Nuclear power a key issue in Japan polls

Updated: 2012-12-02 19:27

By Yin Xiaoliang (

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Energy is indispensable when it comes to powering human civilization, and economic and social development. It is also a strategic resource for a country's economy, defense and security. No wonder, countries across the world have been trying to figure out how to ensure a stable and continuous supply of energy.

To avoid energy risks and create an "energy security" platform, Japan has made "nuclear power generation" a priority. But the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the tsunami-induced accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011 have left Japanese people with mixed feelings on fulfilling their energy needs and the risks that come with it.

The ambivalence over nuclear power is embedded in Japanese society. On Nov 16, after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives, the "nuclear issue" has become an important issue for the forthcoming general election.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party's campaign manifesto, issued on Nov 21, says it will "gradually decide" on restarting idle reactors deemed safe by a new regulatory agency over the next three years and arrive at the "best energy mix" for Japan in 10 years. Though the LDP, which promoted nuclear energy during its long tenure as the ruling party, has altered its nuclear power policy, it has failed to give a timetable for Japan's shift from nuclear power.

Noda's Democratic Party of Japan, in its manifesto, has promised to end the use of nuclear power by the 2030s. It has said it will re-commission the nuclear power plants only after they are deemed safe by the new nuclear regulatory commission and not build new ones. The DPJ, of course, talks about the rebirth of Japan by paying equal attention to "zero nuclear society" and "green energy revolution", and alleges that the LDP's nuclear power policy, in essence, is to "maintain nuclear power".

The ruling and opposition parties differ on nuclear power. But none of their policies can solve Japan's nuclear power problem, because nuclear power generation is intertwined with political, economic, military, environmental and cultural issues. Besides, it has its own inherent law of development and technical requirements.

In fact, the base configuration of Japan's energy security strategy will not see any fundamental or structural change, and the country will not cease generating nuclear power completely. All factors point to the fact that nuclear power will continue to be part of the energy mix fueling Japan's economic development.

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