Nuclear Politics

Japan / Cabinet Approves Law To Allow Reactor Operation Beyond 60 Years

By Kamen Kraev
2 March 2023

Country stepping away from 2011 Fukushima restrictions
Cabinet Approves Law To Allow Reactor Operation Beyond 60 Years
Japan's prime minister Fumio Kishida wants to maximise the use of nuclear energy. Image courtesy IAEA.
The Japanese cabinet has approved legislation which will allow commercial nuclear power plants to operate longer as part of plans for a nuclear power comeback to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and energy security concerns.

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.

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