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ECONOMY

Unclear nuclear power policy stalls construction and refurbishment of power plants

By Hanafusa Ryosuke and Oshikiri Tomoyoshi, Nikkei energy editors

 

Japan has not set a nuclear policy since 3.11 and no new nuclear reactors have been built nor existing reactors refurbished since that time either. Japanese nuclear reactor manufacturers had pinned their hopes on exports to Turkey and the U.K., but plans stalled due in part to the enormous construction costs. Japanese manufacturers have no ongoing concrete construction projects.

 

The U.S. emphasizes nuclear power for security reasons and to counter China and Russia. Lapses in nuclear technology will create difficulties in operating nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. An agreement to export nuclear technology requires a relationship of about 100 years, from plant design and operation to decommissioning. Some think that nuclear power is required to deter China and Russia, which aim to increase their influence in emerging nations.

 

Ten years have passed with an unclear policy on the refurbishing and construction of power plants. A top official at a major power company complained that “it is fruitless to have internal discussions within the company,” adding that “the government should decide on a policy.” Construction of small reactors would lead to issues such as nuclear waste and decommissioning, and the companies alone cannot make decisions about such matters. Japan’s postponing its decision on a nuclear policy, which has been called “a privatized national policy,” has hamstrung companies.

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