Energy draft misses the point

The nuclear accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku-Pacific region have given Japan second thoughts on the wisdom of pushing nuclear power generation. In view of the havoc wreaked by the nuclear plant crisis, Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced in late May in France a new policy goal of generating 20 percent of Japan’s electricity from renewable sources by the early 2020s.

However, a draft of a new energy policy written by the government’s national strategy bureau still lists nuclear power as a key part of Japan’s energy strategy. It fails to mention how the nation should decrease its reliance on nuclear power or even whether the need to reduce this dependency is an issue.

The authors of the draft seem to ignore the fact that the Fukushima crisis has shown the vulnerability of nuclear power plants built in earthquake-prone Japan and that the technology to safely dispose of high-radiation spent nuclear fuel has not yet been developed.

The authors appear to have ignored the call by Mr. Kan for Japan to review its energy policy from scratch. It is not far-fetched to suspect that the nuclear power establishment is desperately maneuvering to torpedo attempts to raise the percentage of power that Japan generates from renewable sources, thus reducing its reliance on power generated from nuclear reactors. Although it’s an extremely difficult path, the government should take the initiative and lead Japan in the direction of renewable energy.

In June 2010, the government adopted an energy policy plan that called for increasing the weight of nuclear power to 50 percent of Japan’s power generation by 2030. At the time, there were no informed public discussions. The draft of this latest energy policy also was made without public discussions.

The government should make public the names of the authors of the draft and encourage wide public discussions.

The draft failed to mention breaking the power companies’ regional monopoly over power generation facilities as well as distribution networks. Tearing down these monopolies is a prerequisite for the entry of small-scale entities that develop power from renewable sources for the energy market.

It is clear that the government should start anew by scrapping the draft.