Well, it certainly didn’t take long, but only days after stating that Japan’s future energy policy would adopt a goal of working towards zero reliance on nuclear power, the government backtracked on Wednesday and failed to give full Cabinet approval to the plan. The details stated last week said that except for those reactors already being constructed, no new plants would be built and Japan would be nuclear free by the year 2040. While it was a strong sign that the government was finally listening to the will of the Japanese people, it’s an even clearer sign now that it has given in to the pressures of the pro-nuclear business lobbies.
Motohisa Furukawa, Japan’s Minister of Economy, stated today that rather than giving the nuclear-free goal the full Cabinet approval, which would make it an official part of future energy policy, they decided they would take the plan “into consideration” when looking at long-term goals. Despite support from numerous sources that it would be possible, Furukawa told reporters that it’s still to early to determine if nuclear power can be phased out in the 2030s. While the government announced its long-term nuclear free goal last Friday, it was fairly obvious there were loopholes and a lack of commitment; while no new nuclear plants were to be built, two in construction would be completed and allowed their limit of 40 years of operation, meaning they would be active well into the 2050s.
While we’ve written before about how Japan is now on the verge of an explosion in renewable energy development, the business lobbies don’t want any of that nonsense. Their opposition arguments say ending the use of nuclear energy would rapidly increase electricity rates and the economy would suffer as a result of an unstable supply of power. I guess the old habits of business-government collusion die hard.