By Asakawa Taiki
On July 29, the government presented a draft plan for the construction and operation in the 2030s of the first commercial large-scale nuclear power plant. The new plant will have the latest-technology “innovative light water reactors.” The government positions the draft as an interim plan that summarizes the opinions of experts. The government explains that “our policy to not replace existing nuclear power plants nor construct new plants has not changed.” The government and ruling parties may take this opportunity to begin full-fledged discussions on Japan’s nuclear power policy, which has been put aside for many years.
The draft plan was presented at a meeting of a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) working group, also held on July 29. The innovative light water reactor uses an extension of the technology used in existing light water reactors, which are constructed and operated around the world. The innovative light water reactor is said to have the “highest level of technological maturity.” In addition to innovative light water reactors, the plan describes the construction and launch dates for three types of demonstration reactors – small light water reactors, fast reactors, and high temperature gas-cooled reactors – as well as nuclear fusion reactors, a type of prototype reactor. The draft plan was developed from a technological perspective and is subject to change, depending on the power companies’ business plans and discussions with local governments.
Kyoto University Professor Kurosaki Ken, who chairs the working group, commented that the plan “shows the direction and course of action [for large-scale nuclear power plants]. The development of a plan with a definite time frame was a very big step.”
Some working group members pointed out that “(the plan) clearly assumes construction [of new plants]. What is the exact status of this plan, since it seems to be a major policy shift for the country?” A METI official called for understanding, saying that the plan is “meant to be a summary of the working members’ views and does not determine the government’s policy.” (Abridged)