1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Japan plans reversal of post-Fukushima nuclear phase-out

December 22, 2022

The global energy crisis has caused Japan to turn away from a temporary nuclear phase-out and promote atomic energy. The government wants old reactors to be kept operating and new ones built to replace them over time.

Mihama nuclear plant in Japan
Japan's government wants to bring more reactors back online in a policy reversalImage: Kyodo News/imago images

The Japanese government on Thursday passed a directive promoting nuclear energy to maintain its power supply while reducing CO2 emissions.

The new policy is a major turnaround after the country closed its nuclear facilities in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

What does the new directive foresee?

Under the directive, prompted by the global fuel crisis, existing nuclear reactors in Japan would see their lifespan extended beyond the previous limit of 60 years and next-generation reactors would be built to replace the old ones in the long term.

After the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami, Japan shut down all its reactors and introduced new safety standards.

Smoke seen over the Fukushima plant in March 2011
The disaster in Fukushima also caused Germany to rethink its nuclear policyImage: DigitalGlobe/dpa/picture alliance

Authorities also put in place a limit of 40 years on the operating life of nuclear power plants, with an additional 20 years possible if strict safety measures were observed.

Since then, operators of 27 plants have applied for permission to restart. Seventeen reactors have fulfilled the safety requirements, with only 10 of these already reconnected to the grid in line with  Japan's earlier plan to phase out nuclear energy by 2030.

Kishida: 'Full use' of nuclear energy needed

Under the new policy, the country is to restart as many reactors as possible, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently saying: "We have to make full use of nuclear energy."

Nuclear energy accounts for less than 7% of Japan's energy supply, but the government now wants to raise its share to 20-22% by the 2030 fiscal year.

The new policy reflects the country's twin goals of reducing its dependence on oil and gas imports and avoiding power shortages while achieving the climate goal of reducing CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.

tj/wd (dpa, AP)