Announcements this week show Japan and China headed in opposite directions in terms of nuclear power, the former announcing that five aging reactors would close, the later announcing that there would be five new nuclear power plant construction projects begun in 2015.
Japan remains embroiled in the psychological and political fallout from the earthquake and tsunami event that devastated the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in early March of 2011.
In response, its 50 nuclear rectors were shuttered temporarily, while the country revamped safety measures and sorted through its political priorities.
This week, media reports in Japan indicate that five of the 50 will remain shut permanently.
The country’s popular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes a return to nuclear power would benefit Japan’s economy, but local governments have been slow to approve of switching the nuclear plants back on.
Media reported that the five plants scheduled for decommissioning were victims of old age. But they are also indicative of Japan’s reluctance to push its luck with a full-scale return to nuclear power, which would include extending the lifespan of older plants.
On official announcement has yet to be made, but media reports say KEPCO’s Mihama Units 1 and 2 and Japan Atomic Power”s Tsuruga Unit 1 in the Fukui Prefecture; Chugoku Electric’s Shimane Unit 1 in the Shimane Prefecture and Kyushu Electric’s Genkai Unit 1 in the Saga Prefecture will remain closed for decommissioning.
In a start contrast, China believes that nuclear power is key to reducing its carbon footprint, which contributes to global climate change. As a result, China now has more nuclear power plants under construction than it does in operation – 26 compared to 22, Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Nuclear Society Shen Lixin said in Beijing this week on Thursday.
China expects to triple its nuclear power capacity by 2020, Bloomberg reported. Even though project approvals stalled after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, China is now giving the green light to projects that were put on hold.
Currently, nuclear facilities are responsible for 2 percent of China’s electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency.
The five new plants, Shen said, would have more than 5 gigawatts of capacity.