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Parties very vague on energy future of Japan

July 3, 2016

Parties vague on atomic power pledges in run-up to Upper House election



The election pledges issued by the top political parties show they are divided and uninformed about how fast Japan should reduce its dependence on atomic power and what its energy goals for 2030 should be.

As the pivotal July 10 Upper House election approaches, the parties clearly differ over the government’s fiscal 2030 energy mix, which states that Japan will be procuring 20 to 22 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors by that time.

Five years after the Fukushima disaster shattered Japan’s nuclear safety myth, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is promoting nuclear power as a stable, low-cost energy source, and says it intends to slowly reduce Japan’s atomic dependency.

Komeito, its coalition ally, pledges to create a society that does not rely on nuclear power. Although it is opposed to building new reactors, it won’t oppose the restarting of those idled in the wake of the triple core meltdown in Fukushima. Komeito also advocates a very gradual move away from nuclear energy.

The ruling coalition parties’ positions reflect the government’s goal: to lower Japan’s dependency on atomic power around 6 points from 28.6 percent — the level it was at before the Fukushima disaster hobbled the industry in March 2011.

Both aim to bring new and old reactors online if they pass the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screenings, because more than 30 will be needed to achieve the government’s targeted energy mix.

In the opposition camp, the Democratic Party has vowed to rid Japan of nuclear reactors by the 2030s. While the top opposition party will accept reactor restarts, its policy is to strictly maintain the 40-year basic operating limit on reactors. The DP believes its goal will be achievable if no new reactors are built.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party flatly oppose restarting any nuclear reactors.

Another, Osaka Ishin no Kai, says reactors should not be restarted unless local agreements are enshrined in law as a precondition.

All of the major parties, however, refuse to elaborate on how they will ensure the expansion of alternative energy sources, which are being choked off by Japan’s old and divided power grid.

In line with the government’s target, the LDP and Komeito have promised to almost double the proportion of renewable energy to 22 to 24 percent by fiscal 2030. The DP’s goal is 30 percent and the JCP’s goal is 40 percent.

Since no party has provided hard details on how to further the use of renewable energy and what that will cost, voters need to watch whether the parties will offer any convincing explanations about their pledges during the campaign for the Upper House election.

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