The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held an expert panel meeting on Nov. 28 on the revision of the “Basic Energy Plan,” which stipulates the outline of the country’s energy policy. The panel confirmed that it will advance discussion of longer-term anti-global warming measures and energy policy with an eye toward 2050. Future discussions are likely to delve into the necessity of newly building or rebuilding nuclear power plants as many reactors are expected to be decommissioned due to the deterioration of the existing plants.
The panel is a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy. But a “Round Table for Studying Energy Situations,” which is positioned as a private workshop of Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko, has been separately discussing the revision of the plan from a long-term perspective in anticipation of 2050. At Tuesday’s panel meeting, participants confirmed that they will launch discussions toward 2050 next spring based on a report to be compiled by the round table during this fiscal year.
The current Basic Energy Plan envisages in 2030 an energy mix in which nuclear power will account for 20-22% of the nation’s electricity output. If nuclear reactors’ operational limit of 40 years is properly observed, the ratio will drop to 15% in 2030. But it is believed that the target ratios can be achieved because the period can be extended by up to 20 years if the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gives approval.
But many reactors are scheduled for decommissioning in 2050 as the nuclear plants whose operating lives are extended to 60 years will reach the final year. And newly building or rebuilding plants will be necessary to keep a certain ratio of nuclear power. Currently, even restarting nuclear plants is difficult due to opposition from local residents. But METI thinks that “nuclear power is a stable energy source” and that securing a certain ratio is indispensable in the long term.
The expert panel chairman Masahiro Sakane (adviser at Komatsu) said in Tuesday’s meeting, “Global warming issues should be seriously discussed before discussing 2050.” The government has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, which raises the possibility that newly building or rebuilding nuclear plants that do not emit carbon dioxide when generating electricity will be discussed.
But careful discussions will be required before including the establishment of new nuclear power plants in the new basic energy plan as the public still deeply distrusts nuclear plants.