TOKYO, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- A group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) on Thursday compiled a draft proposal urging the government to phase out the use of nuclear energy.
The group of around 50 lawmakers, led by House of Representatives member Taro Kono, a vocal opponent to nuclear energy, believes the government should consider phasing out nuclear energy in the wake of the 2011 nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, which saw multiple reactor meltdowns in the worst accident of its kind since Chernobyl in 1986.
Kono told a news conference Thursday that the proposal, to be submitted soon, will include a bid to scrap Japan's aging reactors- - some of the oldest in the world -- and implore the government not to build new commercial reactors.
In addition, the group is calling for Japan to abandon its spent nuclear fuel recycling policy, according to the proposal.
"The plan should make clear that new commercial reactors should not be built and that reactors that have operated for 40 years should be scrapped," Kono said on behalf of the group.
"We must not allow the government to decide a Basic Energy Plan that does not show our regret over the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant," the antinuclear politician added.
The antinuclear faction within the ruling party will be another thorn in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's side, as his administration plans to restart nuclear reactors this year, which were shut down for safety checks after the Fukushima crisis.
The LDP lawmakers' proposal to phase out nuclear power also comes as the Tokyo governor election race, which kicked off Thursday, has seen campaigning centered on energy issues and, as such, pit Abe's candidate and former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, against Morihiro Hosokawa, who is backed by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Both Hosokawa and Koizumi are calling for a nuclear-free Japan and garnering a great deal of public attention.
Political sources close to the matter have said that the proxy battle between Koizumi, himself a former LDP prime minister, and Abe, the relationship of which has been likened by some pundits as "master and apprentice," could lead to a divide in the ruling bloc if the LDP chalk up another local election loss ahead of nationwide local elections next spring.
Lawmakers in the ruling party have been quoted as saying they are concerned about "losing their political grip at a local level, " as they have already lost ten local government elections in the past 10-months.
As concerns grow in the LDP that the numbers of antinuclear supporters could grow and impede the government's plans to bring the idled reactors back online, Kono is evidence the divide over energy in the ruling camp is rapidly widening, observers said.
"Regardless of whether they are related to the Tokyo governor election, I place my expectations on those who support the abolition of nuclear power plants," Kono was quoted as saying after a meeting of the energy policy parliamentary league.
The league comprises a growing number of LDP lawmakers who support the abolition of all nuclear power plants in Japan and Kono himself has thrown his support behind Hosokawa for his passionate, anti-nuclear stance.
"A victory by Hosokawa in the Tokyo election, in addition to an increase in anti-nuclear sentiment fueled by Koizumi, could have an adverse effect on the Abe administration's plans," the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said in a recent editorial on the matter.
The popular daily also highlighted the fact that the Tokyo metropolitan government owns around 1.2 percent of shares in Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken nuclear facility in Fukushima Prefecture, making it the fourth-largest shareholder in the utility.
The daily added that Tokyo's next governor, thus, would have a great deal of clout when it comes to TEPCO's management and energy policy directives, citing the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's figures which show Tokyo is the largest consumer of electricity out of all of the nation's 47 prefectures.