* Nuclear crisis could prompt emission target review-media
* Chief govt spokesman says no decision yet on target review
* Govt eyes deregulation moves to facilitate power saving by
* What to do with nuclear policy is first issue to
(Recasts, adds data, analyst comments)
By Chikako Mogi and Risa Maeda
TOKYO, April 4 Japan's protracted nuclear safety
crisis has begun to cast doubts over its pledge of ambitious
carbon emissions cuts by the end of the decade, which will rely
heavily on plans to boost nuclear power generation.
While Tokyo has not said explicitly that it would consider
backing away from its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas
emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, the scrapping of at
least four reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant and
public wariness of new reactor projects could force a greater
reliance on fossil fuels than policymakers had anticipated.
The first hints of a possible review of Tokyo's carbon
cutting goals emerged in comments from bureaucrats and
policymakers over the past few days.
"It is true that our reduction target will be affected
significantly," Vice Environment Minister Hideki Minamikawa was
quoted by the Yomiuri newspaper as telling reporters in Bangkok
"The target year and the size of the reduction will be up
Senior officials from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan
were more circumspect, although they did not rule out a rethink
of existing nuclear policy and the 2020 emissions target.
"At the moment, we have not decided whether to review the
target and we are not at a stage where we can make a decision,"
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, the number-two official in
Japan's cabinet, said on Monday.
Edano said the government still needed to get a handle on
the overall impact of the nuclear crisis on a variety of
industries and policies, including climate change.
Katsuya Okada, the party's secretary general, told a
separate news conference on Monday that it may be necessary to
review the 2020 target, given its heavy reliance on nuclear
energy, but the government should not rush to any conclusions
while it is still dealing with an emergency.
The environment ministry's scenarios for achieving 25
percent carbon reduction are all based on a government plan to
add nine new commercial nuclear reactors by 2020 to the 54
currently in operation.
More than three weeks after a devastating earthquake and
tsunami in northeast Japan knocked out power sources and cooling
systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi
plant, engineers are still struggling to cool down reactors and
spent fuel pools and to contain radiation leaks.
Quake and tsunami damage and high radiation levels have
forced a shutdown of the entire Fukushima complex, whose two
plants and 10 reactors account for one-fifth of Japan's total
nuclear capacity, while spurring the government to impose extra
safety measures against a similar disaster. [ID:nL3E7EU110]
Several of Japan's 10 nuclear power producers have delayed
the restart of reactors taken down for maintenance, to implement
additional short-term steps to bolster safety.
Some have also tentatively halted preparations for building
new reactors but no plans have been formally altered, while
senior government officials have talked of an energy policy
review that could include promoting renewables. [ID:nL3E7EU110]
Japan's carbon target for 2020 is now closely linked to its
post-Fukushima energy policy, and nothing will be clear until
the government, the power companies and the public decide on the
future of nuclear power, said Akihiro Sawa, executive senior
fellow at the 21st Century Public Policy Institute.
Complicating the issue is the prospect of power shortages in
the summer, when traditionally heavy demand for air-conditioning
could force rolling blackouts in the Tokyo area and deliver a
severe blow to Japan's economic heartland.
"People have now realised the importance of stable energy
supplies," Sawa said. "The government should start with the
supply and demand outlook for energy and assess how that would
affect its low-carbon policy. The government cannot review
climate policy in isolation."
Tokyo Electric estimates it will be able to supply 46,500
megawatts of power by summer, after bringing some damaged and
mothballed thermal power plants back online, but this would
still be nearly 10,000 MW short of estimated peak demand,
despite extensive conservation efforts since the quake.
Electricity demand in areas served by Tokyo Electric fell
9.2 percent in March from a year earlier, according to Reuters
calculations from industry data released on Monday by the
Electric Power System Council of Japan.
Tokyo Electric, which accounts for about one-third of
Japan's total power consumption, resorted to rolling blackouts
last month after the quake. [ID:nL3E7F4036]
Nationwide, Japan's power demand fell 2.6 percent in March
from a year earlier, marking the first decline in 16 months.
The government, keen to avoid the blow that blackouts could
deliver to industries from autos to aluminium, is considering
regulatory steps to make it easier for firms to curb power use.
These may include allowing industries to coordinate plant
operating hours, to prevent concentration of power use in peak
periods, which could require exceptions in enforcement of the
antimonopoly law by the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
Land use restrictions that prevent setting up power
generators at certain factory sites may also be waived, while
labour and building maintenance rules may be eased to allow
cutbacks in air-conditioner use.
The government aims to compile the measures by the end of
April and implement them by July, when the summer peak season
starts, a trade ministry official said.
(Additional reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Linda Sieg; Editing
by Edmund Klamann)