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46% of Japan election candidates call for future break from nuclear power: survey

Tanks holding treated water and other materials are seen on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima Prefecture, in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in February 2021. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- Some 46% of respondents to a Mainichi Shimbun questionnaire aimed at candidates in this weekend's House of Representatives election said nuclear power plants in Japan should be abolished in the future.

    The survey, conducted from Oct. 5, quizzed 1,051 Oct. 31 election candidates over an array of issues including the government's coronavirus pandemic response, the consumption tax rate and constitutional amendment. In all, 94.1 % responded.

    The administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is reviewing Japan's energy policy amid global trends toward decarbonization, and the candidate questionnaire put into sharp relief the political parties' varying positions on nuclear power generation.

    When asked if Japan needs nuclear power plants, the largest group of respondents -- 46% -- answered that "they are necessary for the time being but should be abolished in the future," followed by 32% who said "they are unnecessary." Only 18% said they are "necessary."

    But among Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidates, as many as 51% said nuclear plants are necessary, indicating the ruling party's stance of promoting nuclear power generation.

    Upon visiting Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Oct. 17 for the first time in office, Kishida reiterated his position to push forward with reactivating nuclear power plants, saying, "With the raised-leg batting stance of (relying on) renewable energy, we may not be able to fully respond to price (expectations) and stable supply."

    Meanwhile, the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito has promised in its campaign pledges to break with nuclear power in future. Most Komeito candidates responding to the survey said nuclear plants should be done away with in future, while none said they are necessary.

    No candidates for the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Reiwa Shinsengumi said nuclear plants are necessary. Their common agenda approved by the four parties in September includes the "pursuit of a carbon-free society without nuclear power." Accordingly, 50% of CDP candidates, as well as all JCP candidates, said nuclear plants are unnecessary -- clearly showing that they aim to abandon the method.

    Some 85% of Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) candidates said nuclear power plants should be abolished in the future, while 4% said they are necessary. While the DPFP is partially involved in the opposition parties' united front for the election, it did not join the four parties' common agenda and advocates a "realistic energy policy."

    Among respondents running for conservative opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party, JIP), 90% said nuclear plants should be eliminated further down the road, while 5% stated that they are necessary.

    The previous administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set a goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in Japan by 2050, and raised the emissions reduction target by fiscal 2030 from 26% to 46% compared to fiscal 2013 levels. Within the LDP and the government, some are making moves aimed at restoring nuclear power under the pretext of a carbon-free society, and Prime Minister Kishida is poised to uphold the Suga government's reduction goal.

    Among LDP and Komeito respondents, 89% and 98% respectively said the government's reduction goal is "appropriate." In the opposition bloc, 92% of JIP candidates and 77% in the DPFP said they were in favor of the government's reduction target.

    Conversely, 68% of CDP candidates said the reduction target should be raised further. The party has laid out a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% or more by 2030 from 2013 levels, as well as having all electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2050.

    All responding JCP candidates said the reduction target must be raised.

    (Japanese original by Kei Sato and Jun Aoki, Political News Department)

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