Japan has just made a decision unthinkable until very recently: to build new nuclear power plants

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March 11, 2011 will not be easily forgotten in Japan. An earthquake of magnitude 9 caused a tsunami of 14 meters in the northeastern coast of the country. At that time, a series of incidents began at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant that ended with three core meltdowns, three hydrogen explosions and the release of radioactive contamination in several of the plant’s units. Many countries stopped their atomic plans dead in their tracks after that; Japan the first. But that is about to change.

One before and one after. In 2011, just as the incident occurred, Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors supplied 30% of the country’s electrical power. Today, nuclear represents 9% of the mix. It is not weird. In 2018, after the new safety regulations, only five plants (that is, nine reactors) met the requirements to continue operating. Nearly 19 reactors were already defunct and on their way to being decommissioned.

However, in recent years (as the shadow of Fukushima receded) the Japanese government has shown interest in betting on this technology again. A process that has now culminated when, encouraged by the energy crisis created by the war in Ukraine, the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has announced a national plan to build at least seven new generation reactors.

Stepping on the nuclear accelerator. These seven new ones would be added to the 10 reactors that the Japanese government decided to restart before the end of the year. With this logistical and financial deployment (including extending the life of existing reactors), Japan expects nuclear power to account for 20 to 22 percent of its electricity supply by 2030.

Denial is not a plan. “It is the first step towards normalizing Japan’s energy policy,” explained in Reuters Jun Arima, a professor at the University of Tokyo, and he is partly right. Although, for decades, Japan was a benchmark in nuclear energy in the world, Fukushima was a strange break: it was not a change of model, it was a negation of the previous one (without betting on anything that would replace it).

We are talking about the third largest economy in the world and it is in a very delicate geostrategic position. This means that it cannot hook its network to its neighbors and, as far as we know, it cannot significantly increase its hydrocarbon production: without (and possibly even with) an ambitious alternative plan, the only way to stabilize the network is resort to nuclear

Germany has to make a key decision for its energy future (and that of Europe): last chance to stop the nuclear blackout

No changes in Spain. The energy crisis has caught many countries off guard and giants as traditionally anti-nuclear as Germany have stated their intention to rethink their roadmaps energetic. Meanwhile, in Spain the Government has repeated on several occasions that it is not among his plans to rethink the Spanish energy transition.

Image | Frederic Paulussen

March 11, 2011 will not be easily forgotten in Japan. An earthquake of magnitude 9 caused a tsunami of 14…

March 11, 2011 will not be easily forgotten in Japan. An earthquake of magnitude 9 caused a tsunami of 14…

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