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Japan allows nuclear reactors to expand operations beyond 60 years

The Japanese parliament has enacted a law to allow nuclear reactors in Japan to operate beyond their current limit of 60 years, in order to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensure a sufficient energy supply for the country. The newly approved bill will nuclear reactors to operate after the 60-year limit if the demand is approved by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and is subject to regular inspections by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

Under the new rules, reactors may be granted additional operating years in effect as their offline periods will not be counted against their total service time, provided the periods are due to reasons beyond a utility's control, such as safety reviews needed for a restart and court-ordered suspensions. In addition, under the amended regulation, the NRA will check the condition of reactors and related facilities at least every 10 years, after 30 years of operating, to ensure the safety of older facilities.

In February 2023, the Japanese Government approved a new green transformation policy that paves the way for the construction of new advanced nuclear reactors in the country. Japan’s reliance on nuclear power was reduced following the Fukushima accident, dropping from 25% of the power mix in 2010 to 1% in 2015, and back to 6.7% in 2021. Before the accident, there were 54 reactors spread over 17 power plants (49 GW in 2010 against 33 GW in 2021).

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