Japan Likely to Reembrace Nuclear Power in Wake of Elections

Waiting. The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Japan, which escaped damage from an earthquake 1 month after the disaster at the Fukushima plant, is now in cold storage.


TOKYO—Japan's plans to phase out nuclear power and boost reliance on renewable energy are likely to be reversed with the victory of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in parliamentary elections.

In voting on Sunday, LDP captured control of the legislature's lower, more powerful house from the Democratic Party of Japan. The Democratic Party, in office since 2009, had set a goal of phasing out nuclear power during the 2030s as part of a new energy policy developed in response to the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

All but two of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors are now idled because of public worries about seismic resistance. LDP candidates had called for restarting the reactors for energy security and cost reasons. The party, which has led the country for most of the past half-century, "would like to go back to the way it was before Fukushima" in relying heavily on nuclear energy, says Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.

But Nakano expects LDP to proceed cautiously given widespread public opposition to nuclear power. LDP triumphed despite its support for nuclear power "because this election was about the economy," says Robert Dujarric, an Asia studies scholar at Temple University, Japan Campus, in Tokyo.

LDP campaigned heavily on reviving Japan's stagnant economy through spending on public works, including at least one big science project. The party platform specifically mentions support for the proposed International Linear Collider, a $10 billion physics project that Japan's high-energy physicists are anxious to host.