The largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is set to shift its energy policy to promote reduced reliance on nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The LDP decided to review its nuclear energy policy — maintained since it was in power — as the issue is likely to emerge as a major point of contention during the next general election for the powerful House of Representatives. It has deemed the promotion of nuclear energy will no longer win voter support.
However, the party is very unlikely to pursue total abolition of Japan’s nuclear plants, which would represent a drastic policy change, and instead seek to reduce the number of nuclear reactors on a gradual basis.
In its campaign pledge for the 2010 House of Councillors election, the LDP clearly stated that it will actively promote nuclear power generation.
“The use of nuclear power stations is indispensable for the prevention of global warming. We’ll consider improving the nuclear power generation system, including the construction of additional plants,” its manifesto stated. “With the aim of increasing the ratio of nuclear energy to the entire energy supply, we’ll review how reactors should be inspected and serviced and how the government should assess their safety, and promote our nuclear energy policy.”
At a news conference on March 17 following the Fukushima meltdowns, however, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki suggested that the party will review its nuclear power policy. “Undoubtedly, it’ll be extremely difficult to build new nuclear power stations. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to promote our nuclear energy policy.”
Although little progress had been made in intraparty discussions on the issue, the LDP finally began reviewing the policy amid growing speculation that Prime Minister Naoto Kan may dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap general election to ask the public if they support his pursuit of a nuclear power-free Japan.
On July 5, the LDP set up a special panel on comprehensive energy policy headed by Ichita Yamamoto, chief policymaker of the LDP’s House of Councillors caucus.