Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Japan Says Nuclear Critical to Achieving Net Zero by 2050

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Nuclear power will be essential if Japan is to meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the country’s energy minister told the Financial Times, saying power shortages this winter have contributed to shift the public debate to the sector.

The heavy snowfall that brought Japan to the brink of power cuts last month underscored the continued need for nuclear power, said Hiroshi Kajiyama, head of energy as minister of economy, trade and Of the industry.

The comments reflect a dramatic shift in Japanese policy as it refocuses on reducing emissions after a decade of reliance on fossil fuels following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

METI discusses new energy strategy to hand over Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga net zero emission commitment by 2050. But getting there will mean big changes in a country where 88 percent of the energy supply comes from fossil fuels, almost all imported.

Renewable energy will be the top priority, Kajiyama said, but the limits of Japan’s geography will require the deployment of all available technologies, including imported hydrogen, nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage. .

“Personally, I think nuclear power will be essential,” said Kajiyama, who previously worked in the nuclear industry.

Japan’s electricity supply was “close at hand” during heavy snowfall last month, he said. “Solar was not producing. The wind was not generating. Electricity prices skyrocketed and parts of the country were close to blackouts. “I’m trying to persuade everyone that at the end of the day we need nuclear power,” he said.

Nine of Japan’s 60 nuclear reactors have been restarted since Fukushima disaster, when three reactors melted after a devastating tsunami destroyed their cooling systems, leading to the release of radioactive materials and the evacuation of neighboring towns. Public opinion polls show continued public hostility to the industry.

Electric utilities continued to press to restart, however, and the push for zero carbon has given them a new argument. METI’s analysis suggests that it will be difficult to supply more than 60% of Japan’s needs from renewable energy. Many experts even think it’s ambitious.

“Japan’s geographic constraints mean that it is not as easy to introduce renewables as in Europe or North America,” Kajiyama said, highlighting the lack of flat, empty land for panels. solar cells and deep oceans that increase the cost of offshore wind. METI models suggest that 30 to 40% of the energy supply will have to come from nuclear power plants or fossil fuel power plants with carbon capture and storage.

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Japan tightened its rules last year on funding coal-fired power plants abroad and Mr. Kajiyama suggested that something similar was likely at home. “The assumption is carbon capture,” he said. “We will finish [plants] currently planned but in line with the zero carbon commitment by 2050. “

Japan’s energy costs are already among the highest in the world, and the industry is concerned about the cost of emission reductions. The auto industry is particularly alarmed by plans to phase out the sale of gasoline cars by 2035. Akio Toyoda, chief executive of Toyota, warned that there was “a risk that the business model of the auto industry collapses ”.

But Mr Kajiyama said Japanese automakers could be cut off from global markets if they fail to keep up with the shift to electrification in Europe and North America. Japan must join the global movement towards zero carbon, he said. “For Japan’s industry and economy as well as for the environment, this is a decision we had to make now.”

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