Since July, the council had been deliberating on major reforms in the areas of energy, all industries and economic society, toward the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

At an earlier meeting of the council in August, the prime minister had stated his recognition that “renewable energies and nuclear power are vital decarbonization tools for promoting GX.” He then instructed the council and others to speed up deliberations so as to be able to present specifics of “how-to” measures by the end of the year.

The basic policy decided upon this time calls for the maximum use of nuclear power, given that it treats it as “a power source contributing to energy security and highly effective for decarbonization.”

As for the development and construction of next-generation advanced reactors, the basic policy says that “actualization will be embarked upon starting with the replacement of reactors for which decommissioning has been decided.” In addition, the development and construction of reactors other than those to be replaced will be considered “taking future conditions into account.”

Meanwhile, as for extending reactor operating lifetimes, the basic policy says that “additional extensions may be allowed where reactor operation was suspended for certain specified reasons,” building on the current approach of a reactor operating lifetimes of 40 years, possibly to be extended to up to 60 years.

In relation to nuclear policy, the prime minister also referred to the selection of a site for high-level radioactive waste (HLW) disposal, saying that the government would “expand areas subject to literature surveys.”

On December 23, the day following the council meeting, a ministerial meeting on final disposal was held, at which Chief Cabinet Secretary MATSUNO Hirokazu instructed the relevant ministers to work together to formulate a specific policy for dealing with the matter.

Also, after the December 22 GX Implementation Council meeting, Minister NISHIMURA Yasutoshi of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held an extraordinary press conference on the same day, at which he said, “The government will listen to opinions from a wide range of people and explain matters thoroughly,” adding that it would “make the basic policy open to the public for comments as soon as possible.” He said that necessary legislation would be proposed to an ordinary session of the Japanese Diet after New Year’s Day.

Upon issuance of the basic policy, Chairman IKEBE Kazuhiro of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) released a comment, which read: “FEPC will take all the necessary measures toward ensuring stable energy supplies and achieving carbon neutrality, including the maximum use of renewable energies and—on the premise of ensured safety—nuclear power, the decarbonization of thermal power, and the promotion of electrification.”