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2017 Lower House Election / Reactor restarts expected to be key poll issue

The Yomiuri ShimbunEnergy policy and whether to restart nuclear reactors are shaping up to be key issues in the House of Representatives election, as the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant have effectively cleared the new safety standards set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The government entrusts the NRA with safety screenings to judge whether to restart nuclear reactors.

“We will promote the restart [of nuclear reactors] if they are judged to meet the new safety standards,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. The government plans to reactivate reactors, including those at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

The government has also set a target of nuclear power comprising 20 percent to 22 percent of total power generation in fiscal 2030. Nuclear power accounted for about 30 percent of total electricity generation before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

In its election pledges released on Monday, the Liberal Democratic Party stipulates that it “will promote the restart [of nuclear reactors] while seeking understanding and cooperation from local governments and other entities hosting [nuclear power plants]” if those reactors meet the new safety standards.

The pledges say nuclear power plants are “an important base-load power source.”

Former Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, who was previously cautious about the restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, will run for a seat in Niigata Constituency No. 5 on the LDP’s official ticket in the Oct. 22 general election. The government believes that “an environment is being created for the restart [of nuclear reactors].”

Kibo no To (Party of Hope) takes a flexible position on the restart of nuclear reactors in its draft election pledges. The draft pledges say, “We should make effective use of nuclear power plants whose reactors can be reactivated after assessing their comprehensive safety by checking such factors as the degree of aging.”

At the same time, Kibo also sets a goal of “having no nuclear power by 2030,” with no new plants constructed.

The Democratic Party had insisted it would seek to realize no nuclear power in the 2030s, although it also said it would accept the restart of existing nuclear reactors. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, recently formed by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, has indicated that it will continue the DP policy on the matter.

“We’ll aim to realize zero nuclear power plants as soon as possible,” Edano said during a press conference on Monday.

Komeito says it would not allow the construction of new nuclear power plants and would seek to realize zero nuclear power plants, but has not set a specific target year.

The Japanese Communist Party is seeking the halt of nuclear reactor restarts in its election pledges, disclosed on Wednesday. The party insists that the decommissioning process should start at all nuclear power plants.Speech

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