Japan has adopted a new energy policy promoting nuclear and renewables as sources of clean energy to achieve carbon neutrality targets for 2050.

The plan, adopted in July received government approval on 22 October. The 128-page plan, compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), calls for drastically increasing use of renewable energy to cut fossil fuel consumption over the next decade. It also says reactor restarts are key to meeting emissions targets.

The plan says Japan should set ambitious targets for hydrogen and ammonia energy, carbon recycling and nuclear energy and notes that offshore wind and the use of rechargeable batteries have potential for growth. “We will mobilise all options” to achieve the emissions target, the plan said, adding that the “supply of stable and low-cost energy is a prerequisite.”

The changes in the plan are meant to achieve the carbon emissions reduction target announced in April by former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. His successor, Fumio Kishida, who supports nuclear plant restarts, assumed his post earlier in October.

Japan has pledged to reduce its emissions by 46% from 2013 levels, up from an earlier target of 26% and has a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Japan says it aims for a reduction of up to 50% to be in line with the European Union's commitment.  

The energy plan says renewables should account for 36-38% of the power supply in 2030. The aim is for 14-16% to come from solar, 5% from wind, 1% from geothermal, 11% from hydropower and 5% from biomass.

The target for fossil fuel use was slashed to 41% in 2030 from 56%. The plan says Japan will reduce dependence on fossil fuel without setting a timeline. It noted that Japan will abide by a Group of Seven pledge earlier this year to stop providing overseas assistance for coal-fired generation projects that lack emissions reduction measures.

The plan keeps the target for nuclear power unchanged at 20-22%. Japan says it aims to reduce its reliance on nuclear power as much as possible but nuclear will remain an important energy source. Economy and industry minister Koichi Hagiuda has said “drastic energy conservation, maximum promotion of renewables and safe restarts of nuclear reactors” are key.

Japan will continue nuclear fuel reprocessing cycle despite the closure of its Monju plutonium-burning fast neutron reactor and international concerns over safeguards for its plutonium stockpile.

A government taskforce will “accelerate” restarts of reactors, which have been slowed by the more stringent safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima accident. Only ten reactors have restarted in the past decade, while 24 of the country's 54 operable reactors have been assigned for decommissioning. 

The plan does not mention the possibility of new reactors, despite such calls from some industry officials and pro-nuclear lawmakers. Japan is meanwhile pursuing research and development of small modular reactors.