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Energy Policy 68 (2014) 199205

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Energy Policy
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

Short Communication

Post-Fukushima Japan: The continuing nuclear controversy


Shun Deng Fam a,b,n, Jieru Xiong c, Gordon Xiong b, Ding Li Yong b,d, Daniel Ng e
a

School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
South-east Asian Biodiversity Society, Singapore, Singapore
Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
d
Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
e
Department of Biological Science, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
b
c

H I G H L I G H T S







As Europeans urgently phase-out nuclear power, Japan voted out such a government despite high anti-nuclear sentiment.
Regulatory climate within the nuclear industry was dysfunctional as a result of being captured by the nuclear village.
New independent nuclear authority is made up of previously captured agency.
With a pro-nuclear government, and lack of really independent nuclear authority, old problems may yet arise.
Japanese government has to choose between lowering emissions, low popular support for nuclear power, and affordable electricity.

art ic l e i nf o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 9 October 2013
Received in revised form
12 January 2014
Accepted 13 January 2014
Available online 14 February 2014

The Fukushima disaster was a wake-up call for the nuclear industry as well as a shocking revelation of
the inner workings of the Japanese power sector. The political fallout from the event was far-reaching,
pushing governments into abandoning nuclear expansion, turning instead to fossil fuels and renewable
energy alternatives. While the move away from nuclear energy was deemed a move critical to political
survival in Europe, we nd that political candidates running on anti-nuclear platforms did not win
elections, while the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won government in the 2012 elections. Against
this backdrop, we analyse the energy conict in Japan using a framework of values versus interests and
consider the regulatory and cultural conditions that contributed to the disaster. A number of considerations lie in the way of an organised phase-out of nuclear power in Japan. We also consider the possible
policy paths Japan may take.
& 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Fukushima
Energy conict
Politics
Amakaduri
Gakubatsu
Nuclear

1. Introduction: Setting the stage for the energy conict


Japan has virtually no natural fossil fuel resources and therefore
has to rely almost exclusively on imports (Koike et al., 2008;
Shadrina, 2012). Prior to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 11
March 2011, nuclear energy supplied 31% of Japanese electricity
(ANRE, 2011a). Japan had planned to raise the nuclear share in the
national energy mix to 53% by 2030 to accomplish its targeted
reduction in carbon emissions (METI, 2010; Ferguson, 2011;
Meltzer, 2011). The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which
managed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, and
Japans nuclear safety regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety
Agency (NISA), are under pressure for administrative, regulatory

n
Corresponding author at: School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The
Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Tel.: 61 468558576.

0301-4215/$ - see front matter & 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2014.01.014

and safety failings, which contributed to the disaster (Acton and


Hibbs, 2012; The National Diet of Japan, 2012). The effects of the
disaster became a global policy concern, and a matter of political
survival in Western nuclear-powered nations. The resulting massive scale-back of nuclear power has prompted new worries about
upheavals in energy politics and possible impacts on global
development policy (Fam et al., 2012).
Historically, Japan has had little overt internal opposition to the
expansion of nuclear power. Valentine and Sovacool (2010) identied six factors that supported the expansion of the Japanese
civilian nuclear industry: (1) the state itself guides economic
development; (2) the importance of energy policy means that
decision-making in this regard is centralised; (3) campaigns to tie
public national esteem to technological prowess; (4) policy decisions are made largely by technocrats or technocratic leaders;
(5) political authority is not seriously challenged and (6) there is
little civic activism. A combination of the stagnant Japanese

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S.D. Fam et al. / Energy Policy 68 (2014) 199205

Table 1
Spike in Japanese fossil fuel imports post-Fukushima is mostly from the expensive
fuel and crude oil, and natural gas imports (METI, 2011). Values are in million
tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe).
Fuel

