The Fukushima nuclear crisis struck a nerve with Japan’s normally passive public, prompting many to raise their voices against atomic power and take to the streets to voice their anger.
But momentum for phasing out atomic energy appears to have weakened since the pronuclear Liberal Democratic Party won December’s general election by a landslide, pledging to review the ousted Democratic Party of Japan’s vow to eliminate nuclear power in the 2030s.
To avoid losing impetus, activists are looking beyond protests and devising new strategies. On April 15, they set up the Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy to draft a zero-nuclear blueprint by next spring to propose to the government and public.
The panel of experts and general members of the public is headed by Harutoshi Funabashi, a Hosei University sociology professor. It also includes Kyushu University Vice President Hitoshi Yoshioka, who sat on the government’s Fukushima investigation panel, University of Tokyo professor emeritus Hiromitsu Ino and Masashi Goto, a former nuclear engineer at Toshiba Corp.
“Because the LDP has grown so powerful, it is very difficult (to promote a zero-nuclear policy) through cross-party efforts,” said coleader Shoichi Kondo.
Although the House of Councilors poll presents a chance for the antinuclear lobby to make a comeback, Kondo said it will be hard to turn the issue into a focal point because the LDP seems to be trying to sidestep it.
For instance, in the April 28 Upper House by-election in Yamaguchi Prefecture, where Chugoku Electric Power Co. plans to build a new nuclear plant in Kaminoseki, LDP candidate Kiyoshi Ejima fudged his stance on the project. Kondo claimed this prevented atomic energy from becoming an issue in the race, allowing Ejima to trounce his antinuclear opponents.
“The LDP is avoiding the issue of nuclear power policy for this summer’s Upper House election. They said they will review the DPJ’s policy (of ending nuclear power by 2040), but didn’t say if they will promote nuclear power, so it’s very vague,” he said.
To increase the number of politicians backing the zero-nuclear option, activists launched the advocacy group Ryokucha Kai (Green Tea Party) on April 24 to provide financial support to antinuclear candidates running in national elections.
Hideaki Takemura, an executive at Tokyo-based Energy Green Co. and head of Ryokucha Kai, voiced confidence that nuclear power can become a core topic in the House of Councilors poll, along with constitutional revision and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework.