Nuclear power champions Japan and France turn away
By Karolin Schaps and Henning Gloystein
LONDON (Reuters) - Two of nuclear power's greatest champions dealt the industry a heavy blow on Friday, with Japan deciding to phase out its plants and France confirming plans to cut its heavy reliance on the technology following concern over the Fukushima disaster.
Japan, which produced more than 10 percent of global nuclear power before it suffered last year's accident at Fukushima, joins Germany, Switzerland and Belgium in deciding to shut down nuclear plants and to spend money on renewable energy instead.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Japan would pull out of nuclear power by the 2030s and triple the share of renewable sources to 30 percent of its energy mix.
In Paris, President Francois Hollande confirmed his campaign pledge to cut the share of nuclear power in France's energy mix to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent. At the same time he urged the European Union to set tough targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and 2040.
"We have an ambitious strategy," Hollande told an environment conference, calling for a 40 percent cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and a 60 percent reduction by 2040 at the EU level, well beyond the 20 percent target set for 2020.
Greenhouse gases are emitted mainly by burning fossil fuels - nuclear power plants are not big contributors.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), which represents the energy interests of the industrialized world, said it understood the Japanese and French moves but warned of their consequences.
"While I understand those decisions and the background, one should understand the challenges in terms of climate change and rising energy costs," Fatih Birol, chief economist at Paris-based IEA said. Continued...