Gov't drafts energy policy labeling nuclear power as important

The government has drafted an energy policy that labels nuclear power as an important electricity source but also emphasizes the importance of promoting renewable energy, a draft outline of the policy obtained by Kyodo News showed Monday.

Part of the wording highlighting the significance of nuclear power that appeared in an earlier draft has been removed, following criticism by some ruling party lawmakers that it had too strong a pro-nuclear tone.

The draft still said that nuclear energy is an "important base-load power," which refers to an electricity source used continuously around the clock, and that the government will push for the restart of reactors that have satisfied new safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi complex disaster.

As for renewable energy sources, the draft indicated that the government will stay focused on accelerating the introduction of such sources in the longer term, stipulating that government efforts will continue beyond the period of "about three years starting from 2013."

The government will hold a meeting of Cabinet ministers related to nuclear issues on Tuesday to endorse the draft of the so-called Basic Energy Plan. The draft will become official following a Cabinet approval expected in March.

The government initially wanted to decide on the plan in January, having unveiled the original draft document a month before. It was compelled to revise the document amid criticism from some ruling party lawmakers.

The Tokyo gubernatorial election on Feb. 9 also added pressure on the government to restrain itself from rushing toward endorsing the energy policy, with antinuclear former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa running in the race in a bid to draw attention to the politically sensitive nuclear policy.

Hosokawa was supported by charismatic former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi but was defeated by former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe in the election.