Japan Intends To Phase Out Nuclear Power By 2040

This may not happen, since the country may change political leadership, but it's certainly a milestone: TOKYO — Japan said Friday that it would seek to phase out nuclear power by 2040 — a historic shift for a country that has long staked

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This may not happen, since the country may change political leadership, but it's certainly a milestone:

TOKYO — Japan said Friday that it would seek to phase out nuclear power by 2040 — a historic shift for a country that has long staked its future on such energy, but one that falls far short of the decisive steps the government had promised in the wake of the world’s second-largest nuclear plant disaster last year.

Although the long-awaited energy policy was named the “Revolutionary Energy and Environment Strategy” by its authors, it extended the expected transition away from nuclear power by at least a decade and includes caveats that appear to allow some plants to operate for decades past even the new deadline.

The government had been considering several options: whether to close all the plants over time or to maintain enough reactors to provide a smaller but still substantial percentage of the country’s electricity needs. Before the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan depended on its reactors for about 30 percent of its electricity and had planned to raise that share to more than 50 percent by 2030.

The announcement comes after months of increasing anxiety and intense political pressure from those on both sides of the debate who believe Japan’s future is at stake. Many political and business leaders argue that shutting nuclear plants would doom the resource-poor country to high energy costs and a deeper economic malaise. But many Japanese, while acknowledging the economic upheaval it could cause, have expressed hope that the country will phase out nuclear energy within two decades and a nascent, but increasingly vocal antinuclear movement has pressed for even faster action.

While important for setting a tone, the announced strategy is subject to vast change, not only because of the long lead time, but also because the unpopular prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, and his governing Democratic Party are likely to lose the next national election, which could be called within the next several months.

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