functions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing three of its reactors to melt down and contaminating the region with massive radiation fallout that still renders some areas uninhabitable.

Since then, Japanese utilities have decommissioned more than 20 reactors, largely because of the high cost of safety measures. Of the 33 operational reactors, 25 have been inspected for safety by the Nuclear Safety Administration. Seventeen have been approved so far, but only 10 have been restored after obtaining the consent of local communities, including three currently shut down for regular safety inspections.

The government has already announced plans to speed up restarts and restart up to nine reactors by winter to deal with the energy crisis. It aims to restart seven other reactors by next summer and further extend the life of the aging reactors by more than 60 years from the original 40 years.

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