Japan should embrace nuclear power, government panel says

TOKYO Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:22am EST

Japan's Prime Minster Shinzo Abe talks as he visits the Myanmar International Terminal Thilawa (MITT) port outside Yangon May 25, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Japan's Prime Minster Shinzo Abe talks as he visits the Myanmar International Terminal Thilawa (MITT) port outside Yangon May 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan should embrace nuclear power as an "important and fundamental" energy source, a government panel said on Friday, in advice that looks almost certain to be accepted, despite widespread anti-nuclear feeling after the Fukushima disaster.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to restart Japan's idled nuclear reactors to cut the cost of fossil fuel imports used by power stations, which have swelled the trade deficit to a record and driven up electricity prices.

The recommendation, if adopted, could put atomic power back into Japan's energy mix after the previous government decided to abandon it following triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

"Nuclear energy is an important and fundamental base energy source that will support the stability of energy demand and supply," the panel wrote in its report, adding that securing safety was paramount in utilizing atomic power.

There was no recommendation on the proportion of energy that should come from nuclear power.

The panel is headed by Akio Mimura, honorary chairman of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp, Japan's largest steel maker and one of its heaviest electricity users.

The Fukushima disaster highlighted regulatory shortcomings and lack of preparation in an industry long cosseted by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which swept back to power a year ago.

The panel also said Japan should publicize information on safety measures taken after the disaster, its new regulatory standards and the economics of nuclear power.

The crisis led to the gradual shutdown of all Japan's nuclear reactors. They remain idled, while a new, more independent regulator assesses their ability to withstand natural disasters, such as the earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The previous Democratic Party of Japan government had accepted a recommendation from a similar panel to abandon nuclear power sometime in the 2030s.

Opposition to atomic energy remains high and all of Japan's political parties, including the LDP's coalition partner, oppose nuclear power, which provided about 30 percent of electricity before the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Prior to the disaster the government had envisaged increasing the contribution of nuclear energy to 50 percent.

(Reporting by Mari Saito; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Comments (3)
Paxus wrote:
If you are looking for a more critical history of Japan’s relationship with nuclear power (which does not include several of the misleading statements of this article) consider reading:

http://funologist.org/2013/09/18/japan-is-nuclear-free-again/

Dec 13, 2013 6:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
tmc wrote:
Nuclear power can be safe. We just need the political will to make it happen affordably. Currently no democracy can do that. Perhaps in the future.

Dec 13, 2013 7:28am EST  --  Report as abuse
JimHopf wrote:
tmc,

Nuclear is safe NOW, under any rational definition. Statistics actually show it to be the safest source (deaths per TW-yr). It’s overall environmental impacts are also tiny compared to fossil fuels and similar to renewables.

Fukushima, the only significant release of pollution in non-Soviet nuclear’s entire 50-yr history, caused no deaths and is not projected to have any measurable public health impact. Worldwide fossil-fueled power generation causes ~1000 deaths *every single day*.

What we need is the political will to eliminate fossil fuels, or to at least hold them to some kind of standard, and stop letting them continuously release massive amouts of pollution directly into the environment, for free!!

Dec 13, 2013 7:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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