New party’s platform spurs pre-vote debate on nuclear policy

December 03, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

An ambitious proposal by a new political party to wean Japan from nuclear power generation in just 10 years was roundly criticized as "unrealistic" by other parties gearing up for the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada, leader of Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), unveiled her campaign platform, including a road map called "the curriculum for graduating from nuclear power," on Dec. 2, just two days prior to the start of official campaigning.

"We want to secure peace of mind for the future, as opposed to those forces that want to maintain the political status quo, oblivious to the fact that 3/11 marked a turning point," Kada told a news conference.

She also announced a party roster of 109 candidates to run in single-seat constituencies.

The road map is designed to decommission all existing reactors in Japan within 10 years.

Kada's party plans to pave the way for electricity system reforms during a three-year "run-up" period and shift to renewable energy in the subsequent "take-off" period, which could take as long as seven years.

In the run-up period, the party would immediately suspend two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, the only ones now operating, and withhold approval to restart reactors that have been kept offline.

Construction of new reactors would be prohibited. This would include the Oma nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture, where construction resumed in October.

The prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture, as well as the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, would be immediately abolished.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which calls for halting all nuclear reactors in the 2030s, fears that Kada's party would steal anti-nuclear votes with its more ambitious goal.

"Some say they will halt all nuclear reactors immediately, but can they?" Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked Dec. 2. "Will voters choose the realistic DPJ or a different party pushing an irresponsible policy? We are completely different (in our policies)."

Seiji Maehara, minister in charge of national policy, criticized the fledgling party's plan to abolish the Rokkasho facility as "unrealistic."

"We are wondering what they would do with spent nuclear fuel," Maehara told reporters the same day. "Do they intend to bring it to Shiga Prefecture?"

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, opposed to a move away from nuclear power, also attacked the party's plan to immediately halt all nuclear reactors.

"An immediate suspension might be possible if Japan imports more natural gas, loses national wealth and incurs a flame-red trade deficit," Akira Amari, chairman of the Policy Research Council, told a TV program on Dec. 2.

Toru Hashimoto, acting leader of the Japan Restoration Party, lashed out at Tetsunari Iida, acting leader of Nippon Mirai no To and chief architect of "the curriculum for graduating from nuclear power."

"Iida's plan is a one-man idea," Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, said Dec. 2. "There is no doubt that Kada's plan will fail."

Iida, a long-time anti-nuclear advocate and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Polices, advised on energy policy to the Osaka municipal government. He officially resigned as special adviser to Osaka on Dec. 2.

Hashimoto came under fire for dropping his policy to scrap nuclear energy in the 2030s when he merged the Japan Restoration Party with the Sunrise Party, founded by pro-nuclear former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara.

Hashimoto dealt with the criticism by getting his party platform to include "nuclear power generation at existing reactors would fade out by the 2030s."

However, Hashimoto on Dec. 2 said this vague phrase, which was listed in a section called "policy examples," does not represent an official campaign promise.

"Policy examples only form a basis for discussions," Hashimoto told a TV program.

In a debate among the chiefs of 11 political parties on Nov. 30, Ishihara, leader of the Japan Restoration Party, said he will rewrite the "fade out" phrase, reiterating opposition to a move away from nuclear power.

At a news conference later the same day, Ishihara said, "If we say we will scrap nuclear energy in the 2030s without simulating the economy 10 years ahead, it will border on a wild argument."

He even indicated that he would step down as party leader if the Japan Restoration Party maintains that stance.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada, leader of Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), gives a speech at Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture on Dec. 2. (Takuya Ikeda)

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada, leader of Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), gives a speech at Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture on Dec. 2. (Takuya Ikeda)

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  • Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada, leader of Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), gives a speech at Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture on Dec. 2. (Takuya Ikeda)

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