Former Prime Minister Wants Japan To Abandon Nuclear Power

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi wants his country to abandon nuclear power — again.

Koizumi publicly criticized his handpicked successor’s, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, current policy to reopen nuclear power plants. Abe sees a revival of nuclear power as critical to supporting economic growth and slowing an exodus of Japanese manufacturing to lower-cost countries.

Koizumi, who supported nuclear power during his tenure, was convinced by the 2011 Fukushima disaster to reverse his support. The former prime minister retired in 2009.

Japan previously pledged to abandon nuclear power by the 2030s. Officials promised to replace nuclear power with wind or solar, but this caused the price of electricity to rise by 20 percent. Japan’s government currently aims to restart at least 32 of the 54 reactors it shut down following the Fukushima disaster, and wants nuclear power to account for 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity generated by 2030.

Nuclear power provided 29 percent of Japan’s total electricity before 2011, but will decline to 13.6 percent by 2023 and 1.2 percent by 2040, according to reports. Japan got 24 percent of its electricity from coal in 2010 and the country plans to get more than a third of its power from coal by 2040.

Japan’s transition to green energy hasn’t gone well, and the country likely won’t meet its goals, according to the report. Japan remains a top importer of oil, coal and natural gas, and the government estimated that importing fuel costs the country more than $40 billion annually.

Nuclear power, even accounting for high-profile nuclear accidents, is statistically the safest way of generating electricity. Coal power kills 280,000 people for every trillion kilowatt hours it produces. Rooftop solar kills 440 for the same amount of electricity. Nuclear energy only kills 90, by this measure, including deaths from disasters.

Deaths from nuclear power are very rare relative to deaths from industrial accidents, mining accidents or pollution.

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