Japanese policy waits for election outcome

15 November 2012

Only two months after the Japanese government revealed its long-term intention to eventually end nuclear power production, the announcement of a general election has effectively placed development of the country's energy policy on hold.

Diet building_200
Japan's seat of government, the Diet

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is to dissolve the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Japanese parliament, on 16 November in preparation for an election on 16 December. The current house was elected in August 2009, meaning that elections would have to be held by the summer of 2013 at the latest.

Debate on Japan's future energy policy has been put on hold by the announcement of the election. In September, Noda's government announced it would aim to end the use of nuclear power by the 2030s, but this has not yet been formally incorporated into the country's long-term energy strategy and is not legally binding. Indeed, since the country's energy plans were unveiled in September, ministers have not succeeded in reaching a consensus on when or indeed whether to end the use of nuclear power completely.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power under the leadership of Yukio Hatoyama after defeating the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) in the 2009 elections. Noda became prime minister when he was selected to lead the DPJ in August 2011, replacing Hatoyama's successor Naoto Kan who stepped down after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

Public support for nuclear power has declined in Japan since the accident, but the continued use of nuclear power is only one of the key issues on which the election will be fought. Economic recovery, a controversial consumption tax and regional international relations, particularly with China, are also likely to feature in election campaigning.

Japan's main opposition party, the LDP, does not support plans to phase out nuclear energy completely. Its leader, former prime minister Shinzo Abe, has already described plans to end the use of nuclear power as "irresponsible", and senior officials predict a change in energy policy should the LDP be returned to power according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News