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Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following Japan’s pivot back to nuclear power , U.S. airstrikes in Syria, and Ethiopia’s broken cease-fire .
Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following Japan’s pivot back to nuclear power, U.S. airstrikes in Syria, and Ethiopia’s broken cease-fire.
If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.
Japan Pivots Back to Nuclear Power
Japan is pivoting back to nuclear power in order to cope with surging energy prices, more than a decade after the Fukushima nuclear disaster pushed Tokyo to shutter reactors and halt new development.
As the global energy crisis deepens, Japan will restart idle plants and potentially increase some reactors’ life spans and build next-generation reactors, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Wednesday. Japanese officials have been directed to develop policy measures by the end of the year, he added.
“They’re looking at their own energy security, and bringing back more nuclear generation is one way to do that,” said Alex Munton, an expert on global gas markets at Rapidan Energy Group, a consultancy. But, he added, such a decision is “hugely politically contentious.”
Kishida’s announcement signifies a major energy policy shift in Japan, where nuclear power has been a fraught issue since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The country’s challenges also offer a window into how Europe’s energy crisis is sending shock waves across the world and transforming the global energy landscape.
At the time of Fukushima, nuclear power accounted for roughly one-third of Japan’s electricity sources. But after the 2011 meltdown, which was sparked by an earthquake and tsunami and resulted in the worst disaster since Chernobyl, Japan closed the majority of its reactors and stopped building new ones, essentially shunning nuclear power—until now.
The country’s precarious energy position, which has been worsened by the war in Ukraine, has forced Tokyo to reevaluate its options. “As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global energy situation has drastically changed,” Kishida told reporters.
These strains became especially clear as the threat of blackouts loomed this summer, prompting Tokyo authorities to warn of tight supplies and urge the public to slash electricity use. In June, Kishida said he wanted to restart reactors in order to evade possible winter power shortages, a push that will be catalyzed by his latest decision.
Public sentiment has also broadly shifted in favor of a restart, former International Energy Agency (IEA) chief Nobuo Tanaka said earlier in August. Support for nuclear power now exceeds 60 percent, he said, its highest level since Fukushima.
Fatih Birol, the current IEA chief, expressed his support for the move, saying that he was “very encouraged” by the announcement. “This approach is in line with [the] IEA’s recent analysis,” he tweeted.
What We’re Following Today
U.S. airstrikes in Syria. The U.S. military has carried out airstrikes in Syria that target groups connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to U.S. Central Command. The airstrikes were reprisals for an attack on U.S. troops earlier in August, U.S. officials said.
Ethiopia’s broken cease-fire. A five-month-long cease-fire between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front was broken on Wednesday, after fighting flared and both sides traded blame over who attacked first. The cease-fire had enabled the entry of aid and other crucial supplies into Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where aid groups have warned of dire humanitarian conditions.
Keep an Eye On
Ukraine’s Independence Day attack. Twenty-two people were killed and dozens more injured after a Russian missile struck a Ukrainian train station on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported. The deadly strike, which came on Ukraine’s Independence Day, marked six months of Russia’s brutal invasion.
Vietnam’s LGBTQ+ policy. In a significant policy shift—and enormous triumph for LGBTQ+ communities—the Vietnamese government has said that being LGBTQ+ is “not an illness” and therefore does not need to be “cured.” Doctors should not “interfere nor force treatment,” the Ministry of Health said.
Odds and Ends
Chinese officials appear to have given Minions: The Rise of Gru—the recently released children’s hit movie about an endearing wannabe supervillain wannabe and his tiny potato-shaped friends—a storyline makeover. If you haven’t seen the movie, there are no spoilers here, but just know that Beijing rewrote the ending so that Gru embarks on a considerably less villainous path. Chinese viewers have responded with internet jokes and ridicule.
Correction, Aug. 25, 2022: This article has been updated to correct an error in the title of the new Minions movie.