Only two anti-nuclear advocates remain on the pared-down panel of experts tasked with compiling Japan's new basic energy policy, making a dramatic shift away from nuclear power unlikely.
The number of panel members has been reduced from 25 to 15, with several anti-nuclear advocates being passed over for reappointment. The panel was set up when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, and one-third of panel members were opposed to nuclear energy.
The new lineup of members was announced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on March 1.
The panel is expected to make its recommendations for a new basic energy policy by the end of the year.
Akio Mimura, an adviser to Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp., will continue to serve as chairman of the panel.
Although 10 members from the last panel were reappointed, a number of anti-nuclear advocates were sidelined, including Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the nonprofit Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, and Junko Edahiro, an environmental journalist.
The only nuclear energy opponents left on the panel are Kazuhiro Ueta, an economics professor at Kyoto University, and Kikuko Tatsumi, a consumer affairs adviser.
New members to the panel include Issei Nishikawa, governor of Fukui Prefecture, which has 13 nuclear reactors in its jurisdiction, the largest number in Japan, and Toshiyuki Shiga, chief operating officer of Nissan Motor Co.
When the DPJ was still in power, eight of the 25 panel members were opposed to continued dependence on nuclear energy. However, discussions have not been held since November because Mimura said the DPJ government's stance of decommissioning all nuclear reactors by the 2030s was too vague.
At a March 1 news conference, Toshimitsu Motegi, the industry minister, said: "We are not hoping for a clear demarcation into two camps during discussions on individual issues. We are hoping that a comprehensive policy direction can be reached centered on specialization in each field."
He also added that no conclusion had been reached on whether a long-term ratio of dependence on nuclear energy would be included in the new basic energy policy.
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