Nuclear plant crisis impetus for ‘drastic’ policy change
PARIS — Japan will radically change its energy policy to lessen dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power by setting a new goal of generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources in the 2020s, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday.
|Resourceful: Prime Minister Naoto Kan delivers a speech Wednesday at the OECD headquarters in Paris. KYODO PHOTO|
“Japan will now review its basic energy plan from scratch and is set to address new challenges,” Kan said at a forum dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.
His remark came ahead of the two-day Group of Eight summit in Deauville, which kicked off Thursday with a working lunch that was dominated by Japan’s nuclear crisis.
At the Paris forum, Kan said Japan will try to meet the new target, which is 10 years ahead of the original schedule, by undertaking “drastic technological innovation” due to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis triggered by the March 11 disasters.
“We will mobilize all our resources to break the barrier to practical use due to such aspects as technology and costs, and we will elevate renewable energy to one of society’s core energy sources,” he said.
To start with, Kan said Japan will try to reduce the cost of generating solar power to a third of current levels by 2020 and to one-sixth by 2030.
At present, renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind, only make up about 1 percent of Japan’s total power supply. Even including the amount of energy generated by hydraulic plants, the ratio is around only 10 percent.
Before the Fukushima accident, Japan relied on nuclear power for about 30 percent of its electricity and had planned to make it account for 50 percent by 2030.
By promoting power-saving steps more strongly than ever, Kan said the nation’s mid- and long-term energy policy up to now will be reconsidered.
Kan, however, said nuclear energy will remain one of the nation’s pillars of energy policy — by achieving the highest level of safety.
He explained to the OECD audience that Japan is committed to fully investigating the cause of the Fukushima disaster and disclosing all necessary information to the global community, pointing out that an independent panel to this end was set up just prior to his departure Tuesday from Tokyo for a nearly weeklong trip to Europe.
“I believe that it is a historic responsibility of Japan to carefully analyze and examine the recent accidents, learn many lessons on nuclear safety which are new to humankind, and share those lessons with the rest of the world and with future generations,” he said.
He added that the situation at the crippled nuclear plant is now “steadily stabilizing” and pointed out that Tokyo and other areas important to the economy remain safe.
Kan’s remarks came a day before he attends this year’s summit of the Group of Eight nations in the Normandy seaside resort of Deauville, where nuclear safety will be one of the major agenda items.
Kan also touched on ongoing efforts to rebuild from Japan’s worst natural catastrophe in modern times, one that obliterated northeastern coastal towns.
He told global leaders at the OECD gathering that Japan’s economy is resilient and will pull through what he has called its greatest crisis since World War II.
He said demand from reconstruction work is projected to drive the economy in the second half this year. “I state this with firm conviction that the rebirth of the Japanese economy has already been forcefully set in motion,” Kan said.
He noted that more than 60 percent of the production bases in the disaster-stricken region, such as in the electronics industry, have already resumed operations and the remaining about 30 percent are likely to recover by this summer.
During the G-8 working lunch, meanwhile, Kan vowed to disclose all information on the nuclear crisis and explained Tokyo’s efforts to bring the reactors under control by January, according to Japanese officials.
Despite the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl crisis, Kan would try to assure his counterparts of Japan’s resolve to continue nuclear power generation by ensuring the safety of all other plants, according to the officials.
The G8 leaders are expected to debate how to craft new nuclear safety standards for the global community, and the outcome is likely to serve as a prelude to talks about to start at the International Atomic Energy Agency and other institutions.
The Japan Times