2009

2010

2011

20102011%
Change

Low-sulphur heavy oil bunker C


Low sulphur crude oil
Steam coal
LNG

1.1
9.4
61.2
83.4

1.2
9.4
67.7
91.7

3.1
12.9
67.5
100.6

158
37
 0.29%
13.5

economy and the Fukushima disaster may however, have now give
grounds for challenging the latter two factors. Indeed, the DPJ have
lost the latest elections, news polls have shown public resistance
to the restart of reactors and there have also been street protests
against further expansion and utility of nuclear power.
The previous Japanese government led by Yoshihiko Noda had
ip-opped on major decisions under pressure from nuclear and
manufacturing industries (Table 2), while struggling to import
substitute fossil fuels. In order to reduce the generating shortfall,
utility companies have had to reactivate aged, disused thermal
plants. This in spike in Japanese fossil fuel import in 2011 (Table 1)
resulted in electricity suppliers suffering huge losses (Sankei,
2012a), which are expected to widen in 2012 as reactors remain
ofine (Sankei, 2012b).
Nuclear power has become unpopular in Japan (Kajimoto and
Nakagawa, 2012). In 2007, only 7% of the Japanese public wished
for nuclear-free electricity, with 21% preferring to reduce reliance,
53% keeping the status quo and 13% supporting an expansion of
nuclear power. Post-Fukushima, a poll saw 70% wishing to cease or
reduce nuclear reliance (Penney, 2012). The Noda government ran
their election campaign partially on a platform to reduce reliance
on nuclear power, but have been voted out of government with
the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headed by (now)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returning to power. In light of this
series of events, the phase out of nuclear power in Japan would be
delayed or abandoned. In light of this series of events, the phase
out of nuclear power in Japan would be delayed or abandoned.
This documents the energy conict going on in Asias nuclear
powered economic and technological powerhouse. This paper will
address the absence of drastic modications in Japans nuclear
energy policy on two analytical levels. At the state-societal level,
the electoral victory of the pro-nuclear LDP had stied Japans
progress in abandoning its nuclear energy policy. On the governmental level, the powerful nuclear village in Japan and the
institutionalized practice of Amakaduri had contributed in maintaining the status-quo of Japans nuclear energy policy.

2. Materials and methods


This is an exploratory case study looking at identifying: (1) the
actors involved in this energy conict, and the role they play and;
(2) the institutional barrier to reform in the Japanese nuclear
energy sector. By using a broad approach of rational choice theory,
we discussed their roles in perpetuating or opposing Japans
nuclear energy policy. Moreover, we will also discuss the normative values undergirding Japans Amakaduri practice, and its role in
sustaining the identied institutional barrier through the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). In order to build a case and
unravel the dynamics of Japans ongoing energy conict, an
extensive literature review was carried out as the political aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfolded.

