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Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Japan

Photo: Kyodo News / IMAGO

Japan has decided to extend the lifespan of existing nuclear reactors. Parliament passed a law on Wednesday that no longer limits the service life to 60 years – but allows potentially unlimited terms.

On the one hand, the resource-poor country wants to reduce its dependence on oil and gas imports, similar to Germany. On the other hand, Japan wants to achieve its climate protection goals: CO2050 emissions are to be reduced to zero by 2. While the use of renewable energy is also to be expanded, nuclear energy is seen as essential despite the danger of earthquakes and the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.

After the Fukushima disaster, Japan shut down all reactors in the country and introduced significantly stricter safety standards. Of Japan's 33 reactors currently operational, only ten reactors have been reconnected to the grid so far. For other reactors, the operators have applied for permission to restart them, but this is taking a long time. In addition, there is strong local resistance to the restart of shut-down nuclear reactors.

The government wants to generate about 2030 to 20 percent of electricity generation from nuclear energy and 22 to 36 percent from renewables by 38. In order to achieve this goal, almost 30 reactors would have to be put back into operation, but this is unrealistic in view of the lengthy approval procedures and local resistance to them, according to the newspaper »Nikkei Asia«.

Radioactive water from damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is discharged into the sea

Under the new law, the nuclear regulator will review the condition of reactors at least every ten years after 30 years of operation to ensure the safety of the old facilities. The government's plans also include the construction of new next-generation nuclear reactors to replace the old reactors in the long term.

Meanwhile, a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Japan is carrying out a final check before the country begins discharging large quantities of treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea – a plan that has been rejected by local fishermen and neighboring countries. The reactors, which were destroyed in the 2011 meltdown as a result of an earthquake and tsunami, must continue to be cooled with water that has so far been filtered and stored in hundreds of huge tanks. Due to overloading, the irradiated water is to be filtered and diluted and discharged into the Pacific Ocean. The disposal of the water is currently being prepared.