- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Shinzo Abe, who took over as prime minister last month, has given a clear indication that the government is looking to build new nuclear power plants, despite widespread public reservations in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.
“The new nuclear power plants we will build will be completely different from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which caused the accident, and those that were built 40 years ago,” Mr Abe said in a television appearance this week.
“We are likely to build new nuclear power plants on winning the public’s understanding,” he said.
Mr Abe’s comments came after Toshimitsu Motegi, his economy, trade and industry minister, said he would re-evaluate the previous administration’s ban on building new nuclear reactors.
Across the Japan Sea, minds seem to be changing as well. The AP reports that a Chinese utility company has begun construction on a new nuclear plant in the coastal city of Rongcheng — the first new plant since China lifted a post-Fukushima moratorium. With countries like Turkey, India, South Korea, and South Africa all planning new power plant projects, it’s become pretty clear that the Fukushima disaster hasn’t slowed down the global expansion of nuclear power.
One country still worth watching is Germany, which had perhaps the most dramatic reaction to Fukushima of any country other than Japan, promising an "energy revolution" to completely phase out nuclear power by 2022. Last week, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who is German, told a newspaper that there would "still be nuclear power on the German network in 40 years." Environment Minister Peter Altmaier quickly responded that "I cannot see any plausible political line-up that would enable a revival of nuclear power in Germany."
But it’s hard to see future governments sticking with the plan if Germany increasingly finds itself as an energy outlier while other countries get over their post-Fukushima jitters.