3. Results
3.1. The actors
Political actors can be value or interest actors (Abbott and
Snidal, 2002). Value actors are characterised by uncompromising
beliefs in a normative set of criteria for determining the appropriateness of actions. Interest actors are ends-oriented, and can
make trade-offs in order to optimise the paths to their targets.
Value actors differ from interest actors in that their stand is not a
goal that can be traded off against other competing interests. The
different actors are classied in Table 3.
The government is a value actor with regards to energy
affordability as it deeply affects Japanese economic and energy
security as this cannot be compromised. Pro-nuclear large corporations and their employees can be regarded as interest actors
as their interest in cheap energy can be traded off to some extent,
for example with higher prots or reliable supply or employment
(Adelman and Okada, 2012; Kubota, 2012).
3.2. The institutional barrier
The nuclear village consists of pro-nuclear advocates from
Japans Diet, prefectural governors, bureaucracy such as the
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and other
regulatory agencies, nuclear vendors, the nancial sector and large
corporations represented by Keidanren (Kingston, 2012). The
village has promoted and built the nuclear industry in Japan,
despite decades of opposition (McCormack, 2011). The main
reason for the proliferation of the Japanese nuclear industry is
due to the occurrence of regulatory capture (The National Diet of
Japan, 2012), a form of government failure where a state regulatory agency advances the interests of the industry it was created to
regulate (Dal B, 2006).
The mechanism for regulatory capture in the Japanese nuclear
industry is an institutionalised practice called amakudari, where
university graduates join a regulatory agency or ministry such as
the METI and retire into powerful executive posts in the corporations they once regulated (Kingston, 2012; Aldrich, 2011). The
source of structural power for amakudari as an institutionalised
practice stems from its control of strategic positions within the
bureaucracies and the corporate realms (Colignon and Usui, 2003).
High-ranking retiring bureaucrats moved into TEPCO, while lowerranking ones moved onto smaller utilities (Onishi and Belson,
2011), and this maintains TEPCOs inuence. For instance, Toru
Ishida, a former agency head in METI had shifted into TEPCO and
was appointed as TEPCOs senior advisor upon retiring from METI
in 2011 (The Japan Times, 2011).
The main nuclear regulatory authority in Japan was the Nuclear
and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). However as a regulatory body,
it lacked independence. This was because NISA was operating
under the METI, which promotes nuclear energy as an export
industry and as an energy security solution (Iwata, 2012; The
National Diet of Japan, 2012; Turner, 2003). This is a clear
institutional conict of interest. In theory, the elected members
of government represent the interest of the people. However
because legislation and regulation is a public good, the voting
public tends not to actively campaign for regulation. On the other
hand, the regulation is a private good to the industry because it
directly affects their business. Hence corporations will actively
campaign to shape regulations in their favour (Ramseyer, 2012).
When the politicians and the top of the bureaucracy start
promoting the interests of the regulated industry, the regulatory
regimes they are in charge of inevitably serves their vision. Hence
NISA became only a nominal regulator. In practice, 11 out of 19
members of the panel rewriting safety rules come from a lobby

S.D. Fam et al. / Energy Policy 68 (2014) 199205

group for power companies (Kaufmann and Penciakova, 2011). As


NISA was staffed by career bureaucrats and lacked technical
expertise, advice is typically sought from engineers from
industry-related corporations. In the compliant Japanese society,
these engineers are unlikely to undermine their employers in what
the National Diets report called reexive obedience (The National
Diet of Japan, 2012; Onishi and Belson, 2011). Inspections were
also predictably regular (Wang and Chen, 2012). After a pipe
explosion in 2004, NISA admitted that the component had not
been inspected in 28 years (Cleneld and Sato, 2007). TEPCO has
also admitted falsifying its safety records, even colluding with
NISA to identify inspectors who reported safety breaches to the
agency to shut them out of the industry (Onishi and Belson, 2011).

4. Discussion
4.1. Governance challenges: Conicts, contestations and barriers
The actors involved conict on two levels (Table 3). The rst is
an interest conict (competing interests), pitting popular concern
of nuclear risk against the economic interests in low-cost nuclear
energy. The second is a value conict of energy and economic
security versus environmental and safety risks. The embedded
contestation is over the safety risk in seismically-active Japan.
Central to these is an institutional barrier, known as the nuclear
village.
4.2. Interest conict: Popular concern vs cheap energy
Japanese industrial consumption requirement is consistent
throughout the day and therefore draws baseload electricity, as
do households (The Economist, 2011). When the nuclear power
plants were shut down, the low-cost baseload shortfall was largely
made up by expensive fuel oil and LNG (Table 1; METI, 2011). The
use of less efcient and more expensive oil-based thermal generation plants have affected industries and households (Oi, 2012;

