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Democratic Party delays decision on changing target date for abolishing nuclear power

JIJI, Kyodo

The Democratic Party is split on whether to move up its target for ending the nation’s reliance on nuclear energy by a few years to 2030.

The opposition party’s leadership is facing resistance from its members and a key supporter, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which includes an electric power industry union.

The DP on Thursday began deliberations on the matter at a meeting of its energy and environment panel that brought together some 70 members.

More than 20 people made remarks, with about half expressing opposition to the idea, including former education minister Yoshiaki Takaki.

Until now, the DP had been aiming to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy within the decade after 2030. It had also accepted that some nuclear plants could be restarted under certain conditions.

The party is now leaning toward moving up the target date as it hopes to underscore its differences with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and strengthen cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.

A source close to DP President Renho said it has become difficult to highlight positions different from the LDP because the Abe administration has copied some of its policies, such as “equal pay for equal work” and a state-backed scholarship program.

Thus, to distinguish itself from the LDP, the leadership has judged it necessary to change its position on when to abolish nuclear energy. Abe said nuclear is an “important base-load power source” even after the 2011 triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The Abe administration, however, also claims it would like to reduce the nation’s dependence on nuclear as much as possible.

But in the face of resistance, the DP is expected to delay the decision until it sets its platform for the next House of Representatives election. At a news conference Thursday, Renho acknowledged there would be a delay.

“We maintain the belief that we want to show our view at the party convention” on March 12, she said.

Also on Thursday, Renho met with Rengo President Rikio Kozu to discuss the key nuclear policy target, where she failed to win his support.

Rengo also postponed a planned regular meeting with DP executives that was slated for Friday.

On Friday, she met with officials of the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions of Japan, also a Rengo member, where she sought its cooperation but declined to comment on whether she succeeded.