Under the new rules, Tokyo will abolish the current 60-year operating limit for reactors and introduce a new system in which additional operating extensions can granted every 10 years after 30 years of service, with no maximum limit specified.
The move is a major step away from the current 40-year operating limit with a possible one-time extension of up to 20 years. The rules were introduced as part of stricter safety standards adopted after the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant accident.
Last month, the government’s plans received the backing of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.
In December 2022, Japan adopted a new energy policy promoting greater use of nuclear power as it seeks to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and to reduce carbon emissions.
The government adopted a plan last month to maximise the use of nuclear energy, including accelerating restarts of halted reactors, prolonging the operational life of aging plants and development of next-generation reactors to replace those designated for decommissioning.
Before Fukushima-Daiichi, Japan’s fleet of 54 nuclear plants generated about 30% of the country’s electricity. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency that figure was 7.2% in 2021.
Anti-nuclear sentiment and safety concerns increased in Japan after Fukushima and restart approvals under stricter safety standards have been slow.
According to the Tokyo-based Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, operators have applied for restarts at 27 reactors in the past decade. Seventeen have passed safety checks and only 10 have resumed operations.