Hitachi Ltd. and the U.K. government started official talks last month on building new reactors in Wales, with a goal of firing them up in the first half of the 2020s.
The outlook for the ¥3 trillion project is unclear, with both sides facing a string of challenges in the talks going forward.
For Tokyo, the plan is one of its few remaining major overseas projects on the horizon, with other nuclear power generation plans discontinued or facing cancellation.
The government’s bet on nuclear power plants as a pillar of infrastructure exports comes as the likes of Germany, Italy, Taiwan and South Korea are pulling out of atomic power generation.
Critics argue that a surge in safety costs and accident worries caused by the 2011 Fukushima disaster, in addition to the lack of viable disposal solutions for radioactive waste, mean there is no justification for keeping faith in nuclear energy. Compounding the sector’s decline is the rapidly dropping cost of tapping such renewable energy sources as wind and solar power.
Still, some emerging economies look like they will need new nuclear power plants, and Japanese builders see few chances to construct new ones anytime soon in Japan.
“The Japanese government has been pushing hard for exports of nuclear power plants but it’s clear that it’s not going well,” said Tadahiro Katsuta, a professor at Meiji University. “The government will spare no effort in giving momentum to the exports.”