Japan proposes a plan to reduce dependence on Russian energy

Japan’s prime minister said it will use nuclear reactors to reduce its dependence and other countries’ dependence on Russian energy.

“We will deploy nuclear reactors with safety guarantees to help reduce the world’s dependence on Russian energy,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in London today during a visit to Japan. “Just restarting an existing nuclear reactor would have the same effect as delivering one million tons of new LNG (liquefied natural gas) to the world market every year.”

Japan has become more dependent on Russian gas since shutting down its nuclear reactors after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, but faces July elections and energy prices over the country’s future energy policy.

“Japan will address the vulnerability of energy self-sufficiency by expanding energy purchasing, promoting renewable energy and using nuclear power to diversify power generation sources,” the Japanese prime minister added.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks May 5 in the financial district of the City of London, England.  Photo: Kyodo News.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks May 5 in the financial district of the City of London, England. Picture: Kyodo News.

More than a decade after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima disaster, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, nuclear energy remains a problem in Japan, where few of 30 factories are operational.

However, the majority of the public and business are said to want the government to restart nuclear reactors to address the energy security issue. The current Ukraine crisis and higher energy prices have given Mr. Kishida’s government additional impetus to change its mind.

Speaking in London, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 150 trillion yen ($1.16 trillion) in investments would be mobilized over the next decade to reach the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by to be reduced by 46 percent in 2030.

He also outlined a roadmap to 2030 to focus on making the most of “carbon pricing for growth” and promoting long-term projects.

Russian-Japanese relations are strained after the conflict in Ukraine. Japan has joined Western countries in imposing sanctions against Russia over its military campaign in Ukraine, including lifting most-favoured-nation status with Russia, expelling diplomats and stopping imports of Russian coal.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced in March that it had no intention of continuing negotiations for a peace treaty with Japan, accusing Tokyo of “openly showing a lack of goodwill and trying to damage our country’s interests”. Russia and Japan have yet to sign a peace treaty ending World War II due to the dispute over the Kuril Islands/Northern Territories.

Russia has also suspended negotiations on economic cooperation projects with Japan in the Kuril Islands/Northern Territories and ended visa-free travel for Japanese citizens. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the decision was taken due to “unilateral restrictions imposed by Japan on Russia regarding the situation in Ukraine”.

Russia on May 4 announced an indefinite travel ban for 63 Japanese nationals, including Prime Minister Kishida, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, and cabinet members, parliamentarians, politicians, newspapers and experts. Prime Minister Kishida criticized the ban as “completely unacceptable”.

Huyen Le (Corresponding Reuters)