Candidates for the LDP leadership are hopeful. Taro Kono has changed his mind on nuclear power

Taro Kono, a candidate for the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership, stated that he is willing to accept the reboot of idled nuclear power stations for the time being in order for Japan to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. “It is necessary to a certain extent to revive nuclear plants that have been proven to be safe in order to achieve carbon neutrality,” Kono, who is currently the minister of regulatory reform, told reporters.

In addition to being an outspoken opponent of nuclear energy, Kono is keen to operate in the governing party’s leadership contest on September 29 to replace departing Prime Minister Yoshihide and LDP President Suga, who is stepping down at the end of the month. Kono appears to have softened his stance on the issue in response to concerns expressed by some LDP members ahead of the party’s primary election in November.

“Generally speaking, our top priority is to boost the utilization of renewable power sources, but if there are power distribution shortages, it would be feasible to utilize nuclear plants whose safety has been confirmed for the time being,” Kono said. “Nuclear power plants will be decommissioned eventually, but I’m not advocating that they be decommissioned immediately, such as tomorrow or even next year,” he continued.

Because Kono is also in control of the COVID-19 immunization rollout, some have questioned whether he will be able to continue in his current position while running for the LDP presidential nomination. According to Kono, “I don’t believe (my electoral campaign) will have an impact on my job.”

Specifically, Kono stated that he would respect the views and opinions of a government-appointed panel of experts charged with the task of contemplating ways of ensuring stable imperial succession in the event of the emperor’s death. When he was working as defense minister last year, Kono sparked outrage among conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) by implying that individuals of the imperial family’s maternal line should be allowed to ascend to the throne.

According to the head of the electricity sector’s federation, Japan requires nuclear power, who also stated that the sector would engage in a proper discussion debate on energy strategy with whoever takes over as prime minister in the coming months.

“Based on current science and technology, we believe that Japan requires nuclear power,” Kazuhiro Ikebe, who serves as the chairman of Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC), informed reporters. Upon being questioned whether the industry was concerned about Kono being prime minister, Ikebe responded, “It serves no use to be cautious.”

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