Justin McCurry just published an article titled “Japan drops plans to phase out nuclear by 2040” in the Guardian.
I have a rather different take on the nuances involved here in two ways.
To begin with, as I pointed out the other day, there is no 2o40 deadline in the strategy document adopted last week in the first place. To quote my previous post:
It does not decide on phasing out until 2040, though it does say that they want to be able to get away from nuclear power until that year. What it does decide is that no reactor will be allowed to operate longer than forty years, and no new ones will be approved.
If these plans were not in the strategy document in the first place, they can’t be “dropped” a couple of days later.
Second, and more important, in no way has any new strategy been adopted. That would be highly unusual less than a week after deciding on that document.
What happened was that the cabinet endorsed the document in a somewhat lukewarm way. The exact wording is important here, so I’ll give it in Japanese first and then a translation:
“戦略を踏まえ、不断の検証と見直しを行う” (Source: printed edition of Asahi Shinbun this morning, online here). Translation: “We will go ahead with uninterrupted inspection and reevaluation, based on the strategy document.”
That is of course not “dropping” any plans after only a couple of days.
The procedure for developing the Basic Energy Plan is laid down in the Basic Act on Energy Policy, Article 12 Paragraph 3 of which reads:
(3) By hearing the opinions of the heads of the relevant administrative organs and hearing the opinions of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry shall formulate a draft of the Basic Energy Plan and seek a cabinet decision thereon.
The above sentence was that cabinet decision, and I for one don’t read it as anything else than an endorsement.
Half way through writing this, I saw this tweet from Hiro Matsubara, which points to the text actually adopted (different from what Asahi reported this morning before the fact). Again, first in Japanese and then a translation:
Regarding the energy and environmental policy, we will proceed to go ahead with uninterrupted inspection and reevaluation in a flexible way, based on the document “Revolutionary Energy and Environment Strategy, adopted on 14 September 2012 by the Committee on Energy and Environment”, discussing in a responsible way with local communities affected and the international society, while achieving the understanding of the public.
Again, while opponents of nuclear might criticize this as a lukewarm endorsement of the strategy paper, I think it would be going to far to say everything decided last week has been “dropped”.
Update: McCurry kindly replies over Twitter:
Kf_Lenz V nicely done. But date was expunged, plus 2 NPPs being built OK to continue. The 2030s “ambition” is no more; Okada said as much.
Update 2: From a Japan Times article the next day after I wrote the above post:
The government, however, claimed Wednesday that it was still sticking to the new policy, with trade minister Yukio Edano telling a news conference that its full content was “authorized” by the Cabinet because the decision says the government will take actions “based on” the strategy.
That’s how I read the Cabinet decision as well. And of course Edano should say that. Understanding it as a rejection of the strategy document would be a major loss of face for him, since the strategy document is his proposal under the Basic Energy Law. And it would of course mean that the Japanese government is talking with a forked tongue, and nobody can rely on anything they say in the future.