About once a month, the same group of two dozen Japanese government officials, company executives and professors file into a bland white and beige conference room at the nation’s economy, trade and industry ministry to plot its long-term energy future.
Each has a printed agenda, tablet computer and carton of green tea neatly laid out before them, and politely flips over a rectangular name card to request a turn to speak. Beneath the rigid formality, there’s an increasingly divisive debate: what’s the role of nuclear energy a decade after the Fukushima disaster.
Since Japan pledged in October to become carbon neutral by 2050, many among the advisory group have reached the same conclusion. To meet its global climate commitments, the country will need to restart almost every nuclear reactor it shuttered in the aftermath of the 2011 meltdowns, and then build more.
That’s a daunting technical challenge that’ll require the nation to rapidly accelerate the resumption of idled operations and find a permanent solution to the meddlesome problem of storing radioactive waste.
Equally difficult for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government will be persuading wary regulators and a wide sweep of Japan’s public who harbor deep concerns over safety.
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