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2013年12月15日 (日)

エネルギー計画 原発の中長期的活用は妥当だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 14, 2013
New plan a break from no-nuke goal, move toward realistic energy policy
エネルギー計画 原発の中長期的活用は妥当だ(12月14日付・読売社説)

A basic energy plan drafted by an industry ministry panel is a major step that signals a clear shift from the policy of phasing out nuclear power generation set by the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government. We highly praise the current government’s stance of pushing for a realistic energy policy to secure a stable power supply for the nation.

An Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry committee of experts drew up the draft plan, which will serve as guidelines for the nation’s mid- and long-term energy policy.

Calling nuclear power “a fundamental and important base energy source,” the draft plan urged the nation to continue using nuclear power as long as its safety is ensured.

The draft plan called on the government to reduce the nation’s dependence on nuclear power as much as possible, while proposing that nuclear power generation be maintained to the extent needed.

Currently, all 50 of the nation’s nuclear reactors are idled, which has caused a serious power shortage. For resource-poor Japan, nuclear power is an essential energy source that can be obtained in a stable manner and at relatively low costs. We thus favorably regard the draft plan.

The government seeks to have the plan approved by the Cabinet in January. It should use the plan to implement a realistic energy policy.

To make up for the shortfall in the nation’s power supply, domestic thermal power plants have been in full operation. With additional fuel costs amounting to ¥3.6 trillion a year, a spike in fuel imports has drained a large amount of national wealth from Japan. Electricity charges have risen by 20 percent from the level before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. Greenhouse gas emissions have also rapidly increased. The negative impact of not using nuclear power is significant.

Japan should restart nuclear reactors once their safety is confirmed and speed up work to establish a supply structure with a diversified energy mix, in which nuclear power, thermal power and renewable energy sources such as solar power can complement each other.

However, the draft plan did not give numerical targets for the energy mix. We are aware that safety inspections of nuclear power facilities have been delayed, but the government should present a target rate for electricity generated by nuclear power as soon as possible.

Key issues remain

We also question why the draft plan took a non-judgmental stance on whether the nation should build new reactors.

If the existing reactors are decommissioned after 40 years of operation without adding new reactors, the nation will have no reactors in 2049. To continue using nuclear energy in the medium- and long-term, it is necessary to build new reactors. We believe switching old reactors to new ones early on would enhance nuclear energy safety and the nurturing of capable professionals in the field.

The draft plan also appropriately urged the government to take the initiative in proceeding with the final disposal of highly radioactive waste. The government should promote a sustainable nuclear policy featuring a nuclear fuel cycle and other approaches, and must take charge of such actions.

The draft plan prodded the government to accelerate its efforts to increase the use of renewable energy sources, but stopped short of proposing specific measures. Renewable power generation has many downsides, including fluctuating output depending on weather conditions. Increased use of renewable energy sources would thus be insufficient as an alternative to nuclear power.

The current government scheme that obliges utilities to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy sources, aimed at spreading the use of such energy, puts a financial burden on households and companies. The government should swiftly review this policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2013)
(2013年12月14日01時56分  読売新聞)


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