201

Warnock and Ito, 2012). The major industries of Japan, represented


by the inuential Keidanran group criticised nuclear phase-out
plans and have urged the restart of reactors to prevent the
hollowing-out of industry and employment (Sieg, 2012).
Popular concern over the safety risk of nuclear power plants
have mostly been over the siting of nuclear power plants near or
over seismically active zones (Sheldrick, 2012; Tsukimori, 2012).
Nobel laureate Kenzabur e led a 75,000-strong anti-nuclear
rally in central Tokyo, claiming to have the signatures of over
7.5 million in support (The Economist, 2012). The decision to
backip on the earlier decision to impose a nuclear freeze despite
mounting public opposition may have caused electorates to lose
trust in their then leader. Political manoeuvring commenced to try
to take advantage of the prevailing sentiments. A leader within the
ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) left and took 49 legislators
with him to form a new party campaigning on the anti-nuclear
platform (Brinsley and Hirokawa, 2012; The Economist, 2012).
However anti-nuclear politicians have thus far failed to translate
vociferous demonstrations into votes, losing both post-Fukushima
elections. Tetsunari Iida, one of Japans most prominent renewable
energy proponents lost to the incumbent in a four-way gubernatorial election for the Yamaguchi Prefecture in July 2012 (Inajima,
2012; Tabuchi, 2012a). In another gubernatorial election in
Kagoshima Prefecture earlier in the month, the anti-nuclear
prospect heavily lost his election battle, garnering only 34% of
votes (Dawson, 2012). Even more signicantly, the pro-nuclear
LDP has been voted back to form government.
The rational choice theory makes the assumption that actors
are utilitarian maximizers. Actors have a set of preferences and
will choose the preference which accrues them the most utility
or in other words optimal benet and minimal costs (Jonge, 2012).
Three hundred twenty-one Japanese citizens were surveyed in
2010 prior to the Fukushima disaster to assess their perspectives
on energy security (Valentine et al., 2011). The authors found a
consensus among survey participants that they expect Japan to
play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emission, but on the
condition that energy remains as affordable. In the post-

Table 2
Timeline of relevant post-Fukushima events under the Noda administration.
Date

Event

11 March 2011

Earthquake and tsunami hits Fukushima prefecture and destroys cooling mechanisms at Fukushima Daiichi (Takenaka
and Saoshiro, 2011)
TEPCO asked to decommission all 10 reactors in the Fukushima prefecture (The National Diet of Japan, 2012)
Japanese Prime Minister Noda announces that all reactors of Fukushima Daiichi are in stable, cold shutdown state
(Takenaka and Saoshiro, 2011)
Shutdown of the all in Japan nuclear reactors for safety checks completed (AFP, 2012)
Two reactors in Oi plant restarted under pressure from manufacturers amid public protests (Koh, 2012; McCurry, 2012)
The Japanese National Diet releases ofcial report criticising the government, nuclear regulators and the nuclear
industry (The National Diet of Japan, 2012)
Japan announces plans to phase out nuclear power (Mochizuki et al., 2012; Tabuchi, 2012b)
Government retracts 40-year phase out timescale under industrial pressure (Tabuchi, 2012c)
NISA scrapped and NRA inaugurated under the environment ministry (The Asahi Shimbun, 2012a)

2 December 2011
16 December 2011
5 May 2012
1 July 2012
5 July 2012
14 September 2012
15 September 2012
19 September 2012

Table 3
Table classifying the actors and their priorities in this case study.
Stand/priority

Value actors

Interest actors

Environment and Safety Risks


(generally anti-nuclear)
Energy affordability (generally
pro-nuclear)
Maintaining political power

Anti-nuclear activist;
Renewable energy activist
Japanese Government

Voting Japanese public: alarmed at nuclear disaster and regulatory failings; lost of trust in
government and regulatory regimes
Large industrial corporations; Sections of Japanese society dependent on nuclear industry for
development and employment; members of the Nuclear Village
Japanese Government

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S.D. Fam et al. / Energy Policy 68 (2014) 199205

