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Japanese nuclear policy – Institutional obstacles to change
- Jacques E.C. Hymans
Japan’s nuclear policy mix has remained substantially unchanged ever since its origins in the 1950s. Japan has consistently promoted nuclear energy production, attempted to create an entire fuel cycle, and abstained from building nuclear weapons. The earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant caused a great surge in anti-nuclear sentiment both in public opinion and in the Diet. Many observers have assumed that this anti-nuclear wave will cause a radical policy shift away from nuclear power. By contrast, an historical institutionalist analysis suggests that the changes are likely to be more apparent than real, more incremental than dramatic, and at least as responsive to “pro-nuclear” as to “anti-nuclear” sentiments. But at the same time, changes at the prefectural level and in the private sector could severely undermine efforts to implement the policy.