LDP’s vague nuclear energy policy

In their policy agreement, the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito have failed to declare that they will aim to eventually end nuclear power generation in Japan. They have agreed only to gradually decrease Japan’s reliance on it, without indicating the year in which all of Japan’s nuclear power plants should stop operating.

Komeito’s campaign pledge for the Dec. 16 Lower House election had said that the party will endeavor to achieve “zero nuclear power” as soon as possible.

The agreement shows that because public opinion on ending nuclear power generation is so strong that the LDP-Komeito coalition cannot ignore the call. But it is so vague that the coalition could be said to be trying to postpone ending nuclear power generation indefinitely. The coalition should present a clear timeline to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear power and make concrete efforts to realize it.

In its election campaign pledge, the LDP adopted a vague attitude toward nuclear power generation. It said that within 10 years, it will establish the best sustainable mix in the composition of power generation; it avoided giving detailed explanation on its position on nuclear power generation.

The LDP should squarely look at the plight caused by the catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It contaminated vast areas with radioactive substances, making them uninhabitable. Some 160,000 local residents still cannot return to their homes.

LDP governments since the 1960s have promoted nuclear power generation under the myth that it is safe. The LDP should realize that this policy culminated in the Fukushima nuclear tragedy. It also should sincerely listen to the voices of Fukushima residents who are still forced to live as evacuees due to the nuclear disaster.

A 56-year-old woman said: “Not many years are left for my life. I do not want to waste my life through prolonged living in a prefabricated house.” A 46-year-old woman said: “Stress caused physical problems and I had to stop working. I want to go back to my home if possible. I am very worried about my father, who is living with me in a fabricated house.”

During the election campaign, LDP chief Mr. Shinzo Abe criticized the Democratic Party of Japan’s call for ending nuclear power generation by the 2030s, saying that the DPJ policy is irresponsible. Yet, if nuclear power generation resumes, radioactive waste storage facilities at nuclear power plants will be full in several years. In addition, the technology to safely store high-level radioactive waste on a permanent basis does not exist. Moreover, active faults have been found beneath or very near several nuclear power plants. Given these factors, continuing to rely on nuclear power seems more irresponsible. The LDP should not forget the dire consequences caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In addition, the development of renewable energy sources could stimulate local economies.

The LDP should not assume that its victory in the Dec. 16 election means that people have given carte blanche to its nuclear power policy.