Japan’s Energy Board Meets After Dropping Anti-Nuclear Members

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has removed most anti-nuclear researchers from a revamped post-Fukushima energy policy advisory board to the government that resumes discussions today.

After a landslide victory in a December election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the previous administration’s policy to abandon atomic power needs to be reviewed to help revive the world’s third-biggest economy.

Six of eight members that voted for phasing out nuclear power on the board advising the previous government have been dropped from the LDP panel. Another ten members were reappointed, including Akio Mimura, an adviser for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. (5401), as chairman. He headed an energy advisory board under a previous LDP government that promoted nuclear power.

“Mr. Mimura may have a wonderful personality and good policy ideas, but it’s wrong to let the same man who led discussions on pre-Fukushima energy policy be in charge,” said Tetsunari Iida, the executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. Iida was one of those dropped from the advisory board.

A request for comment or to interview Mimura was declined by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal’s public relations office on March 12.

In September, the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan approved phasing out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s after the March quake and disaster in 2011 caused three reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Around 160,000 people were evacuated because of radiation fallout.

New Options

Three options were considered for the country’s future energy supply: Zero nuclear, 15 percent nuclear, and 20 percent to 25 percent. A government poll in August found 47 percent of citizens favored zero, with the remainder split on the other choices.

“The LDP wants to avoid the zero nuclear scenario at all costs and is looking for a point of compromise between 15 percent and 20 percent nuclear,” said Hiroshi Takahashi, a research fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute.

“Nobody, not even power companies, would try to revive the pre-Fukushima plan for boosting nuclear power’s share of electricity to 50 percent,” said Takahashi, who was also dropped from the advisory panel.

The government has added five new people including Issei Nishikawa, governor of Fukui Prefecture, which has 14 nuclear reactors. Nishikawa declined a request for an interview. Hajimu Yamana, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University, was also appointed. The number of advisory board members was cut to 15 from 25.

A call to Yamana’s office in Osaka seeking comment today was unanswered.

Specialists

The people chosen have different views on not only nuclear power, but also renewable energy and electricity system reform, said Trade and Industry Ministry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on March 1. “We took into account specialities in their fields, not whether they agree or disagree on individual issues.”

Mimura, former vice chairman of Japan’s biggest business lobby Keidanren, made his view known at a Sept. 18 meeting of the post-Fukushima policy group, stating that Japan should continue using nuclear power.

The group didn’t meet again for almost two months.

The delay “made me furious,” said Hideyuki Ban, co- director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, and also dropped from the board. “I demanded trade and industry ministry officials dismiss Mr. Mimura.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at tinajima@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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