Following the selection of Kishida Fumio as the new president of the Liberal Democratic Party on Sept. 29, Japanese industry circles issued their wish lists and expectations for the new government that he will launch on Oct. 4. In particular, there was a sense of relief inside the power industry as a plank in the new leader’s election platform called for maintaining nuclear power.
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan issued a statement: “It is extremely important to carry out a policy that ensures a well-balanced energy mix. We expect the new government to give top priority to securing a stable energy supply and lay out realistic energy policies.”
Kishida has long argued that “completely cutting reliance on nuclear power is not a realistic approach given that we need to maintain people’s livelihoods and business activities while curbing (electricity) prices.” While Kono Taro, his rival in the runoff vote for the presidency, argued for an exit from nuclear power and called for terminating the “nuclear fuel cycle” project, which uses recycled spent nuclear fuel, Kishida stuck to a position of “retaining” nuclear power generation.
If the nuclear fuel cycle project was terminated, utilities would have been heavily impacted as they need to increase spending on interim storage facilities. “Above all, maintaining the status quo is most important,” said a senior official with a major utility firm.
Carmakers and other manufacturers also take the position that keeping [the present energy policy] is needed to realize their business targets and promote decarbonization.
A senior official of an automobile industry body says that “carbon neutrality will be not achieved under an anti-nuclear power leader. If Kono had been elected [as LDP president], our industry may have been adversely impacted.”
At a press conference held on Sept. 17, Japan Iron and Steel Federation Chairman Hashimoto Eiji called on the new government to “set forth policies that make maximum use of nuclear power generation through such measures as replacement of power facilities and development of small reactors.” (Abridged)