Japan Backtracks on Nuclear Power Phase Out Deadline

So much for willpower: Earth Island Journal reports that the planned nuclear power phase out in Japan, which TreeHugger reported on last week and would have seen Japan permanently nuclear-free by the 2030s, is essentially no more—at least the deadline part of it.

Under pressure from the national business lobby, and against the general sentiment of the people (if anti-nuclear protests and the 90% of the public opposed to nuclear are anything to go by...), the deadline of nuclear power plants being shuttered by 2030 and eliminated by 2040 has been removed from cabinet recommendations.

Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano:

Whether we can become nuclear-free by the end of the 2030s is not something to be achieved only with a decision by policymakers. It also depends on the will of electricity users, technological innovation and the environment for energy internationally in the next decade or two.

Which is of course entirely true. But it's also meaningfully false. Yes, all those other components have to fall into line—and necessarily may call for plan revision at some point—but without willpower in leadership to set strong targets it becomes less likely the other components will come together.

After all, we didn't get to the moon by letting the market decide when the time was right for space exploration. We decided we wanted to go to the moon and found a way to make it happen. Of course we can't just decommission every nuclear power plant today, or flip a switch and not use coal, or natural gas, or oil. Of course we can't run our grid entirely on renewable energy without some serious innovation in storage. But unless we exert the willpower to say that by x date we won't be using polluting energy sources, we won't ever get there.

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