8 Juillet 2013
July 8, 2013
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signaled his readiness to restart idled nuclear power reactors during a TV appearance on July 7 but leaders of other parties were cautious about the plan in the run-up to the House of Councillors election on July 21.
Abe, also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said his government is responsible for providing affordable and stable energy, referring to the implementation from July 8 of new nuclear standards by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
"We will not restart nuclear reactors unless they meet the (new) standards. Safety comes first," Abe said during a special election program on public broadcaster NHK. But he also said Japan is running a deficit of 3 trillion yen because it depends on other countries for most energy sources, suggesting his government will rush to restart idled nuclear reactors.
The premier also said Japan possesses the most advanced nuclear power technology and is receiving inquiries from other countries about importing the technology. He added that Japan should share its high level of nuclear power safety with other countries.
Abe is in a rush to restart nuclear reactors because atomic power will affect his "Abenomics" economic policy mix. The Japanese business community is worried about a spike in electricity bills due to the suspension of operations at most nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Abe's government believes it has to bring back idled nuclear reactors online to produce results from its growth strategy.
But other parties are cautious because Japanese voters are extremely concerned about restarting nuclear reactors.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, the LDP's coalition partner, said on the same NHK program that the government has to carefully make a judgment on restarting nuclear reactors after checking if it can win understanding from the public and municipalities hosting nuclear power plants.
Winning public understanding about building new nuclear power plants is not feasible, Yamaguchi said, adding Japan will be devoid of nuclear reactors according to regulations for decommissioning them after 40 years, in sharp contrast to Abe's remarks that his government would reduce its dependence on nuclear power.
Opposition parties are focusing their criticism against the LDP on its nuclear power policy.
Banri Kaieda, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), said Japan can only make a full-fledged commitment to the development of natural energy by setting a zero-nuclear power objective. Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe emphasized that nuclear power is a costly and risky source of electricity. Tadashi Hirono, deputy chief of the People's Life Party, said his party would strive to end nuclear generation in 10 years.
Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), blasted the new nuclear standards as a plot to restart nuclear reactors and said they are out of the question. Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), also criticized the new standards, saying measures against earthquakes are insufficient. Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party and Osaka mayor, said nuclear safety regulations will get tougher and nuclear reactors will die out.
In a stump speech in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, Kuniko Tanioka, leader of Green Wind, criticized the Abe government for trying to restart nuclear reactors and abandoning victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.