The Abe administration recently released a draft energy plan calling for a long-term return to nuclear power – a stark turnaround from his predecessor, who had pledged a complete phaseout of all nuclear plants by the 2030s. While a majority of Japanese oppose nuclear power, the economy remains a bigger concern. Keeping 48 nuclear reactors idle is wreaking havoc with the country’s electric utilities and causing energy prices to rise – natural gas prices were up 17 percent last year. Moreover, the country recently posted a record deficit combined with disappointing growth figures.
Hence, Abe’s dilemma: Is it better to return to nuclear power and risk angering a public leery of further catastrophe? Or should he continue to chart the current course and face strong energy headwinds for the foreseeable future? Based on the recent draft energy report, the administration appears to be leaning toward the former.