Japan turns to nuclear power to meet emissions targets

Around 40 per cent of nation's electricity to be generated from nuclear reactors by 2020, as government calls for increase in nuclear reactor utilisation rates.

The Japanese government has said it will need to generate about 40 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power by 2020 if it is to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

According to a new report from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan's power sector saw carbon dioxide emissions rise by 14.3 per cent to 417m tonnes in the year to March 2008.

The large rise in emissions was attributed in large part to the 22-month shutdown of Tokyo Electric's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world's largest nuclear plant by power output. An offshore earthquake in July 2007 forced the closure of the station for inspection and upgrades. It is now still operating well short of full capacity after one of its seven reactors was restarted last month.

Japan's 55 nuclear plants typically generate about one-third of the nation's energy, but the closure forced the proportion of emnergy coming from low carbon nuclear plants down to nearer a quarter.

The trade ministry said the closure highlighted the fact that the country's nuclear plant utilisation rate would needed to be boosted to at least 80 per cent, up from the 60 per cent rate for the year to March 2009, if it is to meet ambitious emission reduction targets.

Japan is the fifth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases globally. It recently set a target to reduce emissions by 15 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020, and in July 2008 the government announced plans to generate at least half of its power from "zero-emission" energy sources, such as nuclear, solar, wind and hydropower facilities, by 2020, up from about 40 per cent in 2006.

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