The Abe administration has started a “review from the zero base” of the predecessor Democratic Party of Japan government’s energy policy, whose centerpiece was ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear power in the 2030s.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized a move to phase out nuclear power generation as “irresponsible” and is seeking to restart nuclear power plants, dropping the policy of eventually ending nuclear power.
The experience of the catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be basis of Japan’s energy policy. The lesson from the nuclear crisis is clear: Nuclear power generation is a technology that is extremely difficult to control, especially in this quake-prone country.
More than 150,000 Fukushima residents still cannot return to their homes due to radiation risks. It is deplorable that Mr. Abe does not appear to take the Fukushima nuclear disaster seriously.
In addition to the danger of nuclear power, the Fukushima nuclear crisis clearly showed that the traditional policy of building a limited number of big power plants — thermal or nuclear — in areas remote from large cities and sending electricity from there to the power consumption centers is fatally flawed. But the Abe administration is trying to revive the policy of building large power plants in remote areas instead of establishing smaller power generation sources across the country.
The power outages after the Fukushima crisis testified to the failure of that policy and led many local governments and enterprises to realize the importance of having their own power sources. To their benefit, the development of renewable electricity sources is making progress and a law has entered into force requiring major power companies in principle to purchase electricity produced by renewable sources.
Given the seriousness and repercussions of the Fukushima nuclear fiasco, the reasonable path for Japan should be working out a concrete time line to abolish nuclear power generation, at least in 20 to 30 years, and to expand the weight of renewable electricity sources. Cases have been reported of major power companies refusing to purchase electricity from green sources by taking advantage of a clause in the law that allows the companies to refuse to buy such electricity if they fear that electricity supplies will become unstable. The government should close this loophole to ease the sale of electricity from green sources to power companies
Without committing himself to ending nuclear power generation, Mr. Abe only says that he will establish a “best mix” of power generation sources within 10 years.
The Abe administration has also set up a new government panel on energy policy and limited the representation of people calling for eventual abolition of nuclear power — a departure from a similar panel under the DPJ rule that included many members who held this view.
The Abe administration’s refusal to pay heed to the lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster shows that it is just kowtowing to the interests of the power industry.