Japan backs down from nuclear reduction

By Dorothy Davis

The government of Japan backpedaled from a recent proposal to abandon the use of nuclear power this week after intense pressure from industry and business groups, according to The New York Times.

Japan has traditionally been one of the countries most reliant on nuclear power, drawing around 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear generation. However, a committee from the Democratic Party of Japan announced in early September that it supported completely abandoning nuclear power by 2030, banning any new nuclear reactors while strictly abiding by the operating life of existing capacity.

The recommendation came largely out of concern for public safety following the early 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Yet, meeting the goals of the proposal would require Japan to invest the equivalent of $548 billion on renewable energy sources within the next two decades. Adding to the cost would be an estimated $65 billion to upgrade electricity transmission and distribution systems to accommodate the new power sources.

Japanese officials had promised to consider the proposal as a guideline for their final decision, but ultimately the policy that was presented this week contained only loose commitments to considering limiting nuclear power.

"It seems that (the Cabinet) did not mention specific targets such as 2030s or zero percent, so I assume we could avert the problem for the time being," said Masahiro Yonekura, chairman of business group Keidanren, according to The Associated Press.

The policy announcement has been received poorly by many consumer safety groups, who see it as de facto support of nuclear power. Many business leaders have insisted, however, that any movement away from nuclear could prove crippling to the manufacturing sector, particularly on a fixed timeline.

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