Environmentalists are continuing to turn to nuclear power as a solution for the nation’s fuel supply.
Following talks with Japanese politician Akihiro Nishimura, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan affirmed the shared belief that the United States and Japan need to embrace nuclear energy as part of their countries’ mutual efforts to fight climate change. They called the necessity “critical,” The Washington Post reports.
“I think the science tells us that we have to respond to the climate crisis with a sense of urgency and nuclear energy and nuclear technology has and can have a role in continuing with a zero emissions contribution to the climate,” says Regan.
“The opportunities for advanced nuclear technology will be critical if we’re going to meet our climate goals.”
Why it’s news
The press conference was a mild change in tune for both the EPA and Japanese politicians. The EPA doesn’t have a strong anti-nuclear stance but has been criticized in the past for pushing down too hard on America’s nuclear industry. It proposed a Clean Power Plan in 2014 that some nuclear experts criticized as burdensome.
“An extensive analysis of the proposal, however, reveals that current nuclear-generating capacity would largely suffer under the new carbon rules… 15 states are actually incentivized to shut down all of their nuclear units and replace them with natural gas combined cycle generation,” says NuclearNewswire.
Japan has a strong anti-nuclear public opinion as a result of the 2011 Fukushima meltdown, which soured the public on nuclear energy. Many older reactors in Japan were shut down after the meltdown.
The country has joined world efforts to curb carbon emissions, but has faced criticism for not laying out a clear plan, WP reports. Nuclear will have to be a part of the nation’s green push, and the current prime minister Fumio Kishida is working to push the development of safer nuclear reactors to bolster their transition.
“While maintaining a 20% to 22% target for nuclear energy as part of its energy mix for 2030, Japan’s government had previously insisted it was not considering building new plants or replacing aged reactors, apparently to avoid stoking criticism from a wary public. Kishida’s recent comment represents a sharp change from that stance,” says The Washington Post.
Backing up a bit
The announcement comes as America and European countries are pushing for alternatives to fossil fuels in the immediate future. As we previously reported, nuclear power offers one of the most promising net-zero alternatives for clean energy and many Western governments are extending the lives of their aging nuclear reactors to meet demands.
President Joe Biden set aside $30 billion in tax credits to bolster existing facilities for the next decade during the transition to renewable energy, as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“While costs of wind, solar, and battery storage are coming down and will dominate the future market, existing technology will remain important for the zero-emissions goal if we want to respond to the climate crisis in a timely manner,” says The Washington Post.