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Gov'ts strategy too inconsistent for panel to even debate it

October 26, 2012



Gov't hits deadlock over energy plan as experts cite inconsistencies in nuclear stance



The government's efforts to draw up a new basic energy plan in the wake of the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant have come to a deadlock.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano is eager to complete the plan by the end of this year to make it an important point of contention during the upcoming House of Representatives election. However, an experts' panel on energy has refused to deliberate on the plan, saying the government's policy is so unclear that they cannot discuss it.

The work to draw up the new energy plan remains up in the air as lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are split between those seeking to eliminate nuclear power by the 2030s and those promoting nuclear energy.

The government was to draw up the basic energy plan based on its Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment, which was worked out in September and proposed the shutdown of all nuclear plants in the 2030s.

However, the Fundamental Issues Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy pointed out on Sept. 18 that there were inconsistencies in the strategy. Specifically, the subcommittee recognized the government's intention to approve the operations of nuclear plants already under construction while at the same time seeking to get rid of nuclear power stations by the 2030s as problematic.

Akio Mimura, chairman of the subcommittee, declared that it would not deliberate on the new basic energy plan until the inconsistencies were eliminated. "The government's strategy lacks consistency. Its goal is vague," he said. Since then, the panel has not held a meeting.

The Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment is equivocal as it appeals to both pro- and anti-nuclear power legislators within the ruling party.

Edano had emphasized that the strategy is consistent, but has failed to provide a convincing explanation to Mimura.

Still, Edano, who wants to make the zero nuclear plant policy a major campaign issue at the next general election, has told his aides that he wants to make sure that the basic energy plan will be completed within this year.

"I'd like you to coordinate views among party members on the basic plan and pressure the panel to open deliberations," he recently told DPJ policymakers, but the policymakers did not take any action.

A DPJ legislator said he believes DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Goshi Hosono blocked the move.

"Hosono is skeptical of eliminating all nuclear plants because it could have negative impacts on the economy. So he apparently didn't negotiate with panel members to open deliberations," the legislator said.

Edano told a news conference on Oct. 19 that he will convene the subcommittee in the near future to deliberate on the basic plan. However, even if such a meeting is held, there is no prospect that discussions on the details of the plan will progress.

One of the panel members reacted coolly to the move.

"The party appears to be trying to incorporate a 'zero nuclear plant policy' into the basic plan as a kind of catch phrase for its election campaign. But it's impossible to work out the details of something that's unclear," the member said.

Speculation is spreading within the government that Mimura intends to boycott any panel meeting until the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party regains control of the government following the next lower house election and the government resumes its pro-nuclear power policy. (By Susumu Maruyama and Yoshinori Ogura, Tokyo Business News Department)



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