A controversial option to increase Japan’s reliance on nuclear power by 2030 will be dropped from the report that is likely to form the basis of the government’s new energy policy.
An industry ministry panel had been considering including the possibility of increasing nuclear power’s share of electricity generation to 35 percent over the next 18 years, along with four other options to be presented to the committee of Cabinet ministers with relevant portfolios that will decide a new basic energy plan this summer.
But about 10 members of the 25-seat Fundamental Issues Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy opposed inclusion of the option on May 28, arguing that increasing the nation's dependence on nuclear energy from 26 percent in fiscal 2010 ran counter to the government's pledge to scale back nuclear power.
After a confrontation on the issue between pro-nuclear and nuclear-skeptic members of the subcommittee, chairman Akio Mimura decided to drop the option.
Instead, the panel will present only four options on nuclear power’s future share to the ministerial committee, known as the Energy and Environment Council, but will still refer to the 35-percent option as a "reference case" in discussions on the impact on the economy and other considerations.
Nuclear power proponents had hoped that leaving the 35-percent scenario on the table, as a counterbalance to the complete elimination of nuclear power, would make it easier to push for a bigger role for nuclear energy between those two levels.
The options to be included in the draft are a 0-percent scenario, in which nuclear plants are to be abolished as soon as possible; a 15-percent scenario, in which nuclear reactors are to be decommissioned after 40 years of service; a 20- to 25-percent scenario, in which the nation will reduce dependence on nuclear energy but will continue to use it to a certain extent; and a final option of prescribing no particular share in advance.
Observers say government discussions will likely revolve around the 15-percent option, which complies with the government policy to scrap nuclear reactors after 40 years of operation.
Goshi Hosono, the Cabinet minister in charge of nuclear power policy, said May 25 that the 15-percent scenario is expected to serve as the basis for discussions.
That option will, however, leave post-2030 policy open to debate. After 2030, nuclear reactors could continue to be decommissioned but, alternatively, the share of energy produced by nuclear power could be maintained at the 15-percent level.
The panel met 25 times since October. Its previous draft report included a 35-percent dependence ratio, under which the nation would promote the use of nuclear power and allow new nuclear reactors to be built.
"I can hardly believe that the (35-percent scenario) can even remain an option," said Hisa Anan, secretary-general of Consumers Japan, during the May 28 meeting. "How dare we tell victims of the (Fukushima) nuclear disaster that we will increase reliance on nuclear power?"
Pro-nuclear panel members steadfastly opposed the nuclear skeptics’ push. "There is a major significance in keeping that as an option," said Masakazu Toyoda, chairman and CEO of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, a former industry ministry official.
A deadlock was reached on the issue and the matter was therefore left to the discretion of Mimura, chairman of Nippon Steel Corp., who decided to drop the 35-percent scenario from the list of options but left open the possibility of the government referring to it within its discussions.
"I paid more respect to reducing the reliance on nuclear power," Mimura said.
(This article was written by Toru Nakagawa and Mari Fujisaki.)
- « Prev
- Next »