At the end of 2022, Japan published the draft of a new national decarbonization strategy. The Basic Policy to Implement a Green Transformation (GX) will, in effect, become Japan’s top energy and climate roadmap. While the document covers the costs, volumes and timelines for 22 industrial sectors, it is item No. 16 that drew almost all the attention: the plan to build new nuclear reactors in Japan. This marks a major reversal of government policy over a decade since the Fukushima accident after which even discussing it was political taboo.
To be sure, the word “nuclear” is almost entirely absent from the slide dedicated to the change. Instead, the GX roadmap refers to “innovative next-generation reactors”, tacitly acknowledging the size of the state policy leap in the last 12 months.
Laying Fukushima’s ghosts to rest is only a part of the strategy, and one that officials say has become overblown in the media. Potentially more significant is the clear support for carbon pricing, a detailed commitment to carbon capture and storage, and the emphasis placed on hydrogen and battery sectors.
For all the industrial, financing and technical details crammed into the strategy, Prime Minister Kishida’s Cabinet faces a tricky task, that of convincing the broader public that GX is not just about bringing Japan’s dormant nuclear power units back online.