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Energy report skips nuclear phase-out

Kyodo

Japan’s annual energy report released Friday barely refers to the fact that the previous government upheld a goal to phase out nuclear power in the 2030s, reflecting the pro-nuclear stance of the current government.

The latest Energy White Paper covers a period between last August and around March, during which the previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan compiled a new energy strategy in light of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The most controversial part in the strategy was a pledge to “devote all policy resources to enable zero nuclear power plant operation in the 2030s,” but the white paper does not use the phrase in explaining the strategy.

“The three pillars (of the strategy) were the achievement of a society that does not rely on nuclear power at the earliest possible date, the realization of green energy revolution and a stable supply of energy,” the report says.

The strategy came under rethink after the Liberal Democratic Party, which supports the use of nuclear power despite the Fukushima crisis, replaced the DPJ as the ruling party following the December general election.

An official in charge of the white paper denied that the government intentionally dropped the key phrase, insisting that the report records what was written in the strategy “as is.”

The zero-nuclear goal shows up in the white paper once, but only as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s quoted statement, which criticizes the energy strategy for stirring concerns and distrust among the local governments hosting nuclear plants and businesses.

The goal, if maintained, would have marked a massive shift in Japan’s decades-long promotion of nuclear power. Before the Fukushima disaster, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, nuclear power supplied about 30 percent of Japan’s total electricity.

The white paper also touches on a poll conducted by the previous government seeking to gauge public opinion on energy policy, but does not mention that the government at that time concluded that at least a majority of the people are hoping for a society that does not rely on nuclear power.

Of the 50 commercial reactors, only two, in western Japan, are online.