Japan’s incoming Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said that his country will continue to use nuclear power for the next 40 years in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, taking a swerve away from outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s promise of a non-nuclear future in half that time after the worst international nuclear disaster in 25 years.
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]oda, who was elected yesterday as the head of Japan’s ruling party, said his country will “overcome energy shortages and guarantee the stable supply of power by utilizing nuclear plants after confirming their safety.”
“I will set up a nuclear safety agency to consolidate the regulatory framework and regain public trust in atomic power generation,” he said in his policy statement, which also included broad support for renewable energy as well as the phase out of nuclear power over 40 years – a nod to his predecessor and public opinion.
Less than a quarter of Japan’s 54 reactors are operating either because they were shut down by the March 11 9.0 magnitude earthquake or because of scheduled maintenance. The nuclear energy provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity before the crisis.
Japanese opinion polls show about 70 percent of the public wants to reduce reliance on nuclear power.
Even with Japan under its first mandatory power savings in the country since the 1970s as a result of the earthquake and nuclear crisis, metallurgist Hiromitsu Ino at the University of Tokyo said any operational life spans must be avoided.
“Nuclear reactors shouldn’t be in operation for more than 40 years,” he told the Bloomberg news agency. “
Decommissioning aged nuclear power reactors would cost some $13 trillion. Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO) the nation’s most nuclear-reliant utility, in 2008 had $3.9 billion in reserve for decommissioning, its website says.
Even KEPCO President Makoto Yagi said earlier this month that after 30 years of operation, reactors are “pretty old.”
One of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors had been granted another decade of used by Japanese regulators only two weeks before the March 11 tsunami hit – meaning it would supposedly have run until it was 50 years old.
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