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Govt likely to hold off on energy plan

The government will likely postpone drawing up its mid- and long-term basic energy plan until next year due to stalled debates over the goal of zero nuclear power plants operating in the 2030s, it has been learned.

Due to the government’s indecision on the target, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s advisory committee for energy issues decided to postpone discussions on components to be included in the plan, sources said.

Some of those involved in mapping out the basic outline have expressed desire to wait for a new administration, which will be formed after the next House of Representatives election.

As a result, it is highly likely that compiling the basic plan, which will determine how much nuclear energy the nation will rely on in the future, will be postponed, probably until early next year.

The government initially planned to approve the basic plan at a Cabinet meeting in early October.

The government has left the debate, which is necessary to map out the plan, to the committee.

The committee, headed by Akio Mimura, senior advisor of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., is scheduled to hold its next meeting in early November.

However, a person close to the committee told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Friday that the nation’s ratio of nuclear power generation to total electricity output would not be discussed at the next meeting.

“Therefore, the basic outline won’t be concluded this year,” the person added.

Within the government, some are concerned, saying if the basic plan is hastily compiled, it would reignite the confrontation between those for maintaining nuclear power plants and those for denuclearization, and the debate could spin out of control.

With the government remaining unable to come up with future ratios of electricity generation methods, including nuclear, thermal, hydro and wind power, utility firms cannot plan business investments, making it difficult for them to set electricity rates.

If the ratio of nuclear power generation to total electricity output is lowered, costs for other power sources–such as thermal power–will go up, leaving utility companies no option but to hike rates.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, Mimura suspended discussions on the grounds that the government’s zero nuclear target was vague.

The target was originally suggested for the government’s “innovative energy and environmental strategy,” which the yet-to-be compiled basic outline will be based on.

On Sept. 19, the government decided to refrain from approving the strategy at a Cabinet meeting, but maintained its stance to clearly stipulate the zero target in the basic plan.