Fukushima milieu and based on national opinion polls conducted,


voting for an anti-nuclear political party could be counted as the
optimal choice of the electorate. Nevertheless, there are other
factors which had affected the cost-benet calculus of the electorate. During the election campaign Shinzo Abe who led the LDP
promised
aggressive
monetary
stimulus
to
revitalize
the Japanese economy (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2012).
The Abenomics card played by the LDP proved particularly
enticing for the electorate, especially so as the Japanese economy
had been sluggish for years (The Diplomat, 2012). Due to the
economic factor, the pro-nuclear LDP was seen as the more
utilitarian choice than the anti-nuclear DPJ. Therefore, a political
party which supports the continued usage of nuclear power was
voted into power and therefore explaining the intriguing election
outcome. It also implies that Japans nuclear energy policy would
not be drastically revised.
4.3. Value conict: Energy and economic security vs environmental
and safety concerns
Energy security has always been central to Japanese national
security debates (Soeya, 1998). Japan's entry into World War II was
an energy security decision (Manning, 2000; Boudreau, 1997). The
current Japanese government is nding difculty achieving energy
security, best dened as: The provision of affordable, reliable,
efcient, environmentally benign, judiciously governed and
socially acceptable energy services (Sovacool, 2012). Producing
electricity from fossil fuel means that energy now comes from less
reliable and environmentally benign sources, is less affordable, but
appears more socially acceptable. However nowand arguably more
than at any time in Japans history, energy security is extremely
tightly linked to its increasingly fragile economy. A spike in
manufacturing costs from energy imports and reduced industrial
output from electricity shortage means that Japanese manufacturers become uncompetitive, especially in comparison to its
Korean and Chinese competitors. Achieving further industrial
energy efciency is a formidable challenge, because as pointed
out by various authors, Japan is an unusually energy-efcient
economy (Manning, 2000; Ikenberry, 1986).
Japans attempts at geopolitical leveraging for resource elds
have also been inferior to that of China. Chinese national oil
companies are strategically advantaged by being able to establish
in areas isolated by the Western democracies, to which Japan is
aligned (Rotberg, 2008). China has surpassed Japan in African aid
provision and has moved faster into African energy politics
(Campbell, 2008; Townsend and King, 2007). Japanese inuence
in Central Asian resource states is being eroded by the Chinese
strategy of vertical integration and geographic location, such that
China can control oil and gas supply lines and routes (Gorst and
Dyer, 2009; Townsend and King, 2007; Downs, 2000). China also
claims over 80% of the South China Sea, through which at least 70%
of Japans oil supply is shipped (Calder, 1997). With their rst ever
trade decit since the 1980s oil shock and burdened by a debt level
over 230% of GDP (Vivoda, 2012; White, 2012), it is increasingly
difcult for Japan to maintain economic competitiveness for the
resource scramble. The decades of striving for energy independence and insulation from energy geopolitics has become a
strategic weakness. Indeed, the success of the Abe electoral
campaign could at least be partially put down to the nationalist
attitude displayed regarding the legal ownership of the Senkaku
islands in the East China Sea (Graham, 2013).
The earliest anti-nuclear value actors rose from the atomic
bomb detonations at the end of World War II and the 1954 Lucky
Dragon Incident, when an American hydrogen bomb test contaminated the crew of a nearby shing boat and killed its chief
radio ofcer (Dusinberre and Aldrich, 2011). Therefore the

