Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nuclear News from Japan, Part 2:

An Interesting Rumor

In my last blog, I reported on some of my observations during my recent meetings in Japan.  In this blog, I will continue my report.

I have many friends and acquaintances in Japan, both inside and outside the nuclear field.  This wide circle of friends sometimes gives me an opportunity to get insights into non-nuclear aspects of Japanese society, or to get views of nuclear issues from a Japanese perspective outside the industry.

My recent trip to Japan gave me such an opportunity.  At this point, I would have to classify what I learned as unsubstantiated.  Still, I think it is worth mentioning my conversation in this forum.

Over lunch one day during the trip, one of my acquaintances from outside the nuclear field, after pumping me for my views on various aspects of nuclear power, suddenly turned to the subject of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the support he has expressed for the reopening of some of Japan's idled nuclear power plants.

This acquaintance noted that Abe was very pro-nuclear.  However, he said, there are local elections scheduled in the coming months, and furthermore, the Prime Minister is putting forward some controversial proposals to amend the Japanese constitution to modify the provision that "renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation" and promises that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained."

Since nuclear power is very unpopular in Japan at the moment, and since Abe's Liberal Democratic Party needs the support of other parties to pass this amendment, he opined that Abe might want to have nuclear power keep a low profile until after the elections and after the constitutional amendments are finalized.

Hence, despite some approvals for restarts from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), my friend suggested that any actual restarts might be delayed until after these issues were resolved.

I want to hasten to say that he was unclear on whether this was his personal view or a widespread view, whether there were any signals from the Abe administration to support such a view, or how such delays might be assured.  (There are opportunities for delay in the local approval requirements, but my understanding is that there are differing views in different local jurisdictions.)

My friend does dabble in Japanese politics, so he certainly knows more than I do about such matters.  However, at this point, I have no other educated views on the subject.  Therefore, I am only passing this information on as a factor that Japan watchers may want to keep in mind as events unfold in Japan in the coming months.


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