But the plan may be too little too late for Japan's moribund
atomic industry, which is floundering under the weight of estimated
losses of almost $50 billion, forcing two utilities to ask the
government for capital last week.
Plant operators have had to pay out almost $90 billion on
replacement fossil fuels, with domestic media saying they have also
spent an estimated 1.6 trillion yen ($16 billion) on nuclear plant
upgrades to meet new safety guidelines.
A recent Reuters analysis shows as many as two-thirds of the
country's 48 idled nuclear reactors may have to be left closed
because of the high cost of further upgrades, local opposition or
"I think it is unavoidable that the Japanese utilities will write
off most of their nuclear 'assets' and move on," said Mycle
Schneider, a Paris-based independent energy consultant.
The plan defines nuclear as an "important baseload power source"
meaning it can feed constant power to the grid to meet minimum
requirement. But the policy document did not specify the share of
nuclear in the nation's energy mix.
"Given the slim realistic prospects for a major nuclear share, the
challenge will be flexibility and the whole baseload concept flies
out of the window," Schneider said.
The government also named coal and hydro power as baseload sources.
"The plan makes clear we will reduce reliance on nuclear power
through a variety of measures," industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi
told reporters after the cabinet meeting, adding that the government
might decide on an ideal energy mix within two or three years.
Makoto Yagi, the president of Kansai Electric Power Co and chairman
of the electricity industry's association,
said industry wanted the plan implemented steadily, as a core
"We will also contribute to national energy policy by utilizing
nuclear power, based on the fundamental premise of ensuring safety,"
Yagi said in a statement.
Shares in Australian uranium producer Paladin Energy rose nearly 5
percent after the news that Tokyo had reinstated nuclear energy as
part of national policy.
Japan will do as much as possible to increase renewable energy
supplies, Motegi said. The government has set up a ministerial level
group to study boosting such energy sources.
In the plan on Friday, Japan said it would aim to surpass renewable
energy targets in past plans.
A footnote in the document said previous plans had set a target for
renewable energy sources to contribute 13.5 percent of total power
generation in 2020 and around 20 percent in 2030. Renewable energy
sources, including hydro power, contributed around 10 percent of the
country's energy by 2012.
[to top of second column]
The decision to reinstate nuclear power is likely to be unpopular
and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had to spend months convincing
skeptical members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as
coalition partner New Komeito, which opposes atomic energy, to
accept the final draft of the plan.
The public has turned against nuclear power after watching Tokyo
Electric Power Co's struggle to deal with the disaster at its
Fukushima Daiichi station following a massive earthquake and tsunami
in March 2011.
The crisis was the worst since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and
all reactors in Japan have been shut for safety checks with no
schedule for restarts.
Two reactors in southwestern Japan have been put on a priority list
for safety screenings by the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Recent polls put opposition to nuclear restarts at about two-to-one
over support. An Asahi newspaper poll last month found that nearly
80 percent of those surveyed supported a gradual exit from atomic
The Democratic Party of Japan decided on an energy policy that set
targets for renewable energy and pledged to phase out nuclear power
but was swept from power by the LDP at the end of 2012.
Abe's government has dropped plans to introduce a demonstration
fast-breeder reactor in 2025 and a commercial reactor before 2050
after decades of scandals and delays at the Monju prototype reactor.
The energy plan unveiled on Friday said Monju would become an
international research center focused on reducing nuclear waste and
But the plan says the government will continue working on
reprocessing nuclear fuel at the Rokkasho facility in northern Japan
and maintain storage facilities for used fuel.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Mari Saito;
writing and additional
reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Ed Davies and Joseph
Radford and Clarence Fernandez)
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