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Asia Minute: Japan is taking another look at nuclear power

Japan Fukushima Cleanup nuclear
Hiro Komae/AP
A worker helps direct a truck driver as he stands near tanks, background, that will be used to store treated radioactive water after it was used to cool down melted fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), in Okuma town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

Japan is turning back to nuclear power as a key part of its energy policy. The country’s prime minister says it’s a move that’s necessary because of global events.

It’s been more than 11 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster froze the growth of atomic energy in Japan.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says the time has come to shift that policy.

Kishida told a news conference Wednesday that “As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global energy situation has drastically changed.”

And Japan’s energy situation has changed more than that of many other countries.

Twice this year, the Japanese government called on businesses and consumers in Tokyo to cut their use of electricity to avoid a power blackout.

Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power supplied about a third of Japan’s electricity — a figure that plummeted after that incident.

In the years since, fossil fuels have picked up the slack — including coal and natural gas.

About 9% of Japan’s natural gas imports came from Russia.

The invasion of Ukraine and the diplomatic and economic reaction that followed has complicated that supply.

Japan’s government says seven nuclear reactors are currently operating in the country.

Kishida wants to bring back ten more by next summer—and to study the development of next-generation reactors.

He says the government will come up with more specific plans by the end of the year.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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