Photo/IllutrationThe No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, was restarted in April. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government is committed to nuclear power accounting for at least one-fifth of the nation’s electricity supply in fiscal 2030, calling it an "important base-load energy source," according to a draft proposal.

For the first time, the government will specify the 20-22 percent ratio in its basic energy plan. The draft will be presented May 16 to an advisory panel with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry.

It says the government will “further intensify efforts to achieve the target” and continue to push for nuclear fuel cycle policy in tandem with the export of nuclear technology.

The basic energy plan sets the government’s mid- and long-term energy policy, and is reviewed roughly every three years.

The government expects to gain Cabinet approval for its latest basic energy plan, the fifth of a series, this summer. The last one, approved by the Cabinet in 2014 and the first after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, did not mention the breakdown of each energy source, although it described nuclear power as an “important base-load energy source.”

Experts say that 30 or so reactors must be brought back online to meet the 20-22 percent target.

The goal is achievable, according to the ministry, if existing reactors are allowed to operate for 60 years, beyond the 40-year lifespan in place under stringent regulations implemented after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

But skeptics say the 20-22 percent target is “unrealistic,” given that only eight reactors have gone online since 2011.

They also say that setting a numerical target could trigger a backlash over energy policy as opinion surveys consistently show that a majority of the public remain opposed to resuming nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

The draft proposal also states that the government will raise the ratio of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to 22-24 percent of overall electricity output in fiscal 2030.

A specific share of renewable energy was not set out in the previous energy basic plan.

Renewable energy will become a “major power source” for the nation, the first such mention in the basic energy plan, and the government will “steadily advance efforts” to overcome hurdles in spreading renewable energy. This will involve limited access to power transmission lines, among other things, according to the draft.

The draft proposal does not refer to the need for building new nuclear reactors.

With regard to the nuclear fuel cycle, the government will accelerate the use of plutonium at thermal nuclear plants by doggedly trying to win over host local governments. The plutonium would be extracted from spent fuel in the recycling of nuclear fuel.

The draft reiterates the Abe administration's existing policy of exporting nuclear technology as part of the nation's growth strategy, despite glitches in achieving that goal in countries targeted for sales.

“(Japan) will make a positive contribution to improving the safety of nuclear power and using it for peaceful uses in the world,” the draft states.

Coal-fired thermal power will remain an “important base-load energy source,” like nuclear energy.

The technology has drawn strong criticism in and out of Japan due to its high emission of greenhouse gases because it burns fossil fuel.

But the government will “promote the introduction of the technology to use coal-fired power highly efficiently both at home and abroad.”

The ratio of the nation’s independent development of petroleum and natural gas will be raised to more than 40 percent in 2030, while the figure for coal will be maintained at 60 percent, according to the draft proposal.

(This article was written by Shinichi Sekine and Rintaro Sakurai.)