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13 June, 2019

Japan’s Cabinet Approves FY18 White Paper on Energy Policy, Seeking Low-carbon Society to Meet Paris Agreement Goals

On June 7, Japan’s Cabinet approved the White Paper on Energy Policy for FY18 (ended March 31, 2019), an annual overview of policies on energy supply and demand. Among other topics, it addressed such major issues as global warming countermeasures and energy problems in major countries in line with the Paris Agreement, as well as recent efforts in Japan to deal with natural disasters.

Those were in addition to mention of progress in the reconstruction of Fukushima, a subject that has been addressed annually since the 2011 accident. More specifically, the White Paper explained the current state of the decommissioning of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants, along with contaminated water measures.

Regarding the removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools at the NPPs, it outlined the course of events so far for the removal of fuel from Unit 3. Though a fuel–removal cover had been installed in February 2018, the fuel removal itself did not start in the middle of FY18 as originally scheduled, owing to problems in a fuel-handling facility, but rather began in April 2019 after safety inspections and other work had first been conducted.

The White Paper underscored government efforts being made toward two-way communication, especially with local communities, while information was disseminated on the status of the Fukushima Daiichi NPPs. Examples of those efforts include: (1) the establishment of a council with representation by municipalities and related organizations, (2) the creation of videos and pamphlets, (3) engagement in direct dialogue with local residents, (4) the organization of booths at local events, and (5) listening to local opinions and reflecting them in the production of content.

In that context, the White Paper outlined the support given to the nuclear disaster victims, as well as explanations of the Fukushima Plan for a New Energy Society, and the status of nuclear damage compensation.

Concerning Japan’s long-term target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, as directed by the Paris Agreement, the White Paper reiterated that “it would be difficult to meet the target by merely extending conventional efforts.” Thus, it said that Japan would reduce its emissions substantially over the long term, while pursuing “resolution by innovation” to the utmost extent. That would be done, it said, by undertaking such strategic activities as promoting domestic investments, reinforcing international competitiveness, and integrating “people’s wisdom.”

The Fifth Strategic Energy Plan was approved by the Cabinet in July 2018. About 90% of global-warming gas emissions in Japan are energy-related. Accordingly, the country will boost its activities toward achieving the desired energy mix by 2030, aggressively accomplishing an energy shift so as to realize a low-carbon society by 2050.

The White Paper also compared the CO2 emission targets, efforts and progress being made in several major countries, analyzing the various factors underlying them. Currently, Japan ranks 27th among the 35 OECD nations in per-capita CO2 emissions.

Given that Japan is highly efficient in terms of energy consumption, but weak in terms of energy supply—some eighty percent of its of electricity generation depends on thermal power—the White Paper stressed the importance of accelerating the reduction of CO2 emissions. Toward the realization of non-fossil power sources, it said that Japan would “continue promoting the restart of nuclear reactors, putting priority on safety.”

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