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Opposition CDPJ bringing nuclear energy debate back to the Diet

By AKIRA MINAMI/ Staff Writer


In a direct challenge to the Abe administration, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan plans to submit a bill that would abandon nuclear power and promote renewables as a basic energy policy.


The bill is expected to reinvigorate debate over nuclear energy when the ordinary Diet session opens later this month.


Discussions on the issue had stalled because the Democratic Party, then the largest opposition party, remained split over calls for a nuclear phaseout following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the meantime has been pushing for restarts of reactors that remained idle after the disaster.


The CDP, which was formed by defectors from the Democratic Party, emerged as the largest opposition force in the Lower House election in October.


One of the campaign pledges of the newly established party was to abolish nuclear power facilities in Japan.


In its draft bill, the party said the government should take responsibility for helping utilities decommission their nuclear plants and creating jobs for host municipalities to ensure a smooth shift from nuclear power.


A senior CDP official said that showing a possible course for the country in the bill is a crucial first step.


The official noted that electric power companies have hindered the spread of renewables. The utilities run transmission lines for electricity generated by nuclear power plants, but they refuse to allow those lines to be used for power generated by renewables.


In its skeleton plan, the CDP set a goal of reducing the nation’s annual power needs by 30 percent by 2030 from the 2010 level, and having renewable energy account for at least 40 percent of Japan’s electricity supply by that year.


The party’s bill would also ban construction of nuclear reactors and ditch the policy of achieving a nuclear fuel cycle, including the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.


Restarts of nuclear plants would be accepted only if Japan faced a situation with no supply of petroleum, according to the plan.


The CDP is also calling for the creation of a council headed by the prime minister to promote reforms that would lead to a society that does not rely on nuclear energy.


The opposition party considers the nationalization of nuclear power plants that will be decommissioned as an option in pushing a nuclear phaseout.


Genpatsu Zero Shizen Energy Suishin Renmei, a private organization advocating zero nuclear power and promoting renewable energy, is expected to announce its proposal for a similar bill on Jan. 10. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a staunch opponent of nuclear power, serves as an adviser for the organization.


The CDP plans to compile its bill after exchanging opinions with officials of the organization and hearing the views of the public.

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