Japans nuclear free future | The Jackal

12 Nov 2012

Japans nuclear free future

It's been somewhat annoying to read through the plethora of propaganda articles that have been published about the Japanese governments policy on nuclear power. Many of these articles are obviously produced by the nuclear power industry and bear no resemblance to reality. In fact some of the articles are so manipulative that they've spurred The Jackal into looking a little deeper into Japans nuclear free future.

It should be noted that most of the articles claiming that Japan will not reach its objectives of being nuclear free are on blogs, and not from reputable outlets. Although I don't want to foster any doubt about the reputation of blogger's (being one myself), there is something to be said about outlets that can be held to account for what they publish.

Here's one particular disingenuous article from the Guardian no less:

Japan drops plans to phase out nuclear power by 2040
Japan has effectively abandoned a commitment to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 amid pressure from the country's business lobby, dropping a deadline recommended by a cabinet panel only days ago.


There does not seem to have been much press coverage about the Japanese Government abandoning its commitment to end reliance on nuclear power by 2040. Japanese business and industry leaders fear the phase-out would force companies to shift production overseas due to the high price of imported oil and gas.

I guess the Guardian's use of the word "effectively" means they don't really know and the headline is merely to get hits. What the Japanese trade and industry minister, Yukio Edano, actually said is that they might not be able to reach their targets, not that they were abandoning them altogether. Despite these baseless claims, Japan is still committed to become entirely nuclear free, as much as the nuclear industry doesn't wants them to.

Here's Japans actual policy concerning the matter:

Democratic Party (ruling) decision 7/9/2012

• Aim for zero nuclear society
• Mobilise maximum policy resources for zero-nuclear operation in 2030’s
• Strictly apply “40 year life time” policy
• Restart nuclear plants (now 2 out of ten in operation) after check by newly established Nuclear Regulatory Committee
• No new construction of nuclear plants
• Renewable energy share to be more than 20% in early 2020’s, and about 40% in early 2030’s
• Fully revise nuclear fuel cycle.

So clearly Japan is moving towards a nuclear free future and claims that they're not are completely unfounded. Despite the disinformation about Japan abandoning its nuclear free future, according to their policy, restarting some nuclear power plants was always on the cards. Unfortunately that's not the only claim the propagandists are making though, with a veritable truckload of articles being written about how Japans GHG emissions will go through the roof if they don't return to using nuclear power.

At first, there was some truth to these claims, with the Japanese government confirming that to become nuclear free by 2030 would mean a potential short-term increase in GHG emissions of between 5 - 7%. This admission was seized upon by pro-nuclear proponents, who are scrambling to try and protect their dying industry. It's the end of the world without nuclear power they proclaimed, therefore Japan must restart its nuclear power plants.

Only by using nuclear power can climate change be averted they said, usually forgetting to mention the cleanest and most cost effective form of power generation, renewables. Renewables is a dirty word in the nuclear power industry, because they're in direct competition with it. So their propagandists screamed with all their might that Japan would need to use more fossil fuels if they didn't use nuclear.

Another claim has been that if they just reduced the amount of power being consumed, their economy would suffer. Apparently its complete doom and gloom without nuclear reactors. In fact the nuclear industry propagandists jumped up and down so hard about this that they created a warp in the space-time continuum... Fact and fiction merged into some kind of horrendous deformity and the blogosphere was irreparably damaged forever.

However Japans economy has continued to grow. Historically, from 1980 until 2011, Japans growth averaged around 0.5% per year. Nothing has really changed in this respect since they closed down the bulk of their nuclear reactors, and Japans economy grew 0.5% to June this year.

The claim that Japans GHG Emissions would dramatically increase have also been proven to be totally incorrect, with Japan actually reducing its GHG emissions by 2% in 2011 (PDF). They closed their nuclear power plants in March 2011, meaning that the majority in reduced GHG emissions occurred without nuclear power.

How can this be you might ask... Surely closing down their reactors means they have to burn more fossil fuels to meet energy demands ipso facto more GHG emissions?

One of the main reasons is that Japan has already invested $17 billion into renewable energy projects. They now predict it will take 15 years to totally replace the 50 GW of nuclear electricity generation (13% of Japan’s primary energy consumption) with renewable energy. Implementation of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power in Japan is outstripping previous projections, and Japans government is set to create an approximately $628 billion clean energy market by 2020 through deregulation and subsidies to promote development of renewable energy and low-emission cars.

It's true that global warming posses a threat, but so does old nuclear reactors. Both threats to humanity can be removed through the use of renewable energy. All it takes is a government willing to do so.