Abe looks to retain nuclear power in nation’s basic energy policy

JIJI

The Liberal Democratic Party-led government will clarify its medium- to long-term policy for keeping nuclear energy in the nation’s energy mix as long as its safety is secured, sources said.

By the end of the year, the government plans to revise the basic energy policy drawn up in 2010 when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, to reflect lessons learned from the triple meltdown at the poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which was wrecked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

A subcommittee of the industry ministry’s advisory committee for natural resources and energy will start working in earnest on the revision next month. At a meeting Wednesday, the members stated their opinions about nuclear power, the sources said.

Kyoto University professor Hajimu Yamana said that nuclear power is important from the viewpoint of energy security. Keigo Akimoto of the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth argued nuclear power is an affordable source of electricity and useful for combating global warming.

Before the LDP returned topower last December and its leader, Shinzo Abe, became prime minister, many members of the committee under the predecessor government, led by the DPJ, had called for the country’s dependence on nuclear power to be phased out.

After Abe and the LDP took over, subcommittee members were reshuffled and there have been no demands from new members for an immediate end to nuclear power.

The existing basic energy policy sees nuclear power as a key source of electricity and has a goal of increasing the proportion of energies that do not emit carbon dioxide, including atomic and hydraulic power, to some 70 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

In the forthcoming revision, the government has no plans to include a numerical target for a desirable level of reliance on nuclear power as it is not known how many reactors can be brought back online under new safety standards introduced in July, the sources said.

While the government is seeking to restart reactors once their safety has been confirmed, Abe has said the government will reduce dependence on nuclear power as much as possible.

At the subcommittee meeting, Kikuko Tatsumi of the Nippon Association of Consumer Specialists said the government should make it clear how much and by what means it aims to reduce dependence on nuclear power.