Now that Japan has had all of its nuclear power plants shutdown for just over a month, government officials are saying that planned reductions in emissions will need to be scaled back. In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, all of Japan’s reactors were ordered to go into suspension to undergo safety upgrades and maintenance checks. With the last nuclear plant offline as of May 5th, Japan is now relying primarily on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas.
In the first four months of 2012, Japan’s use of fossil fuels has increased by 40% over the same period in 2011. In addition, Japan is already the world’s largest buyer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). As a result, the country’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising, and now the government has had to scrap plans that by the year 2020, emissions would have been reduced to 25% less than they were in 1990. The Environmental Ministry has stated that without the use of nuclear power, the best they can hope for is to get emissions down to within 2% to 11% of 1990 levels by the year 2020.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and the central government have been repeatedly pushing for a restart of a nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, part of the western Kansai region. They have been basing the need for restart on the prediction of a 15% shortage of electricity in the Kansai region this summer. The government seems to have gotten the approval, or at least convinced, those that were standing in opposition of the restart, however there remains a very vocal part of the public that protests any notion of nuclear restart, and feels that now is the time to move towards alternate sources of energy.