The Japan Atomic Energy Commission may boot nuclear industry stakeholders off a panel debating the country’s future atomic energy policy, according to the commission’s chairman.
Those with ties to the sector may only be allowed to participate at future panel meetings as observers, Chairman Shunsuke Kondo told reporters after the panel convened Tuesday. The panel has 27 members at present, comprising both independent experts and those with potentially vested interests in the nuclear sector.
The members who could be forced out include the chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, a lobby group representing the 10 regional utilities.
The development comes amid mounting public criticism of the way authorities are hammering out a new nuclear policy. A subcommittee of the commission was recently found to have held a series of study meetings attended only by nuclear power proponents, who received a draft report on Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy before any public discussions had taken place on the issue.
At Tuesday’s panel meeting, many members criticized the presence of nuclear industry stakeholders, and Kondo even suggested it may suspend discussions until the matter is resolved.
Kondo believes the process of deciding a post-Fukushima nuclear policy should not be concluded until the government determines its overall energy strategy, including a target ratio for Japan’s dependence on atomic power, the sources said.
Putting discussions on hold may delay the formulation of a new nuclear policy by summer, as currently scheduled.
30% output level urged
The head of the All Japan Council of Local Governments with Atomic Power Stations has called on the government to set the nation’s nuclear power ratio at 30 percent, higher than currently envisioned targets.
“Nuclear power is a prime electricity source for the nation and a 30 percent ration (of total electricity generated) is necessary,” Kazuharu Kawase, also mayor of Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture, told reporters Tuesday.
Tsuruga hosts a nuclear plant operated Japan Atomic Power Co. that has been idled amid the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Kawase’s remarks come after a government panel agreed Monday on potential options for the ratio of nuclear power by 2030 — zero, 15 percent, or 20 to 25 percent. In fiscal 2010, atomic energy covered 26 percent of the nation’s electricity needs.
“Japan cannot continue without (nuclear power generating) around 30 percent” of its total energy supply, Kawase said, adding he believes the planned construction of two more reactors at the Tsuruga plant is necessary.
Ishihara: No referendum
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara expressed opposition Tuesday to a civic group’s request for the metropolitan government to set up an ordinance for holding a referendum on whether to continue nuclear power generation.
In his written answer submitted to a meeting of the metropolitan assembly’s steering committee, Ishihara said a decision on whether to scrap nuclear power should be made by the central government through calm discussions.
In the petition, the civic group, Let’s Decide Together/Citizen-Initiated National Referendum on Nuclear Power, proposed that a referendum be held among Tokyo citizens within 90 days after a relevant ordinance is put into force to ask them if Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s atomic plants should be scrapped.
The metropolitan assembly is slated to hold deliberations on the petition at its session opening on June 5.
In voicing his opposition to the petition, Ishihara said issues related to energy are crucial for the nation’s development and it is thus desirable for the central government to make a decision. He also said nuclear plants have a sizable impact on economic activities and employment in their host communities.