movement draws support from shing communities that have


had their livelihoods disrupted by the coastal sitings of the nuclear
plants, as well as the anti-war activists, who link nuclear energy to
nuclear weapons. Anti-war activists refer to nuclear power as the
maintenance of a belligerent war potential (The Japan Times,
2011). They cite the second paragraph of Article 9 of the Japanese
Constitution which denes pacist postwar Japan and reads:
"(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land,
sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be
maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be
recognized". (Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, 1947).
The third component of anti-nuclear activists is women who
have left the workforce to raise their children. Their goal of
protecting children, womens lives/rights and peace emanates
from their maternal instincts and is therefore a value (Alexander,
2012). From the experiences of the mothers who suffered through
Hiroshima, and the fear of another nuclear war or a nuclear
holocaust, these women are vehemently objected to nuclear
power.
The clash of values stems from the fact that previous governments believed in the economic and environmental value of
nuclear power while anti-nuclear groups view nuclear power from
anti-war and nuclear safety risks perspective, that the potential
prospect of being able to produce nuclear weapons or the risk to
the lives of people in a nuclear accident, however minute the
possibility, cannot be compromised (Tabuchi, 2012d).
4.4. The nuclear village as an institutional barrier and governance
challenges
The combined effect of regulatory failures of the nuclear village,
the devastating consequences of these failures during the earthquake and tsunami, and TEPCOs continued opacity throughout the
crisis has led to an extraordinary level of public distrust in the
governments oversight of the nuclear industry (Kingston, 2012;
Tabuchi, 2012c; Shirouzu and Tudor, 2011; Yilmaz, 2011). Nuclear
power cannot be completely replaced overnight, and therefore an
overhaul of the regulatory system is urgently needed. It is
expected that the METI and members of the nuclear village will
put up stiff resistance against upsetting the status quo that has
made the village an unstoppable force, immune to scrutiny by
civil society (The National Diet of Japan, 2012).
According to the Advocacy Coalition Framework, public policy
outcomes can be explained by the dynamics of advocacy coalitions
(Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1999). Within the domain of Japans
nuclear energy policymaking, the nuclear village which was
upheld by the institutionalized practice of amakudari can be
regarded as a pro-nuclear advocacy coalition. Importantly, these
advocacy coalitions are held together by sets of normative values
or core beliefs using the language of the Advocacy Coalition
Framework which are resistant to changes (Sabatier and
Jenkins-Smith, 1999). Indeed, amakudari is embedded within the
Japanese culture. The blurring of boundary between the public and
private sectors which had enabled the amakudari practice can be
traced to Japans gakubatsu culture. Gakubatsu refers to schoolbased ties which have developed among Japanese university
students (Colignon and Usui, 2003). The gakubatsu ties developed
are so strong that graduates do not regard classmates employed in
other sectors to be outsiders. The hopping of civil servants from
the public to the private sector is therefore regarded as appropriate and normal (Colignon and Usui, 2003). Hence, members of
the nuclear village can be seen as value actors. Even in the
aftermath of the Fukushima fallout, the normative values of the
nuclear village remained resilient. Former Japanese Prime Minister

S.D. Fam et al. / Energy Policy 68 (2014) 199205

Junichiro Koizumi who had supported the dismantling of Japans


nuclear power plants was criticised by the nuclear village as
optimistic and irresponsible.
The nuclear village is the key governance challenge because
rst, it affects public trust in the government and the authority of
government regulatory systems; second, as the disaster shows, it
deeply impacts the economy and energy security of the nation.
Both the interest (large corporation interests) and value conicts
(pro-nuclear politicians conviction that nuclear energy is the
panacea to energy security) have elements from the nuclear village.
Interest actors such as the voting Japanese public can be
engaged through transparency and trading off against other lessintensive interests (Abbott and Snidal, 2002). In seismically-active
Japan, the Japanese government faces a major challenge to regain
the trust of the people in nuclear power. The obvious solution to
the nuclear village is to not have a domestic nuclear industry.
However accomplishing this takes time. There are three main
factors to consider when considering governance options:
1. Political factors and public opinion: Despite the high disapproval ratings for nuclear power public opinion polls, the ruling
DPJ was voted out of ofce. The LDP, who had remained silent
on the issue during campaigning but was instrumental in the
establishment of the nuclear village, won a landslide victory in
the December 2012 elections. The discordance between the
public opinion on nuclear power and the results of elections
signal that two years after the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese
public have decided put more weight on non-nuclear issues.
Indeed, the new Prime Minister pledged immediately after the
elections to review the safety standards of currently suspended
nuclear plants so that those certied safe can restart within
three years (The Japan Times, 2013). It seems that the nuclear
industry may yet regain its political clout again.
2. Financial and infrastructural factors (Lock-in): The immense
sunk costs associated with nuclear power means that it will be
impossible to eliminate nuclear power overnight, especially
with utility companies also burdened with drastically increased
fuel costs (Tabuchi, 2012b). The economic burden of the rising
energy costs post-Fukushima was one of sources of the public
discontent with the DPJ.
3. Carbon emission targets: The immediate reliance on the fossil
fuels to make up for the shortfall in energy supply will
inevitably increase Japans national carbon footprint. Japans
commitment to slash emissions target by 25% by 2020 from
1990, already seen to be over-ambitious at that time, will be
reviewed, presumably to a more achievable target (Japan Daily
Press, 2012). Emissions target reect the Japanese commitment
to environmental issues, and while seemingly at odds with
nuclear safety currently, it will continue to play a role in
shaping Japans nuclear policy.

