The ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Sept. 4 proposed abandoning nuclear power generation by the early 2050s, rather than a target of 2030, with an eye on moving up the date.
The party’s energy and environment research committee proposed that new measures would be decided in 2015, with the goal of achieving the elimination of nuclear power before the early 2050s.
It effectively means that the DPJ has postponed a decision on the future of nuclear power by three years, rather than in September as originally planned.
The government will decide on a new energy policy as early as next week after receiving a final proposal from the ruling party panel.
It had proposed three options for the ratio of nuclear energy in power generation in 2030--zero percent, 15 percent and 20-25 percent. The DPJ panel did not touch on these options.
In its draft proposal for moving toward a nuclear-free society, the DPJ panel on Sept. 4 included three principles.
The first is to strictly implement the policy of decommissioning reactors past 40 years of service. The second is to restart only reactors whose safety is confirmed by a new nuclear regulatory commission. The third is not to build new reactors.
The three rules would eliminate nuclear power generation by the early 2050s. The measures to move up the target year will be decided in 2015, according to the panel’s proposal.
Meanwhile, industry minister Yukio Edano presented a document on challenges for eliminating nuclear power generation at a meeting of the Energy and Environment Council on Sept. 4.
It was compiled in accordance with direction by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in early August.
Edano told a news conference on Sept. 4 that he believes that those challenges can be overcome.
The document said without nuclear power, the electricity supply will become tight as 30 percent of the country's power generation capability will be lost.
It also said higher electricity bills will increase the public burden. Fuel costs will increase by 3.1 trillion yen ($39.52 billion) a year because thermal power generation will make up for the shortfall. Tensions in the Middle East that drive up the price of fuel could lead to a further hike in electricity rates.
The document also touched on adverse impacts on national security and foreign policy, such as Japan-U.S. relations.
To increase electricity supply from renewable energy, the document said land for power generation facilities must be secured and transmission lines must be installed.
It said 100 trillion yen must be invested in energy-saving measures if nuclear power generation is to be scrapped by 2030.
It estimated that a household that paid 9,900 yen on its monthly electricity bill in 2010 could pay a maximum of 20,712 yen.
In the meantime, The Asahi Shimbun learned that the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan lobbied DPJ lawmakers with a list of adverse effects from scrapping nuclear power.
The industry organization of regional electric utilities approached the lawmakers in late August, when the DPJ panel started full-scale discussions on the future of nuclear power.
In particular, the federation emphasized the importance of relations with Aomori Prefecture, which hosts a reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants across the nation.
It said if the government decides to scrap nuclear power generation, the Aomori prefectural government will demand that spent nuclear fuel be returned to original nuclear power plants because nuclear fuel recycling will become unnecessary. Nuclear power plants would be forced to shut down immediately because their fuel storage pools will be filled up.
The government’s list of challenges also referred to the risk of nuclear power generation being stopped immediately if the cooperation of the Aomori prefectural government cannot be obtained.
The federation also said local governments that host nuclear power plants may not cooperate in reactivating the reactors if the government decides to scrap nuclear power generation.
Some other elements of the federation’s arguments, such as a shortfall in the electricity supply and the anticipated increase in electricity charges, were also included in the government’s list of challenges.
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