The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is slowly changing the government's stance on nuclear power generation, which his predecessor, Naoto Kan, wanted to replace with other energy sources.
In July, when he was prime minister, Kan revised the long-held Japanese policy of promoting nuclear power and exports of nuclear technology because of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Noda seems to be taking a more moderate approach by insisting that a stable electric power supply utilizing nuclear power plants is essential for economic growth.
In his opinion, both economic growth and fiscal health are inseparable for rebuilding the economy.
At a high-level U.N. meeting in New York on nuclear safety and security Thursday, Noda said: "For several years, emerging nations and many other countries around the world have earnestly explored ways of using nuclear energy amid the need for energy security and in response to global warming. Japan supported their efforts and remains steadfast in responding positively to their interest in our undertakings."
This indicated that the prime minister was committed to continuing Japan's policy of exporting nuclear power plant equipment and technology.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday ahead of his visit to the United States, Noda clearly mentioned the timing for reactivating nuclear reactors idled for regular checkups.
Though Noda said the "biggest precondition" was winning the understanding of prefectures where nuclear power plants are located and confirming the safety of the plants, he emphasized, "From spring through summer next year, we must bring them [the reactors] back online as best as we can." He also indicated nuclear power plants now under construction would eventually go online.
Since becoming prime minister, Noda has announced one policy after another.
A government source said this was because Noda wanted "to clearly show other countries that his policies were different from those of the Kan administration."
The prime minister believes that to revitalize the Japanese economy and achieve fiscal health, Japan must secure a stable electric power supply by utilizing nuclear power plants, the source said.
In his first policy speech to the Diet as the prime minister on Sept. 13, Noda said he would compile a new energy strategy, including the use of nuclear power, by summer.
However, political analysts said Noda so far had yet to draw up a long-term energy strategy.
The prime minister pledged in the Diet to "lower reliance on nuclear power plants as much as possible," indicating he would reduce reliance on nuclear power.
Though he drew a clear line between his and Kan's policy, Noda's remarks about the construction of new nuclear power plants or reactors have been ambiguous.
At one point, Noda suggested the number of reactors in service would be zero within a few decades. But on another occasion, he hinted that the construction of new reactors would be possible depending on the situation.
(Sep. 25, 2011)