5. Conclusions and policy implications


The DPJ came to power in 2009 on an anti-bureaucracy ticket
(Aldrich, 2011) and tried to seize the opportunity to make good on
that promise by disbanding NISA, and setting up a new agency
called the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) under the Ministry
of Environment. They also prevented the construction of new
reactors (The Asahi Shimbun, 2012b). Under a new pro-nuclear
Prime Minister, the new NRA, but still largely staffed by NISA
employees (Fitzpatrick, 2013) and originally set up to review safety
regulations during the DPJ era, may yet pave the way for the
revitalisation of the industry instead. Furthermore, the Abe Cabinet is populated with individuals with considerable clout in the
energy industry (The Japan Times, 2013). The intricate balance

203

between Japans immediate energy meets, carbon emission targets


and public anti-nuclear sentiments is also what the current
government has to handle delicately.
Although Japan is currently locked-in to nuclear power to a
signicant extent, the problem can be resolved over time, by
enforcing the 40-year operational period proposed by the Noda
administration. The government should enforce and fund the
decommissioning of reactors that independent experts deem to
be unsafe for operation. With fewer reactors, the nuclear village
will lose its inuence. By also funding renewable energy, Japan will
also be able to resume its isolation from energy geopolitics, avoid
resource scrambles and meet its emissions targets.
Japan will be forced to further modify its energy policy, and its
planned energy mix. It might after all, be useful that Japans
energy policy planning and implementation be centralised so
changes may be swiftly implemented. As mentioned earlier, it is
economically and politically impossible to cease all nuclear energy
use in the short term. Even in the longer term, nuclear energy may
still have a role to play in Japans energy mix. Indeed, it has been
calculated that to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets, it will be
difcult to lower the use of nuclear energy (Hong et al., 2013). The
Abe government, and future governments face a difcult task in
balancing popular opposition to nuclear power, lowering of greenhouse gas emission and still maintain affordable electricity prices.
There are three policy directions that Japan can take. One is a
technocratic route, where the policy is directed at energy production itself. The most obvious and straightforward option, if Japan
wants to reduce reliance on nuclear power in the short to medium
term is to decommission the oldest reactors and replace them with
fossil fuel options, such as LNG. This will clearly force Japan to play
the energy geopolitics game with China, as well as send the signal
that Japan will not meet its ambitious emissions targets. At the
same time the technological giants that are manufacturing and
retailing nuclear power plants can be encouraged with incentives
to join the renewable energy technology race, to reduce dependence on LNG generation as soon as possible. Therefore this policy
direction may result in Japan exchanging its emissions targets and
affordable energy prices in the shorter term for more acceptable
forms of energy production.
The second policy direction is a domestic policy route, where
active steps are taken to identify and disrupt entrenched amakaduri and gakubatsu practices. This arguably is the best way to get
to the root of the cultural problems that have plagued the Japanese
nuclear industry, but is also the most difcult policy route as even
the Japanese Cabinet is made up of individuals with considerable
inuence within the nuclear village. The nuclear energy industry is
one where transparency should be of the highest order, due to the
high economic and human costs associated with their failures.
Therefore we argue that if Japan wishes to carry on dominating
Asia in nuclear energy production, they must rst tackle and
resolve their entrenched cultural issues rst. They can then
supplement nuclear power production with increased levels of
renewable energy from solar, wind and tidal generation. This can
be seen as a long-run solution, as it will take a while to
accomplish, and therefore take just as long for the industry to
regain the trust of the voting public but it helps maintain energy
prices and meet greenhouse gas emissions targets and allows
Japan to continue its isolation from global energy geopolitics.

Acknowledgements
SDF is grateful to Carolyn Hendriks at The Australian National
University for the very helpful comments and discussions on an early
version of the manuscript. The authors also thank two anonymous
reviewers for immense help in revising and improving the manuscript.

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