Japan accepts nuclear policy guidance document

25 July 2017

Japan's cabinet last week approved the draft Basic Concept on Nuclear Energy Use developed by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). The concept - which will guide the country's future nuclear energy policy - calls for the promotion of the benefits of nuclear energy while minimising the risks of its use.

The Basic Concept describes "the need to use nuclear energy in an appropriate manner by thoroughly managing risk under a responsible system", according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF). The concept also "clearly states the importance of fully recognising the benefits that nuclear technology brings to the environment, people's lives and the economy".

In formulating the Basic Concept, JAEC began holding meetings with industry experts and specialists as long as two years ago, as well as seeking opinions. The draft concept was opened for public comment in April this year. A total of 728 comments were received. The JAEC committee met on 18 July to discuss these comments and on 20 July deemed the draft Basic Concept to be complete.

At a meeting on 21 July, the cabinet gave its approved to the draft Basic Concept, which will now be referred to when making future decisions about Japan's nuclear energy policy.

The Basic Concept outlines eight priority activities in attaining the basic targets for using nuclear energy safely while promoting its benefits. These include continued improvements to nuclear safety, "with the recognition of non-zero risk". It also says the benefits of nuclear energy must be promoted from the perspective of the environment, people's lives and the economy".

The draft also calls for Japan's nuclear energy activities - both domestically and internationally - to be considered according to international trends. It says that Japan has an important role to play in ensuring the peaceful use of nuclear power, non-proliferation and nuclear security. JAEA also said Japan should increase its use of radiation technology and radioisotopes.

One of the most important activities is to restore public confidence in the use of nuclear energy, which the document says is the premise for its use. The country must also "solidify the foundation for using nuclear energy". Japan must also persevere with the challenges of decommissioning and radioactive waste management.

JAEC - inaugurated in 1956 to promote nuclear power development and utilisation - has previously provided guidance by issuing Fundamental Principles for the country's nuclear policy program.

The last time was in July 2005, six years before the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. At that time, JAEC reaffirmed policy directions for nuclear power in Japan, while confirming that the immediate focus would be on light water reactors (LWRs). The main elements were that a "30-40% share or more" should be the target for nuclear power in total generation after 2030, including replacement of current plants with advanced LWRs. It also called for fast breeder reactors to be introduced commercially, but not until about 2050. Used fuel was to be reprocessed domestically to recover fissile material for use in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Disposal of high-level wastes would be addressed after 2010, it said then.

According to JAIF, JAEC now plans to review and revise the policy every five years "to keep up with changes in the environment surrounding nuclear energy".

Nuclear energy is expected to account for 20-22% of Japan's power generation in 2030, with a similar portion coming from renewable sources. The remainder of the country's power generation will be met by coal (26%), LNG (27%) and oil (3%), according to Japan's latest energy policy. That policy supports "utilizing nuclear power generation whose safety is confirmed".

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News