The Japanese government has recently adopted a plan to extend the operation of existing nuclear power reactors and replace aging facilities with new advanced ones. The move is part of a policy that addresses global fuel shortages following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Since July, an advisory panel - the Green Transformation (GX) Executive Committee - has been considering the implementation of major changes in energy, all industries, and the economy and society in order to achieve the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The committee has established a roadmap for the next ten years as a "basic policy for the realisation of GX".
Prior to the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan's 54 reactors had provided around 30% of the country's electricity. However, within 14 months of the accident, the country's nuclear generation had been brought to a standstill pending regulatory change. So far, ten of Japan's 39 operable reactors have cleared inspections confirming they meet the new regulatory safety standards and have resumed operation. Another 17 reactors have applied to restart.
Following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japanese nuclear reactors are clearing inspections confirming they meet the new regulatory safety standards
On 21 December, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved a draft of a new rule that would allow the reactors to be operated for more than the current limit of 60 years. Under the amendment, the operators of reactors in use for 30 years or longer must formulate a long-term reactor management plan and gain approval from the regulator at least once every 10 years if they are to continue to operate.
The new policy will effectively extend the period reactors can remain in operation beyond 60 years by excluding the time they spent offline for inspections from the total service life.
The new policy approved by the NRA will allow Japanese nuclear reactors to remain in operation beyond 60 years
Under the new policy, Japan will also develop and construct "next-generation innovative reactors" to replace about 20 reactors that are set to be decommissioned.
In September, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the SRZ-1200 advanced pressurised water reactor design. Developed in collaboration with four Japanese utilities, the 1200 MWe reactor is designed to meet the country's enhanced regulatory safety standards.
Japan will also develop and construct "next-generation innovative reactors" such as the new SRZ-1200 advanced pressurized water reactor
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government will submit the relevant bills to implement the new policy to an ordinary parliamentary session at the beginning of the year. It will be formalised through a cabinet decision expected in February at the earliest.
Commenting on the new policy, Kazuhiro Ikebe, Chairman of Japan's Federation of Electric Power Companies, said: "Based on the policy presented this time, we, as electric power companies, will work to secure a stable supply of electricity by maximising the use of renewable energy and nuclear power generation based on the premise of safety, decarbonising thermal power generation, and promoting electrification. We are determined to take all possible measures to achieve carbon neutrality.
The Japanese Federation of Electric Power Companies is determined to take all possible measures to achieve carbon neutrality
Source: World Nuclear News
Cover image: GX implementation meeting, December 2022 (World Nuclear News)