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Expert panel full of proponents of nuclear power plants to discuss direction on March 28th, extending operation period and developing next-generation models, rushing to conclusion on “Prime Minister’s directive.

Basic policy subcommittee discusses extending the operational period of nuclear power plants in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo.

November 27, 2022
The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) will present its direction on measures to utilize nuclear power plants, including the extension of the operating period of nuclear power plants, which is stipulated as “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” and the development and construction of next-generation nuclear power plants, at the “Nuclear Energy Subcommittee,” a meeting of experts on November 28. Discussions will reach their final stage about three months after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered the committee to study the issue in August. However, the committee did not solicit opinions from the public before reaching a conclusion, and its deliberations were noticeably more hasty than past energy policy debates. (The discussion has been held in a very slow pace compared to past energy policy debates.)
◆Draft government policy at several subcommittee meetings
Of the 21 members of the Atomic Energy Subcommittee, which discusses nuclear energy policy, only two, including Hajime Matsukubo, executive director of the NPO Nuclear Data and Information Office, have made negative statements about nuclear power at recent meetings. In the discussion on extending the operating period, many committee members called for removing the maximum 60-year limit, and at the meeting on March 28, METI is expected to push for a proposal to exclude from the number of years of operation the period during which a nuclear power plant is shut down to undergo a review before it can be restarted, without removing the limit in consideration of public outcry.
 The contents of the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee’s deliberations will be discussed by the Basic Policy Subcommittee, which brings together expert panels on energy policy, and the conclusions of the subcommittee will serve as a draft of the government policy.
 At the meeting on March 15, Ms. Chisato Murakami, an advisor on consumer affairs, commented, “The use of nuclear power plants will not directly lead to an end to the tight power supply and demand situation. I would like to propose that we take time to deepen the national debate.” She objected to the way the discussion was proceeding, but no other opinions were expressed calling for a reconsideration.
The subcommittee has met twice so far. The committee is expected to hold one or two more meetings before the end of the year to reach a conclusion, after which public comments will be sought.
◆Energy Basic Plan to be discussed 17 times and opinions solicited via the Internet
 The previous energy policy discussions were different.
In the discussion of the “Sixth Basic Energy Plan,” a medium- to long-term guideline for energy policy formulated last October, subcommittee meetings were held 17 times over a period of 10 months. In addition, an opinion box was set up on the website during the discussions in order to listen to the opinions of the public at large. The opinions received were submitted as materials to each of the subcommittee meetings for consideration. In total, about 640 opinions were collected, with about 300 calling for a nuclear power phase-out, while about 80 supported the promotion of nuclear power.
 At that time, members of the subcommittee expressed the opinion that extending the operational period of nuclear power plants and building new plants were necessary to realize a decarbonized society by 2050, but this was not explicitly stated in the basic plan. The policy of “reducing dependence on nuclear power plants as much as possible,” which came to be stated after the Fukushima accident, was also maintained.
◆Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) official: “The directive to reach a conclusion by the end of the year cannot take too much time.
 The government has been stressing the use of nuclear power plants against the backdrop of the recent tight power supply and demand and soaring fuel prices. However, the development of next-generation nuclear power plants, for example, will take a long time and will not be a quick fix, so there is no need to reach a hasty conclusion. Even after Murakami pointed out this contradiction at the subcommittee meeting, a METI official told the interviewer, “We cannot take too much time because [Prime Minister Kishida] has instructed us to reach a conclusion by the end of the year. We will come up with a direction as soon as possible.
 Mr. Matsukubo commented, “This is a heavy-handed way of proceeding, not listening to the public and having the Council of Eminent Persons decide what the government wants to do. The government’s policy of making nuclear power a given may narrow the scope for the introduction of renewable energies in the future.


December 4, 2022 - Posted by | Japan | , ,

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