Electric power industry steps up push for new nuclear reactors

January 31, 2014

By SAWAAKI HIKITA/ Staff Writer

Conveniently ignoring the nuclear disaster in Japan nearly three years ago, the electric power industry has been brazenly lobbying members of the ruling party to construct new nuclear reactors.

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan seems to be relying on the fact that the Abe administration is generally sympathetic to its call to continue using nuclear energy.

As yet, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says no decision has been made on whether to construct new reactors. Doing so would be difficult in light of strong local opposition to nuclear reactors following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

The lobbying was apparently intended to influence the basic energy plan that the Abe Cabinet is planning to adopt.

In January, the LDP polled its lawmakers to determine what measures to include in the basic energy plan.

The FEPC promptly distributed a document to lawmakers which states the need to clarify that nuclear energy is an important energy source in the basic policy related to the supply and demand of electricity.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Asahi Shimbun, says, "In order to secure a certain degree of nuclear power generation (there is a need to) clarify the necessity of constructing new reactors or replacing existing ones."

With regard to restarting idle nuclear reactors, the document calls for "an efficient and prompt resumption of operations for nuclear energy that has been confirmed to be safe."

In December 2013, the industry ministry released a draft of the basic energy plan that said nuclear energy was an "important basic power source."

The Abe Cabinet initially sought to approve the basic plan in January, but delayed doing so in the face of objections by some LDP members who said it contravened the party's campaign pledge for the December 2012 Lower House election. At that time, the party said it would "seek to establish a socioeconomic structure that does not have to depend on nuclear energy."

Between Jan. 6 and Jan. 20, the LDP's Policy Research Council canvassed the views of party lawmakers on four points of basic policy regarding the supply and demand of energy.

The documents distributed by the FEPC most likely were intended to secure the backing of LDP lawmakers in promoting nuclear energy.

According to several LDP lawmakers and party sources, FEPC officials visited LDP lawmakers prior to Jan. 20, and distributed documents that contained what the federation considered model responses for the party survey.

It is still unclear how many lawmakers actually received the documents. But it would come as no surprise if the FEPC approached not only the 140 or so lawmakers who belong to a league in favor of nuclear energy, but also those whose fundamental stance is of gradually reducing dependence on nuclear energy while consenting to the resumption of nuclear reactor operations in the near future.

The FEPC released a statement that said, "While the industry has many opportunities to explain its opinions over a wide range of energy policies, we would like to refrain from responding to specific details about individual content."

By SAWAAKI HIKITA/ Staff Writer
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A copy of the document the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan distributed to Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers (Yosuke Fukudome)

A copy of the document the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan distributed to Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers (Yosuke Fukudome)

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  • A copy of the document the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan distributed to Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers (Yosuke Fukudome)
  • The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan is headquartered in the Keidanren Kaikan building in Tokyo's Otemachi business district. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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