Takashi Kiga

I would like to extend New Year's greetings to the readers, reviewers, and editors of the ASME Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science (NERS) as Chair of the Power and Energy Systems Division (PESD) of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME).

With extreme weather events occurring on a global scale and an increase in large-scale natural disasters, addressing the issue of climate change is now a common challenge for humanity. While an increasing number of countries and regions have announced carbon neutral targets and the momentum for global decarbonization is growing, Japan has also made an international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by 2030 and to achieve net-zero by 2050, and has expressed a strong national determination to address climate change issues. Nevertheless, the abnormal weather has not stopped, and in July last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres held a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, declared that July was set to be the hottest month on record, and stated “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.” And he urged governments to take strong measures immediately.

Amidst this growing momentum for decarbonization, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022 changed the global energy situation. In Japan, too, we are facing a tense situation, with a tightening of electricity supply and demand and a sharp rise in energy prices. Needless to say, ensuring a stable energy supply is fundamental to people's lives and business activities, and the fragility of Japan's energy supply system and energy security issues have been recognized anew.

Against this backdrop, the Basic Policy for the Realization of GX (Green Transformation) was formulated and approved by the Cabinet in February 2023 to simultaneously realize the three goals of decarbonization, stable energy supply and economic growth through GX, which aims to shift the industrial and social structures that have been fossil energy-centered since the Industrial Revolution to clean energy-centered ones. Furthermore, new policies were concretized by the passage of the “GX Promotion ACT” and the “GX Decarbonization Electricity Act.” They are to promote decarbonization initiatives toward GX, such as switching to decarbonized power sources like renewable energy and nuclear power to ensure stable supply of energy, and to realize and implement the Pro-Growth Carbon Pricing Concept, which includes bold advance investment support, incentives for GX investment, and new financial instruments to achieve GX.

In this context, with regard to nuclear power, it is a basic premise that the reflection and lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP will never be forgotten, even for a moment, and that safety will be given priority over any other circumstances, and that reactors that have passed the safety review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and have the local understanding will be put back into operation. In addition, in order to utilize existing nuclear power plants to the greatest extent possible, the NRA has set a limit of “40 years of operation and 20 years for which extensions are allowed,” as in the current system, and has decided to allow additional extensions only for a certain period of shutdown, provided that a strict safety review is carried out by the NRA. And, on the basic premise of securing the understanding of the local community, the project will be concretized to cover rebuilding to next-generation innovative reactors on the sites of nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned, while also taking into account the progress of back-end issues such as the completion of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. In addition, efforts shall be made to promote research and development through international cooperation with like-minded countries, to build a robust supply chain, and to ensure nuclear safety and nuclear security.

In this regard, the relationship with ASME is crucial. Fortunately, we are now free from the COVID-19 pandemic and have more opportunities for face to face discussions at international conferences. The International Conference on Nuclear Engineering (ICONE), organized annually in collaboration with the ASME Nuclear Engineering Division (NED) and the Chinese Nuclear Society (CNS), was held online for ICONE 29 in 2022, but ICONE 30 in 2023 was held in person in Kyoto, Japan at the same time as the International Conference on Power Engineering (ICOPE-2023) and had joint sessions with ICOPE. This year, ICONE 31 will be held in person in Prague, Czech Republic, on 18–22 August, and we hope that students and young researchers will join us for active discussions.

Last but not least, I hope that the ASME Journal of NERS will contribute to the further development of nuclear engineering as the leading journal of nuclear engineering in the world. The JSME PESD, in cooperation with the ASME NED, will continue to support the sustainable development of the fields of nuclear engineering and radiation science. I also look forward to nuclear power playing a major role as a three-way player in affordability, security, and sustainability.