Japan’s new energy plan will not phase out nuclear energy and calls it important in supplying electricity

The Abe administration plans to say in a draft of the national medium-term energy plan that nuclear power should continue to be “important” in supplying electricity despite the Fukushima nuclear crisis, sources said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Government, led by the Liberal Democratic Party since elections in 2012, is expected to adopt the new basic energy policy in January. They will urge Japan to continue to use nuclear energy.

With 50 atomic plants off-line, coal use rose 26 percent from a year ago in October, and the government backtracked on a more ambitious goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. While solar is taking off, the added capacity is nowhere near replacing what traditional plants supply.

The draft was to be presented Friday to a meeting of a panel tasked with compiling the so Basic Energy Plan before the end of December. The plan will become official after securing Cabinet approval, possibly early in the new year.

According to the sources, the draft will say nuclear power should be seen as an “important source of electricity,” because relying too much on thermal power generation would mean having to import more fuel and damaging the trade balance.

Concerns also remain over being highly dependent on Middle East countries for fossil fuel, given the region’s political instability.

Because it is unclear how many reactors will pass the stricter safety requirements compiled after the Fukushima catastrophe, the draft will not provide a concrete percentage for nuclear power’s role in the medium-term.

The draft will, however, say the nation will try to reduce its reliance on nuclear power in the future by introducing more renewable sources and promoting highly efficient thermal power generation.

It also include a policy change on the method for selecting the final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste, a long-running problem.

The government is now seeking to choose candidate sites across Japan that are suitable for building a disposal facility, rather than waiting for local governments to step to the plate.

The previous Basic Energy Plan compiled in 2010 aimed to boost reliance on nuclear power to some 50 percent of the nation’s energy needs in 2030 from around 30 percent.

After Fukushima, the previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan decided on an energy strategy aimed at phasing out nuclear power by the 2030s.

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