On 7 September, a heavyweight DPJ panel endorsed phasing out all nuclear power by 2030. The policy was approved with an extension to the late 2030s by a subcommittee of the Cabinet on 14 September, and endorsed by Noda himself on the same day. Suddenly, five days later, the policy was replaced with complete obfuscation.
This rollercoaster of reversals makes no sense. Substantively, it leaves energy policy in a state of confusion, making it hard for energy-using companies to decide whether to expand - or even stay - in Japan. It also alienates the majority of voters who no longer trust nuclear power.
Some say the final reversal came from huge pressure from Japan's business community, as well as governments in the US, Britain and France. But that suggests Noda did not test the waters before accepting the 'no nukes' stance, hardly the mark of a serious leader. Some say that, because 40 per cent of the DPJ Diet delegation wanted the zero option, Noda only accepted the 'no nukes' goal until he was sure of winning re-election as DPJ president. Then he revealed his true colours.
Prior to 7 September, most observers had expected Noda to choose the middle option among three being discussed for 2030: zero nukes, nuclear power to provide 15 per cent of electricity, or nukes to provide 20-25 per cent. Fifteen per cent was Noda's own personal preference, and it was the preference of another DPJ bigwig, Yoshito Sengoku. Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power provided around 30 per cent of electricity, and the Naoto Kan administration had proposed raising it to 50 per cent. In the aftermath of Fukushima, Kan called for nuclear's complete elimination.
So, when the DPJ panel led by policy chief Seiji Maehara and Sengoku came out in favour of the zero option, most observers chalked it up to a desperate election gambit. Now, Noda's reversal has more than offset any electoral gain the DPJ might have made with the 'no nukes' announcement.
The purported objective would clearly not have been realised. The plan is threefold: first, no new nuclear plants will be built; second, no nuclear plants will be extended beyond the 40-year age limit specified by a law put into place after the Fukushima disaster (although the law does allow one 20-year extension if plants are deemed safe enough); third, no shut-down plants will be restarted unless the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) can certify their safety.
The reality is, if existing plants are re-started and are all shut down after reaching age 40, nuclear power would still supply 15 per cent of the country's electricity as of 2030. That inertia is one reason politicians found 15 per cent an attractive compromise, as it would allow until the 2050s to reach zero nuclear.
The plan also presumes that renewables will generate 20 per cent of electricity within 10 years, and then 30-35 per cent by 2035, a completely unrealistic target. Noda proposes to achieve it by force-feeding solar, wind, etc. through ¥50 trillion in subsidies, more than all the extra revenue coming from the politically-deadly hike in the consumption tax, to be financed via much higher electricity rates. And the plan requires a much smaller reduction in carbon emissions.
The plan was, in short, a campaign commercial. And so, in the end, Noda muddied the waters.
|May 24||Tokyo cops bust casino in Shibuya|
|Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Wednesday raided an Internet casino in Shibuya Ward for offering illegal gambling. (Tokyo Reporter )|
|May 24||WWII vet gets 'Order of the Rising Sun' from Japan's ambassador|
|The government of Japan has bestowed one of that nation's highest honors on a Japanese-American, a former U.S. Soldier and World War II veteran, for his work furthering relationships between the Japanese and Americans. (army.mil )|
|May 23||Osaka court accepts losing horse racing bets as expenses|
|Osaka District Court accepted a claim on Thursday that losses on betting on horse racing should be deductible from payouts to calculate taxable income. (Jiji Press )|
|May 23||Youth arrested for hitting 16-year-old girl with baseball bat|
|An 18-year-old youth has been arrested on a charge of attempted murder after he allegedly hit a 16-year-old girl in the head with a baseball bat. (Japan Today )|
|May 22||X Japan waxes lyrical at Madame Tussauds debut|
|This Monday, members of the seminal metal band X Japan were in Odaiba rubbing shoulders with the likes of Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga and AKB48′s Yuko Oshima. The catch? They were all made out of wax. (Japan Times )|
|May 22||Transport ministry to unify rules for baby strollers on buses, trains|
|The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has announced that it intends to draw up a set of unified rules for the use of baby strollers on buses and trains. (Japan Today )|
|May 21||Man stabs ex-wife, then crashes car during getaway|
|A man stabbed his ex-wife on a street in Isehara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tuesday morning, and then caused a car crash while he was fleeing from the scene. (Japan Today )|
|May 21||Japan Crown Prince to visit Spain|
|Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito will visit Spain for seven days from June 10, the government said Tuesday. (Jiji Press )|
|May 21||Tokyo broker for Thai hostesses busted for wrongful employment|
|Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Monday announced the arrest of a broker of Thai females for violating immigration laws by employing the women as masseuses. (Tokyo Reporter )|
|May 21||Claim filed against Yamaguchi-gumi top bosses for arson death in Nagoya|
|The parents of a nightclub worker killed in an arson fire three years ago filed a suit in the Nagoya District Court on Monday seeking damages against top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi organized crime group. (Tokyo Reporter )|