Keiichi Ishii on Japan's Energy Policy

April 2, 2013

In a series featured in the daily Komei Shimbun organ newspaper, senior New Komeito officials provide perspectives and positions on key policy issues. For this installment, Keiichi Ishii, 55,who chairs New Komeito's Policy Research Council, addresses the challenges before and changes in Japan's energy policy.

In his interview, Ishii referred to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement essentially negating the national energy policy adopted by the previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which sought to force every nuclear power plant offline by 2030. However, the New Komeito policy czar said the Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe heads, had agreed with New Komeito to reduce the ratio of nuclear power reliance while depending more energy conservation and renewable energy sources, as a key policy objective endorsed by both parties when entering into a coalition government in 2012. Ishii said while the two parties may not be in complete agreement on energy policy, New Komeito remained committed to a phased elimination of nuclear power and would monitor the LDP's moves that ran counter to this goal.

He explained that Japan currently is increasing imports of oil and liquefied natural gas as its reliance on thermal power generation is growing-driving forward the need to improve and expand relations with countries rich in energy resources, including shale gas from the United States and crude from Russia. However, Ishii reiterated New Komeito's position on renewable energy and energy conservation, maintaining that the party would be spending every effort to advance such programs through a variety of legislation and other incentives.

He also stated that New Komeito has consistently made clear that it would only back restarting existing nuclear power plants if they should fully meet the safety standards set by the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as gain approval by citizens of the country and the communities in which these facilities are established. While some claim that weaning Japan's dependence on nuclear power would weaken its expertise base in the field, he believed that nuclear engineering would remain a Japanese strength, citing the need to develop technologies to extract nuclear fuel from damaged containment cores-an area that, until the accident at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, has never been fully explored in any country to date.