This affects Germany, too, and I suppose any country with a democratic form of government:
One of the first policy victims of Japan's incoming Liberal Democratic Party is likely to be the commitment to phasing out nuclear power. The promise made after Fukushima does not sit well with the pro-business party.
Get it? Every few years, the party in control changes and everything that was certain becomes uncertain. Can you be sure that the next time the government changes in Japan, the nuclear facilities will not be heading into mothballs?
Now to be fair – and to ding this story a bit – the previous prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, did not get as far as pledging a shut down of the nuclear facilities. He was, if anything, frustratingly vague on that subject.
Abe, who has been in power since December 26, has not said directly what he intends to do with the plants. All but two reactors are currently idled and have been since the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. He has been trying out a few statements, though.
But Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which regained power in elections this month, says it plans to spend 10 years studying the best energy mix for the country. Abe has said he may reconsider the previous government's decision to stop building reactors.
And gotten a good response from the people he would like to appeal to.
The relatively favorable stance toward resuming operations of more nuclear plants has won favor among business leaders worried about power shortages and rising costs; since the Fukushima disaster, Japanese imports of costly liquefied natural gas have soared.
To be honest, the thaw in Japan lurked in my mind as something more likely to happen in Germany. There, the government has said it will close nuclear plants by 2025. That’s far enough down the road that a change in regime could reverse it. That’s still true.
I’ve read that the tax cuts in the current fiscal cliff deal are “permanent.” Really? Permanent? Permanence in government policy is like that authentic reproduction of a Renoir on my wall. Unless Japan or Germany were to bang down the nuclear facilities with sledgehammers and salt the earth, we may expect a similar permanence in their decisions – or at least anticipate the possibility of a complete or partial reversal. Either would be welcome – and good policy, to boot.