NE Japan Earthquake Day 8: Support for Changing Nuclear Energy Policy Grows Within the Two Major Political Parties

NE Japan Earthquake Day 8: Support for Changing Nuclear Energy Policy Grows Within the Two Major Political Parties
Yomiuri Shimbun: 原子力政策の見直し論、民主・自民両党で強まる

In response to the Tokyo Power Fukushima I Reactor Accident, support is building in the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan for revision of the country’s nuclear energy policy.

Unease about nuclear power is rising among the populace, but reliably replacing it would be a headache of its own.

DPJ Party President Tanigaki said at a press conference on the 17th that “it’s becoming difficult to promote nuclear energy. We need to quickly understand what happened in the accident and come up with a fresh response to it.” At a press conference on the 18th, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said, “this isn’t the time to advance a definitive policy, but [Mr. Tanigaki’s] announcement was extremely appropriate.”

The Fukushima accident has had a big influence on areas of the country which depend on nuclear energy. In Shizuoka, the Chubu Electric Power Company is facing increased resistance to its plans to utilize the mixed oxide Uran Plutonium in the Hamaoka Nuclear Reactor in Omaezaki City. The DPJ said, “at a time when we are worried about controlling the leaking of radiation, it’s difficult to say we should advance nuclear energy.”

The Democratic Party of Japan’s 2003 manifest labeled nuclear power “a transitional energy solution” and called for its replacement with solar and wind energy. But after further discussion, the party decided sources like solar power were not enough to meet energy demands, and the 2009 manifest instead called for “a firm grasp of the use of nuclear energy.”

In June 2010, the Kan Government’s “New Growth Strategy” called exporting nuclear energy a “national strategic project” and advanced negotiations with foreign countries. In October, Vietnam announced it would accept an order. The Vietnamese government has announced it will not change its policy in response to the Fukushima disaster, and Japan is still in negotiations with Turkey. The government is stressing that “the new model plants are much safer than the Fukushima reactors.”

Yet the accident inside a country with such a stellar reputation has strengthened opposition to nuclear energy, and there is also the possibility of an about-face in Japan.

There has not been a unified response from the Liberal Democratic Party to Mr. Tanigaki’s jab at nuclear power; Government Oversight Committee Chair Ishibashigeru said, “first, we need to cool the reactors and get a handle on the radiation leak, and then we can discuss the energy policy.” The New Komeito Party [an LDP ally] said, “We have not heard of an about-face from the LDP.”

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