After intense public pressure following last year's Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government announced Friday plans to phase out nuclear power over the next 30 years.
Japan was the world's third largest user of nuclear power before the Fukushima disaster. The government had planned to increase the country's nuclear share of the energy mix by 50% in the next 3 decades. The disaster changed that plan though after radiation was released into the air and water, contaminating food and water and forcing 160,000 people from their homes.
The Guardian states an official policy document released on Friday says "Based on facing the reality of this grave accident and by learning lessons from the accident, the government has decided to review the national energy strategy from scratch. One of the key pillars of the new strategy is to achieve a society that does not depend on nuclear energy as soon as possible."
The Jakarta Times reports National Policy Minister Motohisa Furukawa told reporters at a news conference "We will introduce policies to bring nuclear power generation down to zero within the 2030s... so that we can build a society that does not rely on nuclear power as early as possible."
The proposed plan includes shutting down all reactors that are more than 40 years old, canceling plans to build replacement reactors and restarting remaining reactors only if they pass standards issued by a new regulatory agency. Japan does not want to depend on fossil fuel as an alternative either. Instead, they are looking at solar energy options.
Phasing out nuclear power and replacing it with a renewable energy power grid like solar power, means Japan will fail to meet its target goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. It also means the building project will cost the country an estimated will ¥48 trillion ($612.5 billion) according to a Japan Times report. That does not appear to be a deterrent however, as companies like mobile phone operator Softbank Corp. and the convenience store chain Lawson Inc. are already announcing renewable energy projects in response to polls and public hearings showing citizens want an exit from nuclear despite the cost.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the nuclear-free decision finally put Japan “at the starting line. This is a difficult issue, but we can no longer afford to postpone our decision."