Posted by Mark Halper

Political observers believe incoming Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will smile upon nuclear power.

Could Japan’s election last weekend of a new government help revitalize the outlook for nuclear power in the country that has all but shut it down?

Japan’s Kyodo News thinks so.

In a story published by The Mainichi newspaper, the news service notes that the incoming Liberal Democratic Party under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will reverse the outgoing government’s intention to abandon nuclear by 2040.

The headline over an English language version of the story reads, “LDP’s victory likely to lead Japan to retract nuclear phase-out goal.”

POWER SCRAMBLE

Abe’s predecessor, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party, pushed Japan away from nuclear following the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in 2011. All but 2 of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are currently switched off.

Prior to the events at Fukushima, nuclear had supplied about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity. The shutdown has left Japan scrambling to fill a power gap, which it is doing in  part with environmentally hazardous fossil fuels.

“Japan’s recently compiled energy strategy aimed at phasing out nuclear power by the 2030s is likely to be reviewed under the next government expected to be led by the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been critical of totally giving up on atomic energy despite the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis last year,” Kyodo wrote just prior to the election. (The LDP’s victory was widely anticipated, and it won by a landslide).

NO RUSH

But don’t expect any rash declarations. As Kyodo notes, “It remains uncertain whether the new government will swiftly compile its own medium to long term nuclear policy, with the LDP saying in its election pledges that it plans to spend up to 10 years in determining the best energy mix for the resource-poor country.”

It quotes an anonymous government official as saying that, “The new government may prefer to take plenty of time to work out a new energy policy, saying something like ‘We will think whether it is appropriate or not to choose a nuclear-zero path.'”

The story adds that, “The LDP’s supportive stance on the role of nuclear power has also fueled speculation that Japan could see the reactivation of more reactors as long as they clear safety standards to be set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an independent nuclear regulatory body launched in September.”

They would be well advised to do so. As we noted here in a recent post, Japan could struggle economically without nuclear power.

The LDP has indicated it could reach a decision on restarting reactors within 3 years. Abe is expected to form a cabinet on Dec. 26.

Photo: TTNIS via Wikimedia

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