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Will Democratic Party distinguish itself from LDP on nukes?

February 17, 2017

Democratic Party delays decision on changing target date for abolishing nuclear power


JIJI, Kyodo

The Democratic Party is split on whether to move up its target for ending the nation’s reliance on nuclear energy by a few years to 2030.

The opposition party’s leadership is facing resistance from its members and a key supporter, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which includes an electric power industry union.

The DP on Thursday began deliberations on the matter at a meeting of its energy and environment panel that brought together some 70 members.

More than 20 people made remarks, with about half expressing opposition to the idea, including former education minister Yoshiaki Takaki.

Until now, the DP had been aiming to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy within the decade after 2030. It had also accepted that some nuclear plants could be restarted under certain conditions.

The party is now leaning toward moving up the target date as it hopes to underscore its differences with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and strengthen cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.

A source close to DP President Renho said it has become difficult to highlight positions different from the LDP because the Abe administration has copied some of its policies, such as “equal pay for equal work” and a state-backed scholarship program.

Thus, to distinguish itself from the LDP, the leadership has judged it necessary to change its position on when to abolish nuclear energy. Abe said nuclear is an “important base-load power source” even after the 2011 triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The Abe administration, however, also claims it would like to reduce the nation’s dependence on nuclear as much as possible.

But in the face of resistance, the DP is expected to delay the decision until it sets its platform for the next House of Representatives election. At a news conference Thursday, Renho acknowledged there would be a delay.

“We maintain the belief that we want to show our view at the party convention” on March 12, she said.

Also on Thursday, Renho met with Rengo President Rikio Kozu to discuss the key nuclear policy target, where she failed to win his support.

Rengo also postponed a planned regular meeting with DP executives that was slated for Friday.

On Friday, she met with officials of the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions of Japan, also a Rengo member, where she sought its cooperation but declined to comment on whether she succeeded.


Democratic Party faces rift over advancing target to rid Japan of nuclear power



The largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) held a meeting of its energy and environment research committee on Feb. 16 to accelerate debate on advancing its target of making Japan a nuclear power-free nation in 2030 instead of sometime in the 2030s.

The DP leadership under President Renho plans to unveil the objective as a centerpiece of a party convention on March 12, but proponents of nuclear energy within the party balked. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), the party's major backer, directly conveyed its complaint about the nuclear power-free target to Renho on Feb. 16.

During the research panel meeting, one lawmaker after another expressed dissatisfaction over moving up the nuclear power-free target year, saying, ''Is it OK for the party's executives by themselves to make a decision on such an important issue? The party could break up.'' Renho and more than 60 DP lawmakers attended the meeting.

Koichiro Gemba, head of the panel, said after the meeting, ''There were many opinions about discussing the issue more fully.'' He added that he was not sure what the party leadership can say about the controversial nuclear policy at the party convention.

The internal rift came to the fore earlier this month when Gemba, acting on the intentions of Renho and other party executives, told a meeting of the energy and environment research committee that the party will spell out the 2030 target year in a draft nuclear power-free bill in light of ongoing energy and electricity-saving efforts. The DP leadership is particular about the target because it wants to re-emphasize its nuclear power-free campaign by advancing an end to nuclear power from its earlier target of sometime in the 2030s, as championed in the party's plank for the 2012 House of Representatives election.

But Gemba's remarks about advancing the target to the year 2030 surprised proponents of nuclear energy and those skeptical about ending Japan's dependence on nuclear power within the party. House of Councillors member Masao Kobayashi, a former member of the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Workers Union of Japan, and others told DP Secretary-General Yoshihiko Noda on Feb. 9, ''If we review (the target) based on a foregone conclusion, it would cause confusion within the party.''

Repercussions have also reverberated through supporting labor unions. Rengo President Rikio Kozu met with DP chief Renho on Feb. 16 and expressed concern, saying, ''DP must not waver over its policy. Simply moving up the goal even without a road map for ending reliance on nuclear power sometime in the 2030s would be a big blow to the DP.'' Rengo postponed Feb. 17's scheduled regular meeting with the party.

But Renho has been in contact with various labor unions to win their understanding of the 2030 target. She told a news conference on Feb. 16 that she still hopes to declare an end to Japan's nuclear power in 2030 at the party convention on March 12, a day after the sixth anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster.


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