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12 June, 2018

Cabinet Approves FY2017 White Paper on Energy Policy, Including Overview from Mid-1800s to 2050

On June 8, Japan’s Cabinet approved the White Paper on Energy Policy for FY2017 (April 2017 to March 2018), an annual overview of policies on energy supply and demand. The first part of the document takes up progress toward restoration of Fukushima, the same topic as was treated last year.

Also, marking 150 years since the Meiji Restoration (1868), when the emperor’s forces overthrew the shogun, the document also looks back at Japan’s energy history over that period. Against the backdrop of recent progress in discussions on long-term energy policy, the White Paper goes on to address changes in the overall energy situation and issues toward 2050.

The White Paper divides Japan’s energy history after the Meiji Restoration into six periods: (1) 1868 to 1900, (2) 1900 through the end of World War II, (3) the postwar period until the era of high economic growth of the 1960s, (4) the 1970s and 1980s, (5) 1990 until the earthquake of March 11, 2011, and (6) the period since the earthquake.

Japan’s primary-energy structure of supply and demand has changed over time, as evidenced in shifts among the leading power sources in the energy mix: from coal (1920) to hydropower (1946), then oil (1973), nuclear energy (1998) and currently natural gas (2014). See the appended figure for further details.

The White Paper also looks at the history of nuclear power utilization in Japan. A new era began after the war, when the government allocated its first budgetary funds for nuclear energy in 1954. Japan enacted the Atomic Energy Basic Law the next year, followed by the creation of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), and the commissioning of the first commercial reactor in 1966.

During Japan’s boom years following the war through the end of the 1960s, the Japanese public began to accept that nuclear energy could be used to generate electricity, thanks to the successful operation of two light water reactors (LWRs), the Tsuruga-1 and Mihama-1 Nuclear Power Plants, which both went into service in 1970.

Revisions to the Strategic Energy Plan have been discussed during the current fiscal year. Based on deliberations at the Round Table for Studying Energy Situations under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the latest White Paper presents relevant data, including a progress report on the realization of an energy mix in 2030 based on the plan, with related issues ssuch as measures to combat climate change, and energy technologies in other countries.

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