Japan aims to scrap nuclear power by 2040
Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda's Government has unveiled a new energy policy that aims to phase out nuclear power within the next three decades.
However, the policy does not make any explicit commitment to make Japan completely nuclear free.
Following the Fukushima disaster, Japanese public opinion has swung completely against nuclear power and there have been numerous street protests in various parts of the country calling for making Japan nuclear free.
The already politically weakened DPJ Government led by Noda had almost no choice but to bow down to the wishes of the people in this case. At the same time, the Government largely ignored usually influential Japanese corporations.
Corporate Japan has been warning that moving away from nuclear power would hasten the country’s manufacturing and industrial decline – but the Noda Government said: "We will use all possible political resources to realize the goal of having no nuclear plants.”
Yet, the same time, the Government is reluctant to completely renounce nuclear power as it clarifies that the policy is not making a commitment to “zero-nuclear”.
"Achieving zero-nuclear status is an ambition, not a commitment," a senior Japanese official told reporters at a briefing.
But the energy policy unveiled last Friday (13 September 2012) does specify substantial investment in renewable energy and infrastructure including technology. According to the report, Japan would spend 84 trillion Yen on energy efficient technology and another 6 trillion on cogeneration systems.
Aside from this 90 trillion Yen investment, the Government announced plans to spend about 34 trillion Yen on renewable energy including but not limited to solar and wind energy.
Mark Hibbs, a senior nuclear analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Bloomberg that Japan has a lot of policy options to boost renewable energy over the next few years.
But there are many sceptics. Some critics argue this is an election gambit by the politically weak Noda Government and the DPJ while others such as Greenpeace believe this is just lip service.
In a statement, Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan said: “This announcement must become law, otherwise it will be seen as nothing but lip service to buy votes